NASHVILLE (CBS4) – A new clouded leopard cub born at the Nashville Zoo is rewriting the history books.
The cub is the first of his species to be born via artificial insemination. The procedure used frozen and thawed semen.
Clouded Leopards are among the rarest cat species around the world. The animals are secretive, and are difficult to breed in captivity. Scientists hail his birth as a major step forwad in conserving an otherwise endangered species.
“This is an enormous accomplishment for both Nashville Zoo and the team at the Smithsonian,” Dr. Heather Robertson, the director of veterinary services at Nashville Zoo, said in a press release. “It means we can collect and preserve semen from Clouded Leopard opulations around the globe and improve pregnancy outcomes from AI procedures in this species.”
The cub was born from a female, Tula, housed at the Nashville Zoo. Researchers used hormones to induce ovulation. His father, Hannibal, lives at the National Zoo in Washington.
“This cub, the first clouded leopard offspring produced with cryopreserved semen, is a symbol of how zoos and scientists can come together to make positive change for animals and preserving global biodiversity,” Dr. Adrienne Crosier of the Smithsonian said in the press release. “Collaboration is the key to conservation of clouded leopards, along with so many other rare and endangered species we care for and study.”
The as-of-yet unnamed cub will live in Nashville, and will be raised by zookeepers to make sure he lives through adulthood. Researchers want to introduce him to a mate in the future.
This isn’t the first major effort to conserve the species. In 2000, both the Nashville and National Zoos collaborated with the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington, and Thailand’s Zoological Park Organization to found the Clouded Leopard Consortium. The aim of the group is to create programs to research and breed the species.
The World Wildlife Fund estimates there are only roughly 10,000 Clouded Leopards left in the wild, mainly in southeast Asia and the eastern Himalayas.