Through collaborative breeding programs, assisted reproduction, advanced veterinary care and captive husbandry techniques, Nashville Zoo has become a leader in clouded leopard conservation and is an active participant in the Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan® and the Clouded Leopard Consortium.
Collaborative Breeding Programs
Since 2000, Nashville Zoo has partnered with zoos around the world to develop collaborative breeding programs and field monitoring projects for clouded leopards in Thailand. The resulting Clouded Leopard Consortium is based at the Khao Kheow Open Zoo with assistance from Thailand Zoological Parks Organization (ZPO), Nashville Zoo, Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and the Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan®.
Even with the Species survival plan, captive clouded leopard populations are not self-sustaining due to their reclusive disposition. As a result, zoos and researchers have developed assisted reproduction techniques to help sustain the population and maintain genetic diversity. The first successful clouded leopard artificial insemination was performed at Nashville Zoo in 1992 by Smithsonian scientist, JoGayle Howard, and Nashville Zoo President, Rick Schwartz. In 2015, Dr. Comizzoli at the Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Thailand successful birthed clouded leopard cubs using cooled semen and a new artificial insemination technique. In 2016, veterinarians from Nashville Zoo and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute built off his work to successfully perform an artificial insemination procedure on one of Nashville Zoo’s female clouded leopards using semen that had been frozen and then thawed. Niran was consequently born from this procedure on March 1, 2017 signifying a giant step for global conservation efforts by enabling individuals that are at different zoos or even on different continents to breed.
At Nashville Zoo more than 42 clouded leopard cubs have been born since 2009. All of our clouded leopard cubs are raised by hand. This technique prevents parental predation or neglect, which is common for clouded leopards, and allows this normally nervous species to become acclimated to the sights and sounds of human interaction typical in an exhibit environment. Hand-raising also allows the Zoo to pair cubs at an early age. Our research with breeding clouded leopards has revealed that pairing at an early age significantly reduces aggression and allows for more successful breeding pairs.
What Can You Do to Help Clouded Leopards?
The biggest threat to clouded leopard populations in the wild is habitat loss, and one of the largest factors fueling the destruction of the clouded leopard’s habitat is palm oil production. Palm oil and its derivatives can be found in 50% of supermarket items, so as consumers, we can help clouded leopards by showing companies we prefer products made with sustainably produced palm oil. Learn more about how to find products made with sustainable palm oil.