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Nashville Zoo & Smithsonian Make History with Birth of Clouded Leopard

Update: Clouded Leopard has a name!

Nashville Zoo is pleased to announce the name of the clouded leopard cub born on March 1. Our partners at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, Dr. Adrienne Crosier and Dr. Pierre Comizzoli, were given the opportunity to name the historic cub and have chosen the Thai name, Niran (pronounced Nee-ron), which means eternal and everlasting. Niran opened his eyes just in time for Spring and has nearly tripled in size. 

Birth Announcement on March 1

Nashville Zoo and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute are pleased to announce the birth of a male clouded leopard on March 1, 2017 from an artificial insemination (AI) procedure using frozen/thawed semen. This accomplishment is a first for this species and a giant step for global conservation efforts.

“This is an enormous accomplishment for both Nashville Zoo and the team at the Smithsonian,” said Dr. Heather Robertson, Director of Veterinary Services at the Zoo. “It means we can collect and preserve semen from clouded leopard populations around the globe and improve pregnancy outcomes from AI procedures in this species.”

Dr. Robertson and Nashville Zoo Associate Veterinarian Dr. Margarita Woc Colburn used hormones to induce ovulation in a female named Tula who was born and raised at Nashville Zoo. The Smithsonian’s research staff, Adrienne Crosier, Ph.D., Pierre Comizzoli, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Diana Koester, Ph.D, collected semen a week earlier from a male named Hannibal at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. The team used a new technique depositing a very small volume of semen into the oviduct where the eggs normally rest after ovulation.

After birth, the cub was removed for examination and will be hand-raised by keepers to ensure survival and well-being. This process also lowers animal stress for future hands-on care. The cub will stay at Nashville Zoo with plans to eventually introduce him to a potential mate.

Nashville Zoo and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute have a long history of working together on clouded leopard conservation. Since 2000, they have collaborated with Point Defiance Zoo and Thailand’s Zoological Park Organization to form the Clouded Leopard Consortium and develop breeding programs as well as field monitoring projects for clouded leopards in Thailand. Because the captive clouded leopard population is not self-sustaining, it necessitates the need for intensive reproductive management techniques to maintaining captive populations not only in the U.S. but also throughout the world.

“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,” said Dr. Crosier. “Collaboration is the key to conservation of clouded leopards, along with so many other rare and endangered species we care for and study.”

The first successful clouded leopard AI was performed at Nashville Zoo in 1992 by Smithsonian scientist JoGayle Howard and Nashville Zoo President Rick Schwartz. In 2015, Dr. Comizzoli contributed to a successful birth using cooled semen and the new AI technique at the Khao Khew Open Zoo in Thailand.

Clouded leopards are among the rarest of the world’s cat species and one of the most secretive. Due to limited knowledge of this species, they have proved difficult to breed in captivity. They are sensitive to auditory and visual disturbances, increasing the stress levels during captive breeding programs – leading facilities, such as Nashville Zoo, to work with artificial insemination specialists to increase the size and diversity of the captive bred population.

Posted by Nashville Zoo at 11:13 AM


3/2/2017 at 12:45 PM by Suzanne Barrett Justis

Congrats on your Clouded Leopard cub!!! What a wonderful example of collaboration amongst zoos for a common goal. Kudos!!!!

3/2/2017 at 12:51 PM by Linda Finchum

I am so very proud of the efforts of the Nashville Zoo staff!!

3/2/2017 at 12:55 PM by Ann

Conratulations! What a significant accomplishment. When I read happenings like this I'm so happy to continue to renew my membership. Continued success in your various endeavors.

3/2/2017 at 12:56 PM by Ann

Conratulations. What an achievement

3/2/2017 at 01:19 PM by Connie

Congratulations! I love all cats but the clouded leopards are my favorites. Wish you had snow leopards too.

3/2/2017 at 01:58 PM by Linnea


3/2/2017 at 02:09 PM by Karelyn

How Fantastic! Great work to all involved! Thanks to everyone working at zoos as well. You help make the world a happier place!

3/2/2017 at 05:01 PM by Terri A Brown

What a sweet little baby!

3/2/2017 at 05:33 PM by connie

Can't wait to go to the Zoo and see him.

3/2/2017 at 06:49 PM by

Why can't the baby not have anytime with his mother? I understand about the protection and well being but doesn't he need some mommie bonding? How does Tula react to baby being gone? Thank you in advance for your prompt response. Pam Bates

3/3/2017 at 05:01 AM by Karim

We all gotta recongnzied that Nashville zoo does a great job ! thanks for that ! karim

3/4/2017 at 08:16 AM by Rosemary

I love this baby! Will it be possible to see him (i.e., through glass, etc.) if I visit?

3/4/2017 at 03:08 PM by Eugene Gilson

What A Mgnificent outcome of shared information.

3/4/2017 at 06:54 PM by Clara Eck

That's the sweetest thing ever! I hope I can help conservation efforts someday!

3/4/2017 at 06:55 PM by Clara Eck

That's so exciting! Congrats Nashville Zoo!!!

4/13/2017 at 09:57 PM by Nannette Musumeci

I understand the fact that the cub needs to be taken care of but if the mother is living at the zoo and is healthy shouldn't the cub have a mothers love and nurturing. Also, she can give him the nutrients that animals need especially baby's.

4/18/2017 at 01:18 PM by haley seay

that is so adorable

5/9/2017 at 12:43 PM by Sarah Ketron

This cub was taken from the mother early because she has a history of injuring one of her cubs following birth in the past. Removing the cub was a safety precaution with the cub's safety in mind. Also, a company that creates formulas for zoo animals made the formula they are giving the cub, a formula specifically made for carnivores. These people are professionals and know what they are doing. :-)

5/10/2017 at 07:03 AM by St├ępahanie

Why can't the baby not have anytime with his mother? I understand about the protection and well being but doesn't he need some mommie bonding? How does Tula react to baby being gone? Thank you in advance for your prompt response. Stephanie from bbkours.com

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