Nashville Zoo is pleased to announce that River, Nashville Zoo's on-exhibit clouded leopard, gave birth to three cubs, two males and one female, on Monday, April 29 around 10:30 p.m.
“These three cubs are important because they will go on to pair with other clouded leopards and increase this species' captive population," said Dr. Heather Robertson, Nashville Zoo Director of Veterinary Services. “The two males are particularly important because there were no males born at AZA facilities last year, which means there were few, if any, cub pairings."
Clouded leopards are paired with mates within the first year so the couple will grow up together. This process lowers aggression from the males and increases the chance of successful mating and birth in the future.
The cubs weigh between 220-265 grams each. With the addition of these cubs, the Zoo is now home to 13 clouded leopards. Nashville Zoo has been working with these cats since 1992 and has welcomed 38 cubs since 2009. There are currently 74 clouded leopards in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) care and 295 in facilities globally.
After three-year-old River started to show signs of neglect, the Zoo veterinary team removed the cubs to hand rear. The veterinary staff often hand raise clouded leopard cubs due to the common nature of this species to neglect their offspring. Hand rearing also lowers animal stress for future hands-on care and helps with introductions to mates in the future.
River and two-year-old Kuso, the father, are on exhibit on Bamboo Trail, and the cubs will be placed in the HCA Healthcare Veterinary Center neonatal animal care room within a week. The cubs will stay at Nashville Zoo for now with plans to eventually introduce them to a potential mate at another zoo.
Nashville Zoo is part of the Clouded Leopard Consortium and also part of the Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan®. Dr. Robertson is the nationwide vet advisor for this species. Much of the information known about this species is because of the collaboration between Nashville Zoo, Smithsonian's National Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Thailand and The Zoological Parks Organization of Thailand.
Clouded leopards are listed as "vulnerable" and protected in most range countries although enforcement in many areas is weak. Precise data on clouded leopard population numbers in the wild is not known. The reduced number of pelts encountered at markets and reduced sightings of clouded leopards by people within its range suggest the species is in decline.