In 2017, Niran was the first clouded leopard ever to be born from artificial insemination (AI) from frozen/thawed semen. Now, Nashville Zoo is pleased to announce she is pregnant through natural reproduction with her first cub(s).
“We’ve made history with Niran and we’re making history again,” said Dr. Heather Robertson, Nashville Zoo Director of Veterinary Services. “Knowing that a clouded leopard born from artificial insemination with frozen/thawed semen can reproduce naturally without any complications is a tremendous success."
After Niran gives birth, the Zoo is prepared to hand raise the cub(s) due to the common nature of this species to neglect their offspring. Hand rearing also lowers animal stress for future hands-on care. The cub(s) will stay at Nashville Zoo with plans to eventually introduce them to a potential mate at another zoo. Niran and Ron, the father, are located behind the scenes, but the cub(s) will stay in the neonatal animal care room at the HCA Healthcare Veterinary Center.
Nashville Zoo worked with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute during Niran’s AI process. 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.
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. In 2017, Niran was the first clouded leopard ever born from AI using frozen/thawed semen.
Clouded leopards are among the rarest of the world’s cat species and one of the most secretive. Nashville Zoo is learning more about this species and has great success now with captive breeding because of hand rearing and pairing before 6 months of age.