Clouded Leopard Cubs Born at the Zoo!

Friday, June 6 was an exciting day at the Houston Zoo as we welcomed two clouded leopard cubs to our family. The unnamed male cubs were born after an unassisted, one-hour labor.  After a healthy proclamation by our chief veterinarian, zookeepers began steps to hand-raise the cubs.  The cubs began successfully nursing from a bottle within four hours of birth.
Clouded Leopard Cubs
 
The cubs are a result of the first pregnancy for two-year-old Suksn who gave birth in a private den off-exhibit.  A few hours after their birth, the cubs were moved to the veterinary clinic to begin receiving 24-hour care by the zoological team. The pair will remain behind-the-scenes for several months while they continue to grow and thrive.
 
This birth is not only the first birth for Suksn, but also the first clouded leopard birth for the Houston Zoo.  This is also the first offspring for the cubs’ father, Tarak, also two years old.  Suksn and Tarak have been residents of the Houston Zoo since 2012.
 
Clouded leopards are vulnerable to extinction because of deforestation and hunting.  Since this animal is so rare, it is important to do everything possible to ensure the health and well-being of every clouded leopard born in the care of man. The current practice among zoos is to hand-raise all newborn clouded leopards.  Following best-practices from successful breeding programs like the Nashville Zoo and the National Zoo Breeding Facility, our keepers and veterinary staff are extremely well-equipped to ensure these cubs receive the best care possible.
 
About Clouded Leopards
The clouded leopard is unusual among the world’s cat species. They are the smallest of the large cats, have the largest canine teeth in proportion to their body size of any other cat species, and their coat is striking, yet so well blended for their habitat, that they are extremely difficult to see.
 
Named for its spotted coat, the clouded leopard and its habit has remained a mystery. They live in an area ranging from the foothills of the Himalayas down the islands of Sumatra and Borneo in Southeast Asia. They are under pressure from habit loss, poaching for their attractive coats and even the pet trade in a number of countries throughout Asia.
 
Clouded leopards excel at climbing; there are few cats in the world which can run up a tree, rotate their ankles to run down a tree headfirst or hang upside down from a tree limb using their long tails for balance. 

-Article contributors: Sharon Joseph, Beth Schaefer, and Sara Riger



17 thoughts on “Clouded Leopard Cubs Born at the Zoo!

  1. Although I am sure the reason the zoo chooses to hand raise the is for the benefit of their health, I am curious to why this is actually needed. Wouldn’t the mother’s milk be beneficial as well as the social behavior that would learn being with mother. What are the risks for the Cubs left with mother?

  2. Can we get (at least) weekly updates/pictures of these babies??? They are beyond precious.

  3. We just saw a “Tiger cam” at the London zoo to film the 3 baby tigers and their mom while they were still behind the scenes away from the public. Wouldn’t that be a great idea for these rare little babies? We all want to see them as they grow!

  4. How sad that you confiscated these cubs from their mother. I think you should give the mother the opportunity to raise her babies. They would do better and develop more naturally. If she does not appear to care for them, then they should be removed, but she should be given the chance to do it herself.

  5. I was so excited and shared the picture and post with my children until I read on and saw that the cubs were taken from their mother within hours of being born to be raised by zoo staff. I was horrified. I can’t even begin to understand the rationality in doing that. Return the cubs to their mother!!! She carried them and now she should bond with and care for them as she has earned that!! I have been a member of Houston Zoo for over 20 years but this situation pains me greatly.

  6. I have been a nurse for over 43 years. I was shocked and dismayed to see that these cubs were taken from their mother shortly after being born. The poor mother’s milk would have come in with no cubs to feed and nurture. Shame on you Houston Zoo. You shall be one less supporter today.

    1. Hi Jamie,
      Clouded leopards are vulnerable to extinction because of deforestation and hunting. Since this animal is so rare, it is important to do everything possible to ensure the health and well-being of every clouded leopard born in the care of man. The current protocol among zoos is to hand-raise all newborn clouded leopards. Following best-practices from successful breeding programs like the Nashville Zoo and the National Zoo Breeding Facility, our keepers and veterinary staff are extremely well-equipped to ensure these cubs receive the best care possible.

  7. Shameful!! How could you have taken those cubs from their mother??!! Absolutely unbelievable.

  8. So, I read your article and was so very excited to see that the clouded leopards had cubs and that they were born on my birthday 6/6. As happy as I was about that, I was very unhappy to see that the cubs were taken away and being raised by zoo staff. I also saw numerous comments posting from other people that were equally as unhappy yet the zoo has deleted those within minutes of them being posted. I am most unhappy about that. You are leaving the comments that support what you have done rather than to leave an accurate picture of how all of your members feel about it. Not an ethical practice.

  9. They should be nursing from their mom, too, for the antibodies they’ll get from her milk. If it’s important for human infants, it’s probably important for leopard infants, too. And they should be bonding with their mom, too, so she’ll care for and protect them.

  10. I am totally in love! These two are so beautiful! I am sure Mom and Dad are proud! I do hope they get to be around their babies!!! I painted dad, Tarak, in oils awhile back. For anyone one interested in seeing the painting, please visit my web site- sandracutrer.com to see the painting! I have painted several of The Houston Zoo animals. I think clouded leopards are breath-taking cats. WOW to the precious babies- totally adorable!!!

  11. We lose two valuable members of the zoo, but gain two treasures. It seems like yesterday the cubs parents arrived at the zoo as 8 month old cubs.

  12. My husband and I visited your wonderful zoo for the first time on Sunday, June 8th! My husband is 58 years old and had never been to a zoo, so it was a very exciting day for us! We made many pictures and videos of the animals, but the ones that were so very special were of a baby orangutan. I will send copies of the photos to you via mail, but if you have time can you tell us the name of the baby? Amy and Art Cable, Kingwood, Texas 802-451-8251

  13. I too find myself deeply disquieted by the removal of the cubs from their mother. Left with their mother, there is a really good chance that one cub would survive, and still a reasonable chance that both would make it. Is their cage large enough to handle the cubs as well as the mother? All the cat cages seem tiny to me, and your cats display behaviours associated with cage constriction – endless repetitive pacing, etc. A great shame the leopard’s first litter were not have been left with her, if only to reinforce her inclination to do it again. What are all these cubs being hand reared for? None of them will go back into the wild.

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