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Nova and Luna Turn One!

Photo by: Matthew Griffiths

Our adorable clouded leopard cubs, Nova and Luna, are celebrating their first birthday today! Read more about what they’ve been up to for the past year and more below.

This dynamic duo has grown quickly, from about half a pound this time last year to almost 30 pounds each today! Luna and Nova may be approaching their adult size, but they are still cubs at heart. They are very playful and can often be seen chasing each other around their habitat. Keepers rearrange the various hanging logs and shelves in the habitat frequently, encouraging the cats to explore and spend time in different areas.
Photo by: Matthew Griffiths

Keepers also make sure to provide several enrichment items daily, including special chew toys that the girls can only have under supervision – their teeth have been growing, too! They still love to chase, shred, and chew on bamboo or other plant trimmings provided by the Horticulture team. They also enjoy dunking their toys into water, so keepers made sure to give them pools often over the summer.

Photo by: Matthew Griffiths

The cubs still enjoy socialization time with the Carnivore team daily. They have also begun participating in training that will prepare them for their adult lives. As with all of the animals in the Carnivore department, the cubs are trained using positive reinforcement. That means that when they do something correctly, they get a reward – typically a delicious meatball! They have learned to “target,” touching their noses to a buoy at the end of a pole. This is often the first behavior that an animal will learn, and can be used to help shape many future behaviors. They have learned to voluntarily enter a crate, so that they can be safely transported if necessary. All of their training has been very successful.

Each day, Nova and Luna eat 300 grams of specialized ground meat, a little over half a pound, split into two feedings. They have also had a variety of other food items introduced as they’ve grown. The cubs enjoy goat’s milk, a favorite of most cats here at the Zoo. They also get (previously frozen) mice several times a week, and are about to try ( previously frozen) rats for the first time. Other treats include fish, raw eggs, and chunk meat (basically cut up steak). They get bones – nature’s toothbrush – once a week. It’s good for the animals to have a variety of foods to enjoy, and helps with training as each develops their favorites. They will receive special ice “cakes” for their birthday, a tradition in the Carnivore department.

While they have a lot in common, Nova and Luna have their own distinct personalities. Luna is more outgoing and spends more time with keepers. Nova is a little more cautious, keeping an eye on her surroundings. When they get a hold of a favorite toy, Luna often heads for a shelf hanging at the very front and center of the habitat, while Nova chooses a support beam off to the side. When keepers tried to make paintings with the cubs – the kind available for purchase on our website – Luna happily walked through the paint, accepting offered meatballs. Nova, on the other hand, decided that it was more fun to play with the canvas. Keepers say that Nova is like their mom, Suksn, while Luna takes after dad, Tarak.

Nova and Luna have transformed from wobbly little balls of fluff last November, to graceful ambassadors for their species today. It has been an adventure watching them grow. Come by and see them soon! Every time you visit the Zoo, you’re helping us save clouded leopards and other species in the wild.