On Sept. 7, clouded leopards Niran and Ron welcomed a little bundle of joy at the Nashville Zoo. The zoo has not yet released the little one’s name. But the birth is exciting for one very important reason: Clouded leopards are listed as a vulnerable species on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List. These beautiful leopards have lost much of their habitat in Asia due to logging and deforestation.
But not all hope is lost. As part of the Clouded Leopard Consortium, the Nashville Zoo is fighting to protect this precious species. Since clouded leopards are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, the Nashville Zoo uses artificial insemination specialists to help support the success of these births.
The Nashville Zoo announced the arrival of the clouded leopard cub on its Facebook page:
The first successful artificial insemination of a clouded leopard at the Nashville Zoo occurred in 1992. Since then, the zoo has welcomed over 42 clouded leopard cubs with this technology.
In fact, the newest cub’s mother, Niran, was the result of cutting-edge artificial insemination. This involved using sperm that had been frozen and then thawed.
This is exciting because it means that zoos don’t only need to use male cubs in their existing community. They can access semen from other clouded leopards from zoos across the world. This is important for genetic diversity and demographic stability.
After birth, the cubs at Nashville Zoo are raised by hand to avoid parental neglect or predation, which can occur in the clouded leopard community. This means that zoo visitors can come to see the newest cub at the HCA Healthcare Veterinary Center, as noted in the Twitter post below.
Large viewing windows give guests an intimate look into the neonatal rooms, where they can watch three cubs being bottle-fed and cared for by the zookeepers. The other two cubs were born elsewhere and brought to the zoo for care and eventual pairing via the Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan.
Come visit our newest little ones in the HCA Veterinary Center! We've got three clouded leopard cubs and one banded palm civet in the nursery windows.
— HCA Healthcare Veterinary Center (@nashzoovet) September 17, 2023
If you want to help clouded leopards, the Nashville Zoo says that one of the best things you can do is think twice about your purchases at the grocery store.
“Palm oil and its derivatives can be found in 50% of supermarket items, so as consumers, we can help clouded leopards by showing companies we prefer products made with sustainably produced palm oil,” the Nashville Zoo’s website says.
If you want to learn how to identify products that contain sustainably produced palm oil, click here to learn more at the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s website, or download the PalmOil Scan mobile app from Woodland Park Zoo and its partners. It has a barcode scanner that lets you quickly determine if the brands you’re shopping for are committed to sustainable palm oil production.
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