NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – One month ago, two baby clouded leopard cubs were born at the Nashville Zoo—one male and one female. Since 2009, the zoo has celebrated the birth of 43 clouded leopards, but these are the first cubs to be raised at the zoo since 2019.

As big as leopards get as adults, it’s hard to believe, that these little babies were only four inches long when they were born. But that’s not unusual.

“They’re actually the largest cubs we’ve ever had born at Nashville Zoo, for their birth weight,” explained Dr. Heather Schwartz, Nashville Zoo Veterinarian.

“So, they were born here to our pair that are actually on exhibit, Jewels, and Bruce. And they are first-time parents to these guys.”

As part of the Species Survival Plan, the hope is for these cubs to one day go on to have babies of their own. The best genetic match is found for each pair of future parents, and they introduce them at a young age.

“We try to socialize these guys and get them paired with their mates as early as possible,” Dr. Schwartz said. “They end up growing up and doing better. The males outweigh them two to one over the females. So, males are about 60 pounds, females run about 30-35 [pounds]. So, there’s a big weight difference. So, when you introduce them later in life, there’s a chance that the male could hurt the female. So, we want to put them together young and get them socialized and very accustomed to being around different scenarios and people and different situations. So, we are already working on who are going to be the best ones to put them with. So they can grow up with their mate and go on and have babies themselves.”

And more than half of the clouded leopards born in zoos were born at the Nashville Zoo.

“We’ve had lots of clouded leopards over the years,” Dr. Schwartz said. “This is number 42 and 43 that have been born. But there are only around 76 clouded leopards in zoos right now. So, there are not that many. So, Nashville Zoo has taken a keen interest along with the National Zoo and Point Defiance Zoo. Our three institutions have really made this a signature species of ours to pay attention to and to help breed and be the leaders with these species.”

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The cubs are visible through the window at the zoo’s Veterinary Center. They feed them at around 10 am and 2 pm every day, so that’s a good time to visit. Their parents, Jewels, and Bruce are on display at the “Bamboo Trails” area every day.

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