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