A pair of clouded leopard cubs born February 29 at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo have reached a new step in their development: introduction to the great outdoors for exercise and playtime.
Get a Peek at the Pair During Outdoor Exercise and Playtime
TAMPA, Fla. (April 8, 2016) – A pair of clouded leopard cubs born February 29 at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo have reached a new step in their development: introduction to the great outdoors for exercise and playtime. Starting next week, Zoo guests will have the opportunity to get an unforgettable glimpse at the two tiny female felines, named “Aiya” and “Shigu” while they explore a grassy area under the watchful eye of the Zoo’s animal care team.
Exposing the cubs to different natural environments provides essential sensory enrichment for continued development. Interaction and socialization is carefully managed to help build confidence. Allowing guests to observe the cub at play provides an educational opportunity to communicate the needs and perils of this rare and vulnerable species.
Aiya and Shigu are the first set of multiples for the Zoo’s pair of 5-year-old adult leopards. The cubs have received round-the-clock care after their birth mother became anxious and stopped caring for them. Within the managed population, clouded leopard cubs are routinely hand-reared for the best chance of survival. Hand-rearing also improves socialization for early introductions to potential mates and reduces fatal attacks by aggressive adults.
Within a few weeks, the Zoo’s animal care team will begin to transition the cubs to supervised independence by introducing them to an appropriate habitat within the Zoo. Their long-term home has not yet been determined.
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP) designed to support the conservation of select wildlife at risk of extinction. The Zoo’s parent leopards, “Yim” (male) and “Malee“ (female), were matched by the SSP and have lived together at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo since six months of age (2011). The species is currently listed as vulnerable.
Clouded leopards are the smallest of the “big cats,” weighing 30-60 pounds in adulthood and measuring about five feet long (including the long tail). Native to Southeast Asia, clouded leopards are found in forests and rainforests. They are known as shy and reclusive cats. As a forest-dependent species, the leopard’s native range is undergoing the world's fastest regional deforestation rates, highly due to expansion of palm oil plantations. High levels of hunting and poaching also make the species vulnerable to extinction.