The 2-month-old clouded leopard cubs, “Aiya” and “Shigu,” born Feb. 29 at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, are developing by leaps and bounds, literally.
Leap Year Leopards Developing By Leaps and Bounds
TAMPA, Fla. (April 26, 2016) – The 2-month-old clouded leopard cubs, “Aiya” and “Shigu,” born Feb. 29 at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, are developing by leaps and bounds, literally. Starting this week, the cubs will be introduced to the main clouded leopard habitat to help keep them safe while they practice their new motor skills.
The transition to an enclosed exhibit will allow the cubs greater independence to climb, pounce and leap in a supervised environment. For the near term, public viewing will continue once daily in the new location. A rotation through different natural environments provides essential sensory enrichment for continued development. Allowing guests to observe the cubs at play provides an educational opportunity to communicate the needs and perils of this rare and vulnerable species. The cubs’ long-term home has not yet been determined.
Aiya and Shigu are the first set of multiples for the Zoo’s pair of 5-year-old adult leopards. When their birth mother became anxious and stopped caring for them, the Zoo’s animal care team intervened to provide necessary assistance. Within the managed population, clouded leopard cubs are routinely hand-reared for the best chance of survival. This practice also improves socialization for early introductions to potential mates and reduces aggression between pairs. For their safety, the cubs will alternate exhibit time with the Zoo’s adult leopards (they will not be reintroduced).
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.