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Clouded Leopard Cub Comes to Nashville Zoo

Nashville Zoo’s ongoing dedication to animal conservation is on full display as it welcomes the arrival of a clouded leopard cub and one banded palm civet kit. Both newborns can be seen at the Zoo’s HCA Healthcare Veterinary Center and online with their nursery camera.


The male clouded leopard cub was born on July 18 at the Oklahoma City Zoo and brought to Nashville for hand rearing and eventual introduction to a mate. As a national leader in clouded leopard breeding and care, Nashville Zoo was chosen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP®) to oversee the cub's upbringing and eventual pairing. The Clouded Leopard SSP® helps to ensure genetically diverse populations of this species in human care.

“We’ve been breeding and raising these cats since 1991 and have learned a lot about this process,” said Dr. Heather Schwartz, the Zoo’s Director of Veterinary Services. “We hand rear our cubs because it allows this normally nervous species to become acclimated to the sights and sounds of human interaction, typical in an exhibit environment." The cub will stay in the Zoo’s Veterinary Center nursery until he is old enough to be moved to a lager habitat on the Zoo’s property where he will eventually be introduced to a suitable mate.



"Clouded leopard males can be very aggressive when they are introduced to females," says Nashville Zoo President and CEO Rick Schwartz. "This can cause serious, even lethal injury to the females. Hand rearing this species lowers aggression and increases the chance of successful mating." As a result of Nashville Zoo's knowledge on clouded leopards, the AZA's SSP now recommends hand rearing for all cubs of this species.

Clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) are native to the tropical lowlands of Southeast Asia in countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh. They are considered vulnerable to extinction according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to deforestation, poaching and pet trade. Precise data on clouded leopard population numbers is not known, but researchers estimate there are around 10,000 clouded leopards in the wild. Specific populations can be difficult to track, as the clouded leopard is among the rarest of the world’s cat species and one of the most elusive. The reduced number of pelts encountered at illegal markets and reduced sightings of clouded leopards by people within its range suggest the species is in decline. 


The Veterinary Center nursery also recently welcomed a baby (kit) banded palm civet born on August 12 at Nashville Zoo. The male kit was removed to be hand-raised due to inadequate milk production by the mother. The newborn will be raised in the nursery and eventually trained to be an ambassador animal, educating the public about his species and native environment.


Banded palm civets (Hemigalus derbyanus) are small nocturnal mammals native to the rainforests and jungles of Southeast Asia and are categorized as near threatened by the IUCN due to habitat loss, due to deforestation, agriculture, and plantations as well as water damming, hunting and logging. Roughly the size of a domestic cat, banded palm civets are closely related to weasels and mongooses. Nashville Zoo has been successfully breeding this species since 2015.