An endangered Clouded Leopard kitten, born March 7 at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, has become a worldwide ambassador for his imperiled species. Images and video of the rare newborn have been shared around the globe.
Now 3-weeks-old, the kitten has grown from 300 grams at birth to 810 grams today. His eyes are completely open and he is becoming more alert. He has started to crawl (or scoot) along using his front legs, and should be strong enough to move steadily on all four by one month of age. He is very vocal, particularly near feeding time which occurs approximately every four hours.
The Zoo’s veterinary team is providing round-the-clock care for the kitten under the protocol established by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP). It has been demonstrated that hand-rearing this particular species helps facilitate increased socialization among young animals and reduces fatal attacks by aggressive adult males.
The kitten’s dad, ‘Yim’, and mom, ‘Malee’, live at the Zoo. Both turn 4-years-old this week and were paired as potential mates at six months of age. The male kitten is their first offspring. He will be hand-reared until weaned at about 3 months of age. At that time the AZA SSP will make a determination about his future home.
Clouded Leopards are the smallest of the “big cats,” weighing 30- 50 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. High levels of hunting and poaching also make the species vulnerable to extinction.
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has been a member of the Clouded Leopard SSP for more than a decade. The Zoo has also supported a conservation research program known as WildAid: Thailand Carnivore Project, a non-invasive study of Thailand’s wild cats including the Clouded Leopard.
More adorable pics, below the fold!