Oklahoma City Zoo Welcomes Clouded Leopard Cubs to Cat Habitat Forest
December 13, 2019
The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is pleased to announce the arrival of two clouded leopard cubs: seven-month-old male, J.D., and eight-month-old female, Rukai. The duo were paired at the Pittsburgh Zoo, Rukai’s birthplace, in October and have spent the past two months bonding. J.D. was born at the Nashville Zoo in late April. The hope is that Rukai and J.D. will one day grow up to have their own cubs together and in clouded leopards, breeding is more successful when future mates grow up together. The method of introducing juvenile, genetically valuable male and female clouded leopards began about a decade ago when the clouded leopard population began to drastically decline.
“The Zoo is so excited to welcome these beautiful, gregarious clouded leopard cubs,” said Tyler Boyd, curator of carnivores. “In addition to serving as ambassadors for their species – educating Zoo guests about their plight in the wild and the need for wildlife conservation – J.D. and Rukai’s potential offspring will help ensure the species continues to thrive for generations.”
The cubs are located in the Cat Forest habitat between the Tiger and Small Cat Interpretive Centers. The carnivore and maintenance teams have added elevated perching opportunities to better suit the arboreal tendencies of this species and afford guests more opportunities for viewing. The Zoo is also home to 15-year-old male clouded leopard, Luke, who will not share a habitat with J.D. and Rukai.
Rukai and J.D.’s relocation to the OKC Zoo was a Species Survival Plan® (SSP) recommendation. The mission of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) cooperatively managed SSP Program is to oversee the population management of select species, including the clouded leopard, within AZA member institutions like the OKC Zoo and to enhance conservation of this species in the wild. Each SSP Program coordinates the individual activities of participating member institutions through a variety of species conservation, research, husbandry, management and educational initiatives.
Clouded leopards are native to Nepal and Bangladesh. They are the world’s strongest climbing cats, which gives them an advantage over the other big cats sharing their territory. The species is listed by the IUCN as vulnerable to extinction due to deforestation, poaching and the pet trade. Clouded leopards are protected in most range countries although enforcement in many areas is weak. Precise data on clouded leopard population numbers is not known (they are among the most elusive cat species) but researchers estimate there are around 10,000 clouded leopards in the wild.
Every cloud(ed) leopard has a silver lining – you can CAT-ch them at the OKC Zoo’s Cat Forest habitat! Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $11 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Stay up-to-date with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming Oklahoma Zoological Society members at ZOOfriends.org or in-person at the Zoo! To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.