June 15, 2011 -- Two clouded leopard cubs are the latest additions to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash. Twenty-three-month-old clouded leopard Chai Li gave birth to her first litter on June 14.
Just like any other kitten, clouded leopard cubs are born with their eyes closed and unable to walk. In about two weeks, these little guys will open their eyes, start walking and begin growing their famously large teeth, which are just as big as a tiger's despite the fact that clouded leopards are about one-tenth the size of their striped cousins.
The twins are the success of a planned breeding program, which matched Chai Li with her mate, Nah Fun, when the two were just five days old.
Eight cubs have been born this year in U.S. zoos as part of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan, which monitors both captive and wild populations of the species and makes breeding recommendations based on each cats' genetic makeup.
Clouded leopards are considered one of the most mysterious animals in the world. They are very rarely seen in the wild in their natural habitat of Southeast Asia. Much of what is known about clouded leopards comes from observation in zoos.
Habitat destruction and poaching have led to declining populations in the wild, but estimates of exact numbers are hard to come by due to the species' secretive nature, according to the San Diego Zoo. They are listed as a vulnerable species by the IUCN.
These babies will be raised by hand by zoo staff and on display to the public shortly.
Source: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, San Diego Zoo;