Two clouded leopard cubs are expected to make their debut Wednesday at the National Zoo in Northwest Washington.
One is a male named Paitoon and the other is a female named Jilian. They were born in March and April at the Nashville Zoo.
They’ll be on exhibit starting Wednesday for short periods. They’ll be on display to the public from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the zoo’s Asia Trail.
Zoo officials said the cubs are “learning how to climb” and becoming more independent. As they get more familiar with their new exhibit, zoo keepers said, they’ll spend more time in public view.
Zookeepers have been working with the young cubs on various skills, such as teaching them to touch a target so “keepers can look at different parts of their bodies,” officials said.
“The cubs are extremely curious and precocious,” Asia Trail curator Michael Brown-Palsgrove said in a statement. He said they’ve been busy “exploring and investigating every nook-and-cranny of their new home.”
Clouded leopards are native to Southeast Asia. They are arboreal and have sharp claws, long tails and large paws. They like to climb, wrestle and vocalize to each other, experts said.
They’re listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Experts said about 10,000 clouded leopards live in the wild. They face such threats as deforestation and illegal wildlife trafficking, according to experts.
In captivity, clouded leopards typically are “hand-raised as cubs” so it improves their survival chances, experts said. They usually get paired with future mates when they’re 1-year-old.
Clouded leopards can be aggressive to each other, and after decades of research, scientists figured out that if they’re “raised together from a very young age” it “greatly reduced” their aggressive tendencies toward each other and “increased the chances they would breed successfully as adults,” according to a statement from the zoo.
Zoo officials said that the population of clouded leopards in captivity in the world is “gradually becoming more stable.”
Zoo officials hope Jilian and Paitoon will be “ambassadors” in letting the public know about “this elusive species.” The two cubs will live together but will not be breed when they’re adults because they’re not “an ideal genetic match.”