For the first time in history, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. welcomes two very adorable and very rare clouded leopard cubs. These two adorable babies made their debut to the public last week.
The beautiful clouded leopard cubs, named Paitoon, a male, and Jilian, a female are the newest additions to the zoo’s Asia Trail. The pair made their debut September 11, according to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo.
Cubs Paitoon and Jilian were born last spring
The public can visit the cubs for short periods between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. That might not seem like much time. However, while these sweet babies learn to climb, they need supervision by zookeepers. You see, they need a chance to get used to their surroundings. As they grow more confident and no longer need supervision the zoo will extend visiting hours.
And the cubs are having fun
“The cubs are extremely curious and precocious; they have been exploring and investigating every nook-and-cranny of their new home,” said Michael Brown-Palsgrove, who curatescurator of the Asia Trail. “It’s a great time to visit the clouded leopard exhibit to see them and learn about all our conservation efforts here and in Thailand.”
Experts at the zoo are also giving Jilian and Paitoon some pretty sophisticated training. Their training includes things like teaching them to touch a target during medical examinations so that keepers can examine different parts of their bodies. The workers even taught these adorable siblings how to hold still for vaccinations.
Clouded leopards are native to southeast Asia
They have beautiful, large paws and long claws that make them well-suited for a life in the trees notes The Washington Post. They commonly vocalize to each other and often wrestle and climb. There are about 10,000 clouded leopards living in the wild. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists them as “vulnerable.” The biggest threats clouded leopards face are illegal wildlife trafficking and deforestation.
The cubs will be ‘ambassadors’ to the public
Captive clouded leopards are usually hand-reared as cubs. According to zoo officials, that’s because it increases their chances of survival.
Caring for these marvelous cats can be tricky because clouded leopards can become aggressive towards each other. Scientists conducted decades of research on this and now understand that if they are “raised together from a very young age,” they display much less aggression. They also found this “increased the chances they would breed successfully as adults.”
Jilian and Paitoon will serve as ambassadors as a way of educating the public about “this elusive species.” They will continue to live together but they’ll only be pals because, according to zoo officials, they are not “an ideal genetic match.”
But clouded leopard numbers are increasing in captivity, thanks to dedicated conservation efforts. And this means females will have a better chance to raise cubs on their own and create non-breeding pairs, such as Jilian and Paitoon, to help the public learn about these wonderful cats.
You can watch adorable Paitoon and Jilian tumble and play in the video below. And believe me, they are cute!
Featured image by Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute