A litter of clouded leopard pups were born at Khao Khew Open Zoo in Thailand, a press release from the Smithsonian's National Zoo announced Monday. It is the first successful artificial insemination birth of clouded leopard pups outside of the U.S. The previous AI birth occurred in 1992, also with the help of scientists from the National Zoo.
The successful AI birth is a key step towards creating a stable population of clouded snow leopards in captivity. Breeding the cats in captivity is difficult due to male-female aggression, as the male may kill the female when they are introduced for breeding. Clouded leopard populations are considered vulnerable, with only 10,000 remaining in the wild. The solitary breed is threatened by deforestation as well as poaching.
The sex of the newborn pups is not yet known. They will be hand-raised by zoo staff to increase their chances of survival.