A rare clouded leopard born on March 7 at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo received his name this week. The youngster was named Mowgli after the main character in “The Jungle Book.”
Mowgli also took his first steps into the great outdoors this week. Visitors have the opportunity to meet him as he plays on the grass at 10am each day.
Most of the young cub’s time is being spent at the veterinary hospital but keepers wish to expose him to different environments as it provides sensory enrichment that will help him to develop. The time he spends interacting and socialising plays a crucial role in building his confidence.
As Mowgli grows he will soon transition to supervised independence. This means that he will live in a temporary outdoor habitat to help him adjust to his permanent home which is yet to be determined.
Keepers view his daily playtime as an opportunity to educate visitors about this vulnerable species. They live in Southeast Asia where the forests are undergoing the fastest deforestation rates worldwide. Poaching and hunting are also contributing to a fast decline for this species.
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo supports clouded leopard conservation in Thailand through WildAid which conducts non-invasive studies of Thailand’s wild cats.
Visitors can also meet the cub’s parents “Yim” and “Malee” who are on display in the Asian Gardens habitat at the zoo. Mowgli is the first cub born to the pair.
Yim and Malee were paired as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) which manages the 87 clouded leopards in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to increase genetic diversity in the population.
Dr Larry Killmar, VP of animal sciences and conservation for Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo said, “Species survival programs for animals like clouded leopards take years of planning, development and staff commitment. This kitten will contribute to the long term viability of our conservation efforts within the managed population, as well as range countries”
Mogwli has been hand reared so that he will be less aggressive when he is introduced to a mate at six months old. This process has been successfully used by many zoos.
As the smallest of the “big cats” clouded leopards measure just 5ft (1.5m) long and weigh between 30 and 60lb (13 and 27kg).
Currently the young cub weighs just 4lb (1.8kg) up from his birth weight of 300g. Keepers give him a bottle every six hours.
Photo Credits: Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo