2 clouded leopard cubs born at Denver Zoo

DENVER - The Denver Zoo is celebrating the birth of two clouded leopard cubs. They are the first members of the species to be born at the zoo.

The cubs were born March 14, but don't have names yet. One is a male and the other is a female.

Zookeepers started hand-raising the cubs after their mother, Lisu, did not take care of them. Zookeepers believe this is because first time mother Lisu was hand-raised herself and lacks the experience to rear her own cubs.

Despite their name, clouded leopards are not actually a species of leopard. They are so unique that they are placed in their own genus, Neofelis, which is a combination of Greek and Latin words meaning “new cat.”

Clouded leopards are considered a “bridge” between typical big cats, like lions and tigers, and the small cats, like pumas, lynx and ocelots, according to the Denver Zoo.

Their body lengths can range from about two to almost four feet long and they can weigh between 24 and 50 pounds. Their tawny coats are covered with distinctive “cloud-shaped” dark blotches.

Their short, flexible legs, large feet and sharp, retractable claws make them adept in trees. They can descend head-first down tree trunks, move along branches while hanging upside down and even hang from branches using only their hind feet. They use their skills to drop down and ambush prey on the ground.

Clouded leopards are found in Southeast Asia in southern China, parts of Nepal, India and Burma, and from Indochina to Sumatra and Borneo, according to the Denver Zoo. They live primarily in tropical and subtropical evergreen forests up to 6500 feet above sea level.

There are no reliable estimates for clouded leopard populations in the wild, but their numbers are thought to be in decline and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies them as “vulnerable.” Clouded leopards are endangered primarily due to habitat loss due to deforestation for agriculture.

The cubs are doing well, according to zookeepers, and will remain behind-the-scenes until they grow older.

Watch a video of the cubs (mobile users click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRKouYak7EQ):

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