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Posted at 2:36 PM ET, 02/18/2010

National Zoo announces leopard cubs' birth

By Washington Post editors
Clouded leopard cub born at the National Zoo's Front Royal, Va., site on Valentine's Day. (Photo by Mehgan Murphy/Smithsonian National Zoo)

National Zoo officials announced today that two clouded leopard cubs were born at their campus in Front Royal, Va., on Valentine's Day.

Jao Chu (JOW-chew), a three-and-a-half-year-old clouded leopard, gave birth to the first cub at 6:04 p.m. and the second cub at 6:20 p.m. At birth, the two cubs weighed in at a little more than half a pound each. Officials said they are not certain about the sex of the cubs.

This is the third time Jao Chu and the cubs’ father, Hannibal, also three-and-a-half-years-old, have produced offspring. On March 24, 2009, Jao Chu gave birth to two males — Sa Ming (SAH-meeng), “brave warrior,” and Ta Moon (TAH-moon), “mischievous child.” Nearly four months later, on July 9, she gave birth to a female cub, Baylie (BAY-lee).

This most recent births are especially welcome because breeding of clouded leopards is challenging in part because male clouded leopards are particularly aggressive and have sometimes been known to attack their mates. Cub mortality is high because female leopards sometimes eat their offspring.

cubs(Photo by Mehgan Murphy/Smithsonian National Zoo)

Clouded leopards are listed as “vulnerable to extinction” due to hunting and deforestation. National Zoo scientist Jo Gayle Howard and colleagues have worked with clouded leopards in Front Royal since 1978. In the past 30 years, more than 76 clouded leopards have been born there.

Little is known about clouded leopards, which are natives of Southeast Asia and parts of China. They live in habitats ranging from dense tropical evergreen forest to drier forests.

Adult leopards weigh 30 to 50 pounds and measure about five feet in length. A long tail accounts for almost half the length. Their tails and large paws help them balance on small branches. They are about the size of a medium-weight dog.

You can see the cubs on the zoo's clouded leopard cam.

Also, check out our gallery of clouded leopard cubs born at the facility last March.

By Washington Post editors  | February 18, 2010; 2:36 PM ET
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Awwwwww! Woo-Woo-Woo! Meow!

Posted by: blackforestcherry | February 18, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

A propitious birthday for these newest cubs! Not only Valentine's Day, but the first day of the Year of the Tiger... which, with just a bit of poetic license, translates as well as the Year of the Leopard (and all other Asian Big Cats). I wish them and their older siblings long and happy lives.

Posted by: nan_lynn | February 18, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

You are so cute, little fella!!

Posted by: timidguy | February 18, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Cute, indeed.

Posted by: ozpunk | February 18, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Poor babies - taken away from their mother to keep them "safe". No wonder zoo animals never learn to care for their infants.

Posted by: dorawest | February 18, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

dorawest: "Poor babies - taken away from their mother"

The article: "Clouded leopards are listed as 'vulnerable to extinction', and "Cub mortality is high because female leopards sometimes eat their offspring."

dorawest: "No wonder zoo animals never learn to care for their infants."

I think perhaps your real issue has NOTHING to do with these animals.

Posted by: frantaylor | February 18, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Although the philosophies of U.S. zoos regarding hand rearing differs, the National Zoo generally does not hand rear offspring (even if that means first-time mothers do a poor job). Clouded leopards are an exception because they are rare and the cub mortality risk from their mothers is so high. Doraawest, maybe you could spend your time educating yourself instead of making ignorant comments. Just for clarification, I do not work at the National Zoo but am very familiary with their and two other U.S. zoos' policies regarding hand rearing.

Posted by: taishan1 | February 18, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

this is wonderful...the leopard is a beautiful creature...God willing, these 2 precious cubs shall in spire & increase efforts for their timeless survival...

Posted by: cawobeth | February 18, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Just. Too. Cute!

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | February 19, 2010 12:00 AM | Report abuse

These are not the same leopards that are in conflict with people as directly as another species in India I believe.

Posted by: Nymous | February 19, 2010 5:58 AM | Report abuse

Kinda makes you wonder...if males attack their mates and females eat thier offspring, maybe this is a species that is destined to become extinct.

Posted by: creamy | February 19, 2010 6:31 AM | Report abuse

dorawest, the content of your knowledge bank is incredible! NOT! Perhaps you should sit in front of your tv and continue to watch Maury.

Posted by: blackforestcherry | February 19, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

How cute are they!! I'm so looking forward to spring & taking a nice long slow stroll thru the zoo to see all the new babies. One of my favorite things!!

Posted by: ms1234 | February 19, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

you do kinda have a point there.

Posted by: Section406 | February 19, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Creamy--In captivity, clouded leopard males may attack females and mothers may kill their young. There is no evidence that I am aware of that this happens routinely in the wild. It's tricky--a captive population is needed for increasing the population, understanding these animals, and raising awareness about them, but for some animals, keeping them in captivity is challenging.

Posted by: taishan1 | February 19, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I would like to congradulate Front Royal. This is the biggest news the town has seen since the Civil War 150 years ago! And they thought there claim to fame began and ended with the Battle of Front Royal!

Posted by: matrox | February 20, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

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