Animals

Pittsburgh Zoo Welcomes Rare Leopard Cub

You're gonna want to see the video of this baby as she poses for the cameras!


She's got a face that will melt your heart, and a tiny little "mew" that makes you want to cuddle and pet her. The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium has a new clouded leopard cub, and she was off the scale on the cuteness meter when she was introduced to reporters:

The cub, who doesn't yet have a name, was born four weeks ago to Saya and Psi, a five-year old spotted leopard pair who came to Pittsburgh from Denver. This is the first spotted leopard to be born at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Saya delivered a second cub, but it died shortly after birth. Zoo keepers decided to take this baby away from Saya.

Zoo keepers say the cub started walking a week ago and is already growing teeth.

"She was being an excellent mother. But as the hours went on we weren't seeing a lot of the rooting behavior and we were seeing more sleeping," explained Assistant Mammal Curator Karen Vacco, who speculates that the mother wasn't producing milk. "Then we started to notice very little activity with the one cub so that's when we decided to go in and intervene." Now the cub is being hand raised by the zoo staff.

The new cub gets 15 ml of milk, 5 times a day. That will increase as she gets bigger!

Vacco explained that Saya and Psi were put together from different zoos when they were cubs and raised together as part of a Species Survival Plan. Trying to mate the animals as adults doesn't work because males are often too aggressive, even killing the female.

This new cub will go through much the same process as her parents, and be paired with a male cub of the same age from another zoo at around 3 months. "We're just waiting for a genetic match for her," explained Vacco, who said the baby's future mate might come here or she might be sent to another zoo.

"We would hate to see her leave us but obviously the best thing is what's best for her." Karen Vacco, Assistant Mammal Curator

Clouded leopards are native to Southeast Asia. Size-wise they're between a large cat, like a lion or tiger, and small cat -- females will eventually weigh 25-30 pounds. They're considered "vulnerable" with only an estimate 10,000 left in the wild. They have back paws that rotate to climb down a tree headfirst like a squirrel, and their jaws are the widest of any cat with the largest teeth relative to their size, allowing them to eat large prey.

Clouded leopards get their name from the way their baby spots turn cloud-like as they mature.

(Images: Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium Facebook page )

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