When clouded leopard cubs Jilian and Paitoon made their debut at Asia Trail last September, it was a historic moment. Although the Smithsonian’s National Zoo has exhibited this rare cat before, they were the first cubs to serve as (adorable) ambassadors for their species. Our entire team was excited to educate visitors about our new residents and inspire them to care about this species, which colleagues at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute have been studying for decades. Their cutting-edge breeding research over the years has done a lot to ensure the conservation of these cats, both in zoos and in the wild. Jilian and Paitoon are just two of many reproduction success stories.
Most visitors, however, don’t get a chance to see all the effort to provide excellent care that goes on behind the scenes. We’d like to give you a sneak peek into one very important aspect of Jilian and Paitoon’s lives here at the Zoo: training. Our enrichment and training program gives the Zoo’s animals an opportunity to participate in their own healthcare, get some physical and mental exercise, and helps to build trust between the cubs and us, their keepers.
Before we dive into that, though, we want to introduce you to the cubs!