The Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s rare male clouded leopards Ta Moon (“mischievous child”) and Sa Ming (“brave warrior”) are one year old today! Ta Moon and Sa Ming were born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., March 24, 2009. The leopards were served “birthday cakes” made out of two layers of ice with bamboo leaves frozen inside topped with a special treat made out of feline diet meat. Today, Ta Moon and Sa Ming are about the size of an adult female clouded leopard, weighing between 30 and 35 lbs.
Ta Moon and Sa Ming were the first litter born to three-and-a-half-year-old Jao Chu and Hannibal, who have since produced two more litters. Jao Chu most recently gave birth to two cubs on Valentine’s Day. Native to Southeast Asia, clouded leopards are considered “vulnerable to extinction” due to deforestation and poaching. National Zoo scientists have worked with the species in order to create a genetically diverse population. Since 1978, more than 76 clouded leopards have been born at the SCBI campus.
The National Zoo holds the largest population of captive clouded leopards in North America in a facility that dates back to 1911. In 2009, the Zoo launched a campaign to raise $2 million in order to build a facility that would provide indoor areas and outdoor habitats replicating the clouded leopard’s natural environment. The design is based on research that scientists at the Zoo believe will maximize breeding success.