Oryx Breeding Program Kicks Off with Birth of Female Calf; Staff Confirm Sex of Clouded Leopard Cubs

A scimitar-horned oryx has joined the ranks of endangered animals born this year at the National Zoo’s conservation center in Front Royal, Va., where scientists also recently confirmed the gender of the Zoo’s nearly 3-month-old clouded leopards.

“Because most of the species we work with are critically endangered or extinct in the wild, each offspring born here is a real treasure and a testament to our scientific efforts,” said Steve Monfort, director of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. “Each newborn represents hope that their species will survive.” 

The birth of the scimitar-horned oryx April 9 marks the first time in more than 13 years that the Front Royal campus has had an oryx birth as the result of a Species Survival Plan recommendation. Oryx are extinct in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The oryx, a female, weighed 20 pounds at birth. Adult oryx are known for their curved horns that can be up to several feet long, but newborns have small horn buds from which the horns will grow. The calf is the offspring of 3-year-old Jena and was sired by 13-year-old Dr. Bob, and is part of the Zoo’s renewed efforts to breed scimitar-horned oryx. There are now 16 scimitar-horned oryx at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and one at the Zoo’s campus in Washington, D.C.

The Zoo has partnered with the Sahara Conservation Fund, an independent nonprofit organization, and other zoos to establish a master plan for the re-introduction of oryx across the Saharan range, their native home. Poaching and human conflict primarily contributed to the species’ extinction in the 1980s.

In other news, staff have determined that the genetically valuable litter of two clouded leopard cubs born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute Feb. 14 (Valentine’s Day) are both male. The cubs are now eating up to 88 grams of feline diet, two times per day, in addition to formula. The cubs are growing at a steady and healthy rate—the larger cub weighs 4 pounds and 9 ounces and the smaller cub weighs 4 pounds and 7 ounces. In addition, the cubs now “chuff,” which can be described as a puffing sound and is considered a sign of recognition. They are very playful—rolling around and chasing each other—after each feeding.

The cubs were born to 3 1/2-year-old clouded leopard Jao Chu (JOW-chew) and 3 1/2-year-old Hannibal, representing the third time the pair have produced offspring and the second time Jao Chu gave birth to a litter of two male cubs. Jao Chu and Hannibal were born in Thailand in a collaborative breeding and research program with the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand.

The 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. For more information, visit