Up close with Point Defiance Zoo's Clouded Leopard cubs




Posted on June 20, 2011 at 5:01 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 21 at 10:00 AM

TACOMA, Wash. - It's feeding time at the Point Defiance Zoo and the natives are restless.

The hunger is just as strong over at the zoo's hospital, but the voices are much softer.

Day six in the life of an endangered Clouded Leopard starts with a weigh-in - 400 grams and growing - then a quick check-up, then it's time to hit the bottle.

This is staff biologist Andy Goldfarb's life.

"In the very first few hours it's a big job to even get them on the bottle,” he said.

Goldfarb personally went to Thailand to select two young leopards to come back to Tacoma for breeding.
The small leopards live in the canopy of the Southeast Asia rain forests, where they use amazing strength and agility to navigate from branch to branch, tree to tree.

But the animals' habitat is being cut out from under them as native forests are replaced with plantations to produce palm oil. Poachers also cash in their unique pelts and skulls.

Sometimes even the cubs' own mother can be a threat.

"She never let them nurse and she was also a little bit too rough on them," said Goldfarb.

So Goldfarb and staff became surrogate parents.

Right now it's 24 hours, seven days a week care for these guys but pretty soon they'll be able to try out their claws in giant playground built just for them."

A 30-foot-high enclosure is ready and waiting for the young cloud leopards to climb and frolic. All in good time, but for now it's all about eating and plenty of naps.