OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Guests to the Oklahoma City Zoo will soon be able to see a rare leopard kitten.
On Tuesday, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden announced the birth of a rare clouded leopard kitten.
Officials say the zoo’s 2-year-old female clouded leopard, Rukai, gave birth to a female kitten on Aug. 6 at the zoo’s Cat Forest Habitat.
Zoo organizers say this is such a significant birth for the vulnerable species, so the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan recommended that the zoo hand-rear the kitten to make sure she thrives.
The kitten was moved to a climate-controlled incubator to help her regulate her body temperature, and she has a specific formula that is being fed to her around the clock.
“The kitten appears very strong and healthy, and we are thrilled by the progress she’s making,” said Tyler Boyd, OKC Zoo’s curator of carnivores. “For myself and entire team, the opportunity to care for this offspring, who is incredibly valuable to the conservation of this critically vulnerable species, is a career highlight.”
Native to Nepal and Bangladesh, clouded leopards are the smallest of the big cat species. Adult clouded leopards weigh between 30 and 50 pounds and are about five feet long, with approximately half that length being their tail. They are the world’s strongest climbing cats, which gives them an advantage over the other big cats sharing their territory.
The species is listed by the IUCN as vulnerable to extinction due to deforestation, poaching and the pet trade. Researchers estimate that there are only around 10,000 clouded leopards in the wild.