Endangered Leopard Cubs Born Against the Odds (7 Photos)

Two newborn clouded leopard cubs made it safely into the world at the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va. Immediately taken from their mom, so she could do them no harm, they were placed in an incubator and fed salt water from baby bottles. It's the zoo's first leopard birth in 16 years and a rare sight for everyone to behold.

It was a genetic home run: The zoo said the cubs' genes, which come from outside the captive population, make them among the most valuable clouded leopards in North America.

"Genetically, they're the most valuable animals outside their home range," said Ken Lang, a zoo expert on the species, because their genes stem directly from the wild. "These are totally new genes."

The clouded leopard is native to Southeast Asia. About the size of a medium-weight dog, the leopards are endangered in the wild and are hunted in Asia for their beautiful pelts.

What's most interesting about this story is that "when a male and a female were put together to breed, the larger male often would pounce on the female and kill her with a fatal bite to the back of the neck. When a female did become pregnant, she often killed her cubs accidentally or intentionally."

Experimentation showed that if a male and female were raised together, the male would not kill the female once they reached adulthood and mated. And so Hannibal and Jao Chu were paired early on and created two little bundle of joys for the world to enjoy.

Mom Jao Chu

Dad Hannibal

{Via Washington Post}

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Tags: baby, leopards, parents, photography, photos, zoo

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Comment by Julia on March 26, 2009 at 1:43pm
They are gorgeous. I am so happy to hear about this.
Comment by Annie on March 26, 2009 at 12:48pm

what a great story--these two cubs were a product of TRUE love....

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