Leopard Cubs Debut At Houston Zoo

Koshi and Senja will offer new opportunities to research clouded leopards.

Koshi and Senja explore their new home in the big cat enclosure. Image Credit: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo welcomed two new faces to its big cat family. Koshi and Senja are clouded leopard cubs. After three months of veterinary care, zoo keepers moved them to an outdoor exhibit for visitors to see.  

The cubs have large black spots on their brown fur, a more fluid pattern than that of spotted leopards. They weigh about nine pounds each, and they’ll reach up to 50 pounds as full-grown males. The cats were shy greeting the crowd gathered to see them, but before long they began exploring their new home.

Beth Schaefer is the curator of primates and carnivores at the Houston Zoo. She says the cats have adjusted well.

“We were really surprised at how fearless they were,” she said. “These animals are very arborial. They like to be up in the trees, and these cubs could actually climb before they could really walk.”

Schaefer says clouded leopards are difficult to study. They’re very secretive and tend to live in hard-to-reach places like mountains in Southeast Asia. But Koshi and Senja will give researchers an opportunity to study clouded leopards right here in Houston.

In 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified the cats as a vulnerable species. Researchers hope to change that. Schaefer says the cats’ natural habitat in Borneo is being destroyed to make room for palm oil plantations. She says the ingredient is found in more products than you would expect.

“[It’s found in] anything that’s processed that needs to be stable on the shelf, like granola bars and cookies and chocolate, and also it’s found in shampoos and soaps,” she said.