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About Clouded Leopards
Species Survival Plan® paw
Clouded leopards living in North American zoos are collectively managed through a Species Survival Plan®, or SSP, administered by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. Currently, zoos in North America house only Neofelis nebulosa individuals, the only captive Sunda clouded leopards (Neofelis diardi) are housed at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. The overall goals of the Clouded Leopard SSP program are to address captive management issues, stabilize population demographics, improve the population’s genetics, and develop conservation efforts in clouded leopard range countries.

History of the Clouded Leopard SSP

survival image Throughout the mid 1990s the SSP concentrated on improving the genetics of the population by recommending the breeding of 16 individuals whose bloodlines were not overly represented in the captive population. However, these recommended breedings resulted in very limited numbers of young produced.

By 1998, with the population aging, the need to have more young born to stabilize demographics was becoming critical. As a result, all compatible pairs were recommended for breeding with a target level of 11 births per year to keep the population in a state of growth. At the same time, the SSP population was declared a research population. This designation relaxed the need to make breeding recommendations based strictly on the genetic or demographic needs of the population. Instead, the primary goal of the SSP became to carry out fundamental research into clouded leopard behavior in order to improve captive management and artificial reproduction.

Changes to the care and introduction of clouded leopard pairs have resulted in a dramatically increased success rate of pairings. Pairing unfamiliar adults is often unsuccessful due to aggression between adult individuals. This is especially dangerous to the females, who may be killed by the much larger males. Animals are now introduced at very young ages, usually between four to six months old, and allowed to form natural pair bonds. This procedure has been very successful in recent years due to the increased number of cubs resulting from pairs imported from the Thailand breeding program. Pairing cubs at a young age results in decreased aggression between pairs and greater success at producing offspring.

2014 Summary of Clouded Leopard (N. nebulosa) SSP Population and Recommendations

Current North American Population Size 37.50 (87)
Target Population Size 100
Number of Participating Institutions 22
Current Genetic Diversity of Population 0.896
Births since Jan. 2013 8.9.6 (23)
Deaths since Jan. 2013 6.6.3 (15)
Current Genetic Diversity of Population 0.874
Potential Genetic Diversity of Population 0.92
Breeding Population after Exclusions by Age, Medical Conditions, etc. 61
Founders 18
Mean Kinship 0.124
Mean Inbreeding Coefficient 0.08
Worldwide Zoo Population Size 166.200.11 (377)
Number of Participating Institutions 87

Clouded Leopard SSP Goals

Since 2010, the implementation of transfers between North American, European, and Asian populations has increased both the size and genetic diversity of the clouded leopard population. The population requires a 1% growth of 12-13 births per year to reach the target of 100 animals in 10 years. However, current available space may not allow for this level of growth.

While the increase in births is encouraging, the need to increase the genetic diversity of the population is still critical. Ongoing imports of genetically important new pairs from the Thailand program will be necessary. While there are a large number of paired and genetically valuable animals in Thailand, imports are dependent on having space for new animals and the logistical challenges of permit paperwork.

Census of the Clouded Leopard SSP Population

Clouded Leopard SSP Age Pyramid, all individuals

Clouded Leopard SSP Age Pyramid, potential breeding animals only