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Zoo ResearchBehavioral Assessment of the Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa); a comparative analysis of reproductive success.

Investigator: Jilian Fazio, Principal Investigator, Master’s Student in Environmental Science and Public Policy at George Mason University and Animal Keeper, Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

There are many challenges to the captive management of the clouded leopard, however the issue of highest concern is male aggression during introduction to a female for breeding. According to the Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan, mate incompatibility is the most pressing challenge facing this species survival (Fletchall 2007). There is an urgent need to pinpoint behavioral differences among individuals that are reproductively successful.

For this study, the investigator will conduct a complete behavioral assessment of clouded leopards to determine if certain behavioral responses may act as indicators of reproductive success. It is hypothesized that there will be quantifiable behavioral differences between clouded leopards that can be used to categorize different temperaments. This study will utilize three separate methods to determine temperament in each individual, including behavioral observations, a keeper temperament assessment, and non-invasive fecal hormone analysis. The results of this research will also establish if certain behavioral responses can act as indicators of breeding success in clouded leopards. The results of this study can be used to avoid unnecessary animal transfer, injury and possible death. Such findings would assist in future management and conservation of the species both in North America and in range countries. The successful pairing of the limited captive population is integral to the survival of the clouded leopard and behavioral research is a powerful tool in achieving this goal.