In early August, the Dallas Zoo was thrilled to announce the arrival of their new Sumatran tiger cub, Sumini. She is the first baby tiger born at the zoo in over half of a century, and her birth plays an important role in the conservation of these endangered cats.
Two more new faces arrived from Houston and quietly began their 30-day quarantine. Now quarantine is over, and zoologists are excited to introduce Dallas’s human residents to its newest 4-legged residents, clouded leopard sisters Luna and Nova.
This week, the sisters made their public debut after moving into their new enclosure between the gibbons and colobus monkeys in the Primate Palace. While the Primate Palace may seem like an odd choice of home for large cats, it is actually perfect for the leopards. Clouded leopards are an arboreal species, which means they spend much of their time in the forest canopy.
“All these tall, upright trees really help kind of mimic what their environment would look like out in the wild,” explained Sara Bjerklie, one of the zoo’s assistant zoological managers.
The new enclosure has been outfitted especially for the leopard sisters with climbing logs, a mesh ceiling, and a maze of walkways and wooden platforms high above the ground.
“Clouded leopards are a super-cool species in that their back feet can actually rotate about 180 degrees on those wrists,” Bjerklie said. “Sometimes they could even be up on the roof meshing climbing upside down, which is really cool. They’ll climb these log uprights straight down as well because they can rotate their feet and just walk on down.”
At almost two years old, Luna and Nova are nearly fully grown. Adult clouded leopards are roughly the size of a medium dog, and females, like Luna and Nova, rarely reach 40 pounds. But don’t let their small size fool you; they are fierce predators with canines that can grow up to two inches in length.
Zoologists are currently working to acclimate the sisters to their presence and hope to have the cats join in on educational presentations eventually. However, for now, they are just settling into their new home and their new, noisy neighbors.