Improved Husbandry and Nutrition Results in Successful Reproduction in the Thailand Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2007
Katharine M. Pelican1, DVM, PhD; Kenneth Lang1; Rick Passaro2; Wanchai Tunwattana3, DVM; Daraka Tongthainan3, DVM; Sumate Kamolnorranath3, DVM; David E Wildt1, PhD; Rick Schwartz4; JoGayle Howard1, DVM, PhD
1Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, Front Royal, VA, USA; 2Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium, Chonburi, Thailand; 3Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Zoological Park Organization, Chonburi, Thailand; 4Nashville Zoo, Nashville, TN, USA
Scientists from the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park have been working with clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) in North America and Thailand for over 20 years. Studies have demonstrated the importance of good husbandry and nutrition for successful reproduction in felids. In 2002, a consortium of North American and Thailand zoological institutions initiated a clouded leopard breeding program at the Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Chonburi, Thailand aimed at applying this new knowledge to optimize breeding success. Clouded leopards were moved from enclosures in Thailand zoos known to induce stress (small size, lack of hiding places, adjacent to large carnivores) to large, vegetation-rich enclosures with nest boxes. Nutritionally poor diets were altered to include whole prey, chicken meat and vitamin/mineral supplementation. Since 2002, 26 clouded leopard cubs have been born (22 surviving) to six successful male-female pairs. In addition to the breeding success, this program has documented the impact of management changes on reproduction. Daily fecal samples were collected from eight adult females and six adult males before and after improvements, shipped to the USA and fecal reproductive hormones measured. Results show that one of eight (12.5%) adult females was not cycling at the start of the project but began cycling within 6 month of management changes. In addition, five of eight (62.5%) females showed more frequent cycling and one female (12.5%) bred and carried a successful pregnancy to term also within 6 months. Thus, seven of eight (87.5%) female clouded leopards in the study had improved reproductive status following diet and husbandry changes. Similarly, males showed higher (p<0.05) testosterone concentrations within 6 months of improvements. These results show the importance of good diet and management to reproductive success in captive clouded leopards.