Clouded leopards are among the world’s rarest cats, and may be the most difficult to breed in captivity. From a reproductive point of view, these cats are like no other. Recently, the National Zoo has begun to unlock the reproductive secrets of these elusive cats. I wrote this piece for the online version of Smithsonian Magazine, following the birth of two clouded leopard cubs in 2009. Since then, the National Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute have celebrated multiple clouded leopard births, buoying hope for this struggling species.

A short excerpt is included below. Or, read the entire article online at SmithsonianMagazine.com:

Rarely has a birth been so anticipated, or the wait so suspenseful. On March 24, for the first time in 16 years, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center celebrated the birth of clouded leopard cubs.

The cubs weigh about half a pound each and are in good health. Because female clouded leopards sometimes harm their cubs, the newborns were promptly removed from their mother, two-year-old Jao Chu, and placed in an incubator. They will be hand-raised by staff at the Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia.