Gulf Breeze Zoo has two new elusive ambassadors

Study of this elusive predatory cat has challenged scientist for years. To catch even a glimpse of clouded leopards, researches employ motion activated cameras, and satellite tracking collars are used to study their secretive behavior.

But you need only stop by the Gulf Breeze Zoo to spot these cloud-spotted cats.

Clouded leopards Harry and Ping are the newest residents of Gulf Breeze Zoo having joined the zoo family earlier this month. These new animal ambassadors are both one and half years old and adjusting well to their new home.

The small carnivorous wild cats inhabit the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains and parts of China. Their bodies are about 2-3 feet long with a long tail. They can weigh up to 50 pounds, far smaller than their cousin the tiger (also on display at the zoo) which can weigh 500 pounds.

While their body is relatively small, their teeth are far from it. They have the largest canine teeth per portioned to body size of all the wild cats, earning them the nickname “modern saber-tooth.”

Clouded leopards are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List meaning they are at a high risk of extinction in the wild due to declining numbers.

As tiger populations dwindle, poachers have turned to hunting clouded leopards for their fur and bones for traditional Asian medicine.

They face yet another threat due to deforestation. In Indonesia, an estimated 98 million acres of forest has been cleared primarily for palm oil plantations. This oil is found in a variety of products including food, cosmetics, biofuel and cleaning products. Roughly 190 species could go extinct due to the loss of this vital habitat.

That is where Harry and Ping come in.

The pair of leopards have been tasked with a dual conservation mission. The leopards will act as ambassadors for their species. Visitors to the zoo can learn all about their species and ask keepers questions about their brothers and sisters in the wild.

The second part of Ping’s and Harry’s mission is to hopefully make more leopards. Future visitors may get to meet clouded leopard cubs if all goes according to plan.

Just like in the wild, catching a glimpse of this pair of predators when they are active can be difficult because they sleep much of the day. The best time for viewing these relatively nocturnal creatures is in the afternoon.

Ping, Harry and all the zoo’s residents are available for viewing daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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