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Home » Dallas Zoo now dwelling to clouded leopard sisters Nova and Luna

Dallas Zoo now dwelling to clouded leopard sisters Nova and Luna

Caretakers on the Dallas Zoo have a tip for visitors who’re in search of to get a glimpse of its latest animals: Search for.

a group of people standing next to a tree: Dallas Zoo visitors observe the leopards in their new home.

© Lola Gomez/Employees Photographer
Dallas Zoo guests observe the leopards of their new dwelling.

Housed within the Primate Place between the gibbons and the colobus monkeys, the clouded leopards are straightforward to overlook among the many jungle health club of logs and picket platforms that make up their habitat.

“These guys are an arboreal species, in order that they do stay up within the tops of timber,” mentioned Sara Bjerklie, an assistant zoological supervisor on the zoo. “All these tall, upright timber actually assist form of mimic what their surroundings would seem like out within the wild.”

a cat sitting on top of a wooden fence: Luna and Nova rest together inside their new habitat at the Dallas Zoo on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021.

© Lola Gomez/Employees Photographer
Luna and Nova relaxation collectively inside their new habitat on the Dallas Zoo on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021.

The leopards, 2-year-old sisters Nova and Luna, got here to Dallas from the Houston Zoo and made their public debut final week.

However whereas the pair are proper at dwelling of their habitat, their unveiling has taken weeks of onerous work behind the scenes.

Creating their new dwelling

Clouded leopards, which the Dallas Zoo had by no means housed earlier than, have been positioned on the zoo’s “want checklist” of animals firstly of the yr, Bjerklie mentioned.

As a result of the clouded leopard inhabitants is declining within the wild, the Affiliation of Zoos & Aquariums has created a species survival plan to assist maintain their numbers in captivity. The Dallas Zoo reached out to the workforce accountable for the plan, who then helped coordinate Nova and Luna’s transfer from Houston, Bjerklie mentioned.

“We all the time have our want checklist,” Bjerklie mentioned. “Zoologists’ get to inform our bosses, ‘These are the animals we might like to work with, or we’d like to have on the zoo.’ … Generally this may be years within the making.”

As soon as the zoo knew it could be housing the species, caretakers set to work constructing their habitat.

Their exhibit was beforehand occupied by a primate, so the house needed to be adjusted to make the leopards comfy and to extra intently mimic their surroundings within the wild.

The jungle health club of logs and the mesh surrounding it are excellent for Nova and Luna, who will spend most of their time climbing, Bjerklie mentioned.

“Clouded leopards are a super-cool species in that their again ft can truly rotate about 180 levels on these wrists,” she mentioned. “Generally they might even be up on the roof meshing climbing the wrong way up, which is admittedly cool. They’ll climb these log uprights straight down as properly, as a result of they will rotate their ft and simply stroll on down.”

As soon as the pair arrived in Dallas, they underwent a 30-day quarantine on the zoo’s hospital to make sure they have been wholesome and able to go on show.

Small however fierce

Clouded leopards — named for the big, cloud-like spots that cowl their our bodies — are roughly the dimensions of a medium-size canine, Bjerklie mentioned.

Nova, the extra standoffish of the pair, weighs about 29 kilos, whereas Luna, the courageous one, is about 35 kilos, Bjerklie mentioned.

At 2 years previous, they’re nearly totally grown. They stand only some ft tall and are only some ft lengthy.

They’re small in contrast with different cat species, however are nonetheless fierce predators. Their canine tooth can develop to greater than 2 inches lengthy, and the species has the biggest canine-to-skull ratio of all cats.

“Their canines are very, very large, particularly in comparison with the dimensions of their head,” Bjerklie mentioned.

As smaller cats, clouded leopards don’t purr or roar. As a substitute they do one thing in between, Bjerklie mentioned.

“All of your small cats can purr, however they can’t roar,” she mentioned. “Your giant cats can roar, however they can’t purr, and it’s due to their hyoid bone of their throat — it’s enormous.

“These guys are form of just like the bizarre in-between, the place they don’t essentially do both,” she mentioned. “It’s nearer to a purr, nevertheless it’s not your typical home cat purr.”

Within the wild, clouded leopards are solitary animals. However as a result of Nova and Luna are siblings, they are often housed collectively.

For now, the zoo has no long-term plans to develop its clouded leopard inhabitants. In the meantime, it’s all the time doable that one of many sisters might be known as off to a different zoo for breeding.

Constructing relationships

For the reason that leopards’ arrival, caretakers have been working to construct relationships with the animals, very similar to one would with a brand new pet, Bjerklie mentioned.

Meaning getting the cats used to all the pieces from the caretakers’ voices and mannerisms to the sounds of their keys jingling on their belt loops.

“You would possibly see us both sitting out entrance of the habitat if the cats are out on habitat, or then they may be inside and we’re simply sitting in there generally speaking calmly,” Bjerklie mentioned. “I’ve positively accomplished it the place I’ve learn a guide out loud to animals simply to allow them to get used to the sound of our voice, after which the sound of our radio going off or the keys shifting, completely different stuff like that in order that they get used to our presence.”

Nova and Luna haven’t had many issues adjusting to their new dwelling, Bjerklie mentioned. On the cats’ first day within the exhibit, the primates on both aspect made noise as a “welcoming committee,” and the the sisters dealt with it properly.

As largely nocturnal animals, the cats spend most of their days sleeping (Bjerklie recommends visitors come towards the top of the day or early within the morning to get one of the best glimpse).

The mere indisputable fact that they’re comfy sufficient to sleep within the exhibit is an efficient signal, Bjerklie mentioned. In the event that they have been harassed or indignant, they might behave very similar to a home cat.

“They’re calm, they’re sleeping, they’re OK with us standing right here and speaking,” she mentioned as Nova and Luna lounged within the shade on one of many habitat’s platforms. “These are all actually good, optimistic indicators that we prefer to see. They’re not turning round or looking at us, their ears aren’t flat, there’s no hissing or something of that kind.”

Bjerklie mentioned her workforce will work to get the leopards prepared for instructional displays. The hope is to get them comfy sufficient to face on two picket platforms on the fringe of their habitat within the presence of their caretakers and enormous crowds.

However for now, she mentioned, the workforce will proceed to verify the cats are as comfy as doable of their new dwelling.

“It is a lot of latest stuff for them, shifting into a brand new habitat,” she mentioned. “It’s an adjustment interval — all of the animals undergo that. Just like in case you and I have been to maneuver elsewhere, it’s the identical kind of factor, simply getting your bearings straight.”

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