Riki-san, a 14-week-old clouded leopard at the San Diego Zoo.
Credit: Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo
Meet Riki-san and Haui-san, a cute and clumsy pair of clouded leopard cubs that made their debut this week at the San Diego Zoo.
The 14-week-old brothers came to Southern California by way of the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, which has a breeding program aimed at boosting the numbers of this species, listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Named for their cloudlike spots, the cats can be found in forest pockets from the foothills of the Himalayas to eastern China and Southeast Asia. Males can weigh up to 50 pounds (22.6 kilograms). Known for their acrobatic lifestyle, the clouded leopard and the margay from South America in fact are the only cat species that can scurry down a tree head first.
Riki-san and Haui-san will remain for 30 days in a quarantine unit at the zoo, where they can be seen climbing on (and tumbling off) scratching posts and wrestling with each other. At 13 pounds (5.9 kg), Riki-san is the larger of the two but is also the more timid one, while 11.5-pound (5.2-kg) Haui-san is feistier and eggs on his brother to play, according to the zoo.
Fewer than 10,000 clouded leopards are thought to be left in the wild, and they face threats of deforestation and hunting. (Poachers seek their gray-and-black coats, while some of the cats' body parts are used in traditional medicine.)