Just try not to squeal when you see pictures of two rare clouded leopard cubs born last week — on Leap Day — at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. You can try, but it's pretty much impossible not to sink into the cuteness.
They are the first set of multiples for the zoo's adult leopards Yim and Malee, who turn 5 later this month, a zoo news release announced. The cubs are now receiving round-the-clock care at the zoo's veterinary hospital after their mother stopped caring for them within 24 hours of giving birth.
Zoo visitors will not yet be able to see the cubs on public display, zoo spokeswoman Rachel Nelson said.
In 2015, the parents produced their first successful cub, a male named Mowgli, who relocated to the Midwest last fall to be paired with a female of the same age.
"Increasingly zoos are the last hope for many species due to the loss of habitat and political instability in range countries," said a statement from Dr. Larry Killmar, the Tampa zoo's chief zoological officer. "The birth of these cubs is an example of the collective efforts to manage this species within North American zoos to ensure their survival."
The clouded leopard species is currently listed as vulnerable.
And so is all office work that came to a halt when the pictures were released to the public Tuesday.
The newborn cubs, a male and a female, are feeding well and currently nursing from a bottle five times daily and gaining weight.
At 1 day old, the male weighed about 10.8 ounces and has since grown to almost a full pound at one week.
The female weighed 9 ounces, at 1 day old, and has grown to almost 15 ounces at one week.
When they are several months old, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums will make a determination about their future home, the zoo statement said.
Clouded leopards are the smallest of the "big cats," weighing 30 to 50 pounds in adulthood and measuring about 5 feet long. Native to Southeast Asia, clouded leopards are found in forests and rainforests. They are known as shy and reclusive cats. As a forest-dependent species, the leopard's native range is undergoing the world's fastest regional deforestation rates. High levels of hunting and poaching also make the species vulnerable to extinction.
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at email@example.com. Follow @SharonKWn.