HCA Healthcare
April 08, 2019

SOURCE: Nashville Tennessean

AUTHOR: Jason Gonzales

Two clouded leopard cubs at the Nashville Zoo were born to Niran, who was the first clouded leopard to be born from artificial insemination. Courtney Pedroza, Nashville Tennessean

Nashville's two newest clouded leopard cubs have a special meaning for Heather Robertson.

Robertson, the Nashville Zoo's director of veterinary services, said on Friday the birth of the two female cubs born to the zoo's clouded leopard Niran made her feel like a grandmother.

"Niran is a mama, so I am a grandma," Robertson said.

Robertson helped raise Niran, a clouded leopard that was the first-ever to be born after an artificial insemination procedure using thawed or frozen semen. 

"I am absolutely thrilled and it is history in the making. It also means that the AI (artificial insemination) was truly successful," said Robertson as she held the cubs and they tried to nurse on her fingers. "We took frozen semen, we successfully had a cub born and from that cub she went on to have her own cubs."

Two clouded leopard cubs move around in Director of Veterinary Services Heather Robertson's hands at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere Friday, April 5, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. The cubs' mother, Niran, was the first clouded leopard to be born from artificial insemination.  (Photo: Courtney Pedroza/The Tennessean )

The two cubs, less than two weeks old, are expected to help the critically endangered species survive. After they are about six weeks old, the zoo will start looking for mates.

Clouded leopards needed to be introduced to their mates early, she said, to successfully create a bond.

"They'll do a Match.com to figure out their matches," Robertson said.

For now, the cubs will stay in the neonatal animal care room at the HCA Healthcare Veterinary Center where zoo visitors can see them on display.

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Reach Jason Gonzales  by email and on Twitter @ByJasonGonzales.