Two rare and endangered clouded leopards – Suree and Malee – now have an expanded habitat at the Heritage Park Zoo in Prescott, thanks to a contribution from UniSource Energy Services.
The female siblings were bred in captivity at Zoo Miami and born in March 2015. When the cats were eight months old, they were transferred to the Heritage Park Zoo in Prescott.
“When we received the clouded leopards, they were temporarily placed in our bobcat exhibit, which was designed for one cat,” said Pam McLaren, Executive Director of the zoo. “Rather than move them to a new exhibit, we decided they would reside in this exhibit permanently because they were doing very well.”
Clouded leopards are regulated by the Species Survival Plan, a population management and conservation program for threatened or endangered wildlife. The leopards could be transferred someday to another facility for breeding, but as long as Suree and Malee reside at the Heritage Park Zoo, a more spacious habitat was needed for the growing cats.
Kevin Thomas, Safety Specialist for UniSource Gas and a member of the company’s Community Action Team (CAT), approached the zoo last summer to ask if there was anything that UniSource could do to assist them.
“I love critters of all kinds,” said Thomas. “The zoo said they needed funding to be able to expand their clouded leopard exhibit.”
Thomas took the zoo’s funding request to the Prescott CAT team for consideration, and a $1,500 donation was approved. In late 2019, the exhibit was expanded to nearly double its original size and additional improvements such as multi-level shelving, climbing structures, vegetation and interactive areas were added.
“It’s import for the animals to have vertical space in their exhibit as well as horizontal,” McLaren explained. “Without funding from UniSource Energy, the expansion would not have been possible.”
Thomas said he hopes the zoo and UniSource can work together on other projects that support wildlife, the zoo and the community. “Now that we’ve made a connection with the zoo, I hope we are able to find opportunities to support them in other ways in the future.”
Found in the Himalayas and Southeast Asia, clouded leopards are rare and elusive, and their exact numbers are unknown. Unlike other cat species, clouded leopards are the only ones with the ability to both purr and roar. They’re also known for their 2-inch long canine teeth and heavy long tails, which are the longest proportionate to their body size for any cat species.