October 2, 2009
Last March, two adorable clouded leopard cubs were born at the National Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center (CRC) in Front Royal, Virginia. Pictures of the little cubs went viral on Facebook and other social networks. The Autumn Conservation Festival taking place this Saturday and Sunday at the center provides people with their first chance to actually see the cubs in the flesh. (The CRC is a research facility and public opportunities to visit are rare.)
The smaller cub was named Ta Moon, which means mischievous child, and the larger one was named Sa Ming, which means brave warrior. As of September 14, Ta Moon weighed 16.5 pounds, and Sa Ming weighed 18 pounds. Zoo staff report that the cubs are very playful, and their favorite toys are frisbees (which they prefer to chew on rather than throw).
Clouded leopards are vulnerable to extinction. They are the smallest of the big cats and weigh 30 to 50 pounds. Their long tails, which account for half of their five-foot frame, help them balance on small branches.
However, the clouded leopards aren’t the only attraction at this year’s festival. Visitors can talk with world-famous scientists, see the center’s endangered animals and meet the Zoo’s endangered brown kiwis. Admission to the event is free, but a car pass is required for $30 and admits up to six people. Additional guests are $5. Front Royal is a quick hour and a half drive from Washington D.C.’s National Mall.
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