Meet the Pittsburgh zoo’s clouded leopards, Rukai and Kansas | TribLIVE.com
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Meet the Pittsburgh zoo’s clouded leopards, Rukai and Kansas

Megan Guza

Born four days and 1,000 miles apart, two clouded leopard cubs now have names – and a home together – at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

Rukai, born March 14 to a pair of clouded leopards at the Pittsburgh zoo, is named for an indigenous Taiwanese tribe that believes clouded leopards protect them.

Her friend is Kansas, a clouded leopard cub from the Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Wichita, Kan., that was brought to the Pittsburgh zoo to be Rukai’s companion.

The zoo announced the names of the two cubs Wednesday and introduced Kansas.

“We breathed a big sigh of relief when Rukai and Kansas responded well to each other,” said Karen Vacco, assistant curator of mammals at the zoo. “This is the best scenario for both cubs.”

In the hours after Rukai’s birth, zookeepers noticed that while her mother Saya was attentive and caring, Rukai wasn’t nursing. Vacco said staff made the difficult decision to step in an hand-raise the cub.

“The ultimate goal was to have mom raise the baby,” Vacco said. “Being a first-time mother, we were really proud of her. She did everything appropriate. The baby just didn’t nurse.”

Not wanting to raise Rukai alone, zookeepers began looking to other zoos that might have a companion for her. Zookeepers at the Tanganyika Wildlife Park had a cub they were also hand-raising. She arrived in Pittsburgh last week.

“We kept calling her ‘the baby from Kansas,’ so it was ‘our baby’ and ‘our baby from Kansas,’” Vacco said.

The name stuck.

Kansas is a little bigger than Rukai, Vacco said, but Rukai is bulking up and holding her own.

“Everything’s so brand new,” she said. “We were a little concerned about the size, but they seem to be playing really nice together.”

Both are still taking three bottles a day, but they’ve also added three ounces of meat each day. Vacco said that getting the two together to bond was a huge step for their well-being.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .


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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Rukai, left, and Kansas, 2-month-old clouded leopards, are held by Karen Vacco, assistant curator of mammals, at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Kansas, the newest clouded leopard cub, looks on at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. Kansas arrived to the zoo last week from Tanganyika Wildlife Park in her namesake state, Kansas. She was brought to the zoo to be a companion for fellow 2-month-old cub, Rukai.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Rukai, a 2-month-old clouded leopard, is held by Karen Vacco, assistant curator of mammals, at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Rukai, a 2-month-old clouded leopard, walks in an exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.
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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Rukai, a 2-month-old clouded leopard, and animal keeper Mark McDonough look at each other at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.
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