Page last updated at 19:42 GMT, Tuesday, 12 August 2008 20:42 UK

Kittens born to clouded leopards

Clouded leopards at Howletts
Nanyo (right) washes one of his two unnamed clouded leopard cubs

Four kittens born to two pairs of clouded leopards at a wild animal park in Kent are making their public debut.

The two male and two female kittens, who have not yet been named, were born at Howletts, near Canterbury in April.

Fathers Nanyo and Ben were born at the park, which has had clouded leopards since the 1960s.

Their mothers, Nhi-Ha and Mandalay, were introduced as part of a breeding programme designed to help ensure the survival of the vulnerable cats.

Breeding programme

"Generally, breeding of these animals is especially difficult in captivity," said head of the cat section, Jim Hassie.

"But with 23 clouded leopards, Howletts Wild Animal Park is one of the very few zoos to have been successful in its breeding programme with no less than 30 births since 2003."

The leopard, which is found in the tropical forests of southern China, south east Asia, Sumatra and Borneo, is one of the largest members of the cat family in Asia.

The animal is threatened with extinction in the wild because of destruction of its forest habitat and hunting for its pelt and for use in Chinese medicine.

The leopard is listed as "vulnerable" to extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of threatened species.

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