This post was also shared on National Cat Day! I was able to go behind the scenes while keeper Shellie Pick trained the Zoo’s clouded leopard, Tai, for voluntary cheek swabs.
Vets analyze the DNA from these swabs and are able to map the genealogy of individual leopards to create breeding pairs that with genes that will benefit the species, since they are classified as vulnerable to extinction. Cheek swabs also give information about the health of the leopards. Clouded leopards originate from China and Southeast Asia.