In the end, Hannibal did not administer the fatal bite to his mate's neck. And Jao Chu did not immediately kill their offspring, as is often the case.
And so, early yesterday, despite murderous tendencies in the captive species, two newborn clouded leopard cubs were found alive, well and squealing at the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va.
They were taken immediately from their gorgeous mother before she could do them harm, or do them in, placed in an incubator set at 88 degrees and fed salt water from baby bottles. Born with dappled, reptile-pattern fur, they were the first such births at the zoo in 16 years.
Their births were a coup, and the end of a complex reproduction saga involving an exotic, endangered and beautiful species of animal that experts call the ghost cat.
It was also a genetic home run: The zoo said the cubs' genes, which come from outside the captive population, make them among the most valuable clouded leopards in North America.
Photo credit: Tracy A Woodward-The Washington Post