Point Defiance Zoo’s first clouded leopard dies after two decades calling Tacoma home

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

One of the first clouded leopards to make Tacoma home died this week after struggling for years with her health.

Josie, 20, was euthanized Monday after she stopped responding to treatments for various medical issues, including kidney disease and arthritis.

The endangered cat was born at the Cleveland Zoo in July 1998, coming to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium four months later.

Josie was quickly paired with Raja, and the two became the foundation for the zoo’s clouded leopard program.

They had two cubs in 2003, Rama and Kwan Jai — the first time clouded leopards were born in Tacoma. The cubs were featured on Animal Planet’s “That’s My Baby” series.

Raja died in 2013.

“Truly, without her and Raja, we never would have become leaders in clouded leopard care, breeding and conservation,” said Karen Povey, the zoo’s conservation engagement manager, who also directs the Clouded Leopard Project. ”It was because we were so smitten with their personalities and the lack of public awareness about cloudies that we became committed to taking action for them.”

Josie was the oldest female clouded leopard in North American zoos, but keepers said she did not act like a senior.

“She was a wonderful cat to take care of, and, up until the last few weeks, she always acted younger than her years,” said Maureen O’Keefe, a senior staff biologist who worked with Josie for 18 years.

In recent years, Josie lived behind the scenes at Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater, and workers built a special ramp to help the clouded leopard climb up the high branches in her enclosure.

Josie loved vanilla ice cream and shoulder scratches.

Eight clouded leopards live at Point Defiance Zoo. Two appear in the theater’s live animal shows, and the other six can be found in the Cats of the Canopy area in the Asian Forest Sanctuary.