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Monday, February 11, 2008

We're on our Way!
I thought I should start this blog with a brief explanation and update on the status of the Clouded Leopard Project. Many of you have supported us since we began in 2000 as a grass-roots conservation initiative through the Point Defiance Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK). At that time, we were a small group of staff biologists at the Zoo who were enamored with our latest addition, a tiny hand-raised clouded leopard cub named Raja. Eager to learn more about clouded leopards and support conservation efforts on their behalf, we were frustrated by our nearly-futile attempts to seek information on wild populations. At the time, only one study of wild clouded leopards had been completed, with one more underway.

We were also frustrated by the almost universal naiveté of Zoo visitors who had never even heard of a clouded leopard. To remedy this situation, we (rather impulsively) decided that we would leap in to fill this obvious gap and strive to become the global voice for clouded leopard conservation. We partnered with the Zoo to launch our website and begin our merchandising efforts to raise funds to support field work. Since the beginning, we have been overwhelmed by the generous support we have received from AAZK, the Zoo, the Point Defiance Zoo Society, and our donors. Every year we have welcomed more supporters and sent more funds to field projects.

Now, however, we feel the time has come to take the next big step in the growth of our organization. After serious consideration, we have decided to move out from under the umbrella of AAZK and become our own entity. We have formed a Board of Directors and have registered as a Washington State non-profit corporation. We are extremely grateful for a generous grant given to the Clouded Leopard Project to fund our start-up expenses including equipment purchase and attorney and filing fees. We are currently working on gaining our IRS tax-exempt status - an involved process to ensure that donations to the CLP are fully tax deductible. This process can take many months. We appreciate your ongoing support during this important transition phase.

So what does the change really mean? Most importantly, it will clear up any confusion about the relationship between the CLP, AAZK, and the Zoo. While we will still partner with these other organizations on specific clouded leopard-related projects, we are now completely separate. CLP now maintains its own finances, allowing donations to be deposited directly and not be held by AAZK. We also have plans to accept credit card payments for merchandise and donations - a move that should generate significant revenue increases. As a registered non-profit, we will be eligible to apply for foundation grants and corporate sponsorships. We have lots of planning to do in the coming months and look forward to an exciting future in support of clouded leopard conservation... thanks for coming along!

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