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Friday, March 7, 2008

Clouded Leopard Storybook
I wanted to share an exciting project we are working on to increase awareness of both clouded leopards and clouded leopard field research in range countries. In partnership with Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and PeunPa we are creating a storybook entitled The Clouded Leopard's Secret. The book will be bilingual, with text in both English and Thai. We will begin with a small printing to create books that will be distributed free of charge to students in communities surrounding Thailand's Khao Yai National Park. After evauating the book's success in meeting our goals with the students, we hope to distribute them more widely. We also hope to translate them for use in other clouded leopard range countries such as Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

The book chronicles the story of Sompong, a clouded leopard field researcher. (The name of our character honors the real Sompong, an ex-poacher turned conservationist.) The storyline follows Sompong as he uses a variety of research tools and techniques to learn about the elusive clouded leopards in his study area. He also meets with the local people to explain his research and the importance of conservation. The book is currently in the illustration and design phase; we hope to have it printed by the end of the year. We are still seeking funding for the production portion of the project.

We have the talents of a wonderful illustrator, Heather Hudson, who is doing a great job bringing our vision to life. I thought it might be interesting to chronicle the progression of the project by posting the evolution of one page of the book. First, Heather and I met to go over the text of the story and brainstorm how the illustrations might best capture the content. After that meeting, Heather sent rough thumbnail sketches. This page shows a mother clouded leopard who has been radiocollared for the study along with her three cubs. The mother is sniffing a human footprint in the forest with some nearby signs of logging activity.


Once the thumbnails were all in place, Heather started to refine the drawings. This is where we currently are in the process. Heather makes revisions based on our comments about the poses, anatomy, etc. Here is her first draft of the page:


We asked for some revisions to the cub on the right and decided we'd like to see mom's tail. She also needed her radio collar.


Once we are happy with the drawing, Heather adds some computerized color to determine the overall feel for the color palette of the illustration.

Once all the sketches are complete, Heather will actually paint them in oils so the finished product will have great depth and detail. Heather is an amazing artist and I am really confident that she is going to do a fantastic job. This is Heather's first time illustrating such a book. Her usual genre is the fantasy realm. (Visit her website at www.studiowondercabinet.com.) I think she is enjoying her work on the book. She says, "I'm incredibly excited to be promoting conservation and and to be working on a project featuring these beautiful and endangered cats."


In addition to using the books for conservation education, we will also sell them to the public on our website as well as through zoo gift shops in order to raise funds for conservation (and printing future editions). I can't wait for the finished product! I'll provide more updates and sneak peeks at the book as it progresses so stay tuned...

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