Monday, June 30, 2008

Update and Some Baby Pics
Things have been sort of quiet on the blog lately for several reasons. One, I've
been pretty busy working on some clouded leopard projects. We are close to introducing a new shopping system for the website in order to make things easier for buyers and donors. I've also been hard at work planning the Clouded Leopard and Small Cat Conservation Summit set for next January in Bangkok. We have the dates set and I am working on the invitation now. Hopefully that will be going out by the end of July. However, most of my free time lately has been spent in planning our upcoming trip to Borneo in August. We (my husband, Paul and I) will be spending a couple of weeks in Sabah and will be meeting with several of the researchers supported by the CLP. We also hope to make contacts with folks who might be able to collaborate with us on community outreach efforts in the region. I'm really excited about all of these prospects. Hopefully I will be able to add some blog posts while I'm gone so stay tuned. I keep telling everyone that I won't be returning until I see a wild clouded leopard.....

Another reason for the recent dearth of posts is that things have been kind of quiet in the clouded leopard world the last few weeks. Therefore, I thought it might be fun to break out some old baby pictures of Raja and Josie. I'll share more of these later this week.

First are a couple of baby Raja at about 8 weeks romping and resting while coming home with me during bottle raising.

These are during the time we were introducing Raja and Josie shortly after Josie's arrival at the Zoo. They started out bickering and never stopped!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Top Ten Reasons Why Clouded Leopards are the Coolest Cats
As I was caring for Josie and Raja the other day, I started thinking about why I think they are such great cats. So here is my Letterman list of the reasons why clouded leopards rock:

10. Clouded leopards are GORGEOUS. Okay, so it's not supposed to be about looks, but come on...have you seen that fur, that tail?

9. No cat climbs like a cloudie. Reversible ankles allow them to climb down a tree headfirst. Try that, tiger!

8. They munch monkeys. Not that I have anything against monkeys, but the idea that a clouded leopard can stalk, catch, and kill a monkey in a treetop is pretty phenomenol.

7. They stay out of trouble. While many cat species are primed for persecution due to their habit of killing livestock and even people, cloudies (usually) keep a low profile.

6. Clouded leopards are charming. They may be shy, but if you get to know a clouded leopard you will be smitten. With their laid-back personalities, cool climbing skills, and that adorable pink nose - to know one is to love one!

5. Clouded leopards are loyal. Not in the obsequious canine way, but once you become part of a clouded leopard's circle of friends it will be true to you forever. Cloudies are famous for responding to keepers even after absences of many years. It isn't easy to earn their trust, but once you do it lasts a lifetime.

4. They chuff! Okay, tigers and snow leopards do too, but not with the same enthusiasm. Don't know what a chuff (official term: prusten) is? It's a cool sound made by the cat blowing air through its lips. It's a greeting, so if you receive a chuff...chuff back to say hi!

3.They make researchers work for a living. Cheetah or lion researchers can keep their cushy Land Rovers. To study clouded leopards, biologists spend years slogging through leech-filled forests with hopes of glimpsing only a track of their subject. You've got to admire an animal that can remain a mystery to science for so long!

2. They're not publicity hogs. Ask most kids what their favorite cat is and you'll hear all about cheetahs and tigers. Although it's cool to root for the underdog, this is precisely the reason for

the number one reason why clouded leopards are the coolest cats...

1. They need us. There are a lot of organizations working for other rare cats. We are the only ones focusing on clouded leopards. Let's work to save them while there is still time.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Play Day
I thought it would be fun to share some photos of a recent enrichment session for our clouded leopards at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Enrichment is an important component of zoo animal husbandry, offering our animals novel experiences to provide stimulation and encourage natural behaviors. Cats respond to a wide variety of enrichment types, including sensory (such as scents and sounds), toys, environmental changes (such as new branches, leaves, sand), and food items. In this session we combined two of these components - food and a toy. We put meat on a rubber tire that was hung in the cats' enclosure.

First up was Raja. Raja is a bit compromised visually, so we hung the tire low for him and put his food dish nearby to prompt him to the area. First he checked it out:

It didn't take him long to begin his attack:

Checking it out

Next he got a little crazy:

That was fun!

Next we put one together for Josie. Josie is more athletic than Raja, so hers was more challenging. It didn't take her long to assess the situation...

And make her move...

What a wild woman!

It's always fun watching the cats enjoy their toys.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Clouded Leopard Poem
Thanks to 10-year-old Shelby from Florida who recently sent a letter to the CLP. In it she says, "I had a great time on your web site...I'm trying to find a way to help them...Clouded Leopards are my favorite animal."

She also sent us this poem:

We assure Shelby we are working hard to make sure that there will still be clouded leopards in the future. We loving hearing from people who are as passionate about clouded leopards as we are. Thanks Shelby

Monday, June 16, 2008

Studies on Clouded Leopard Skull Morphology
Per Christiansen of the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark has sent us his latest papers detailing his research of clouded leopard and other felid skull morphology. Per studies how the structure of cat skulls influences the way that they kill and feed on prey. He is also interested in the connection between the skull structure of clouded leopards and extinct sabertooth cats.

His papers are pretty technical and include in depth comparisons of measurements of felid skulls. If you are interested in learning more, check out these references:

Canine morphology in the larger Felidae: implications for feeding ecology. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2007, 91, 573-592.

Evolutionary convergence of primitive sabertooth craniomandibular morphology: the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and Paramachairodus ogygia compared. J Mammal Evol DOI 10.1007/s10914-007-9069-z

This second paper is particularly interesting as in it, Per concludes that the skull of the clouded leopard has diverged significantly in structure from any of its living big cat relatives and is markedly similar to that of the primitive sabertooth cats. Per emphasizes that the reason why the clouded leopard diverged from the rest of its Panthera lineage (with which it shares common ancestry) to take on this more primitive form is unknown. Until the feeding ecology of the clouded leopard is better understood, this will remain an unanswered question.

For information on Per's previous research please visit this news item on the CLP website.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Check out a George Mason University Gazette article featuring National Zoo clouded leopard keeper Jilian Fazio. Jilian is pursuing her Master's degree in Environmental Science and Policy with research focus on assessing clouded leopard reproductive behavior. Jilian has worked at the breeding program at the Khao Kheow Zoo in Thailand and has also spent time with us at Point Defiance filling in for a keeper we sent to Thailand. Jilian is as obsessed with clouded leopards as we are and we look forward to the results of her research.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Tribute to Pomi

We were saddened this week to hear of the passing of Pomi, a 13-year-old clouded leopard dearly loved by my friend Penny. Pomi is special to all of us. She was the mother of Raja, our handsome boy at Point Defiance, who inspired the formation of the Clouded Leopard Project. So without Pomi and Penny, there would likely be no CLP. Our thoughts are with Penny as she misses her sweet girl, and with Pomi's mate Brutie, who is no doubt lonely after losing his long-term mate.