Wednesday, August 27, 2008

One Week, Three Wild Cats!

When we left for Borneo, I jokingly told my co-workers at the Zoo that I wouldn't return until I saw a clouded leopard. That didn't happen, but I guess we'll come back anyway since we actually saw two other cats that are much less frequently sighted. Cloudies are actually spotted here on a fairly regular basis. Most all of the long-term researchers and their field staff have had the good fortune to see one or more. We did manage to see three leopard cats during two night drives with Andreas - not a very special event as they are quite common - but still a thrill! We were lucky enough, however, to see the next best thing to a cloudie - a marbled cat. This small cat is marked very similarly to a cloudie and shares the same luxurious and long tail. While on a night drive with Andy and Jo in Danum an eagle-eyed (owl-eyed?) guide spotted a small, fuzzy lump on a branch right next to the road. It was a young female marbled cat curled on an exposed branch right next to the road about 40' up. She was sleeping so we didn't even catch her eyeshine in the spotlight, the usual way of finding night creatures. As we approached she lifted her head and watched us, totally unconcerned. Eventually she moved a bit, hopping to an adjacent branch and even playing with her tail! We actually finally left her there after observing and photographing her for an hour. I can't wait to share the photos! Between this amazing observation and that of the flat-headed cat along the Kinabatangan River we have been incredibly lucky. This good fortune has provided extra encouragement for continuing to pursue efforts on behalf of the conservation of the little-known cats of Southeast Asia.

We're heading off to a dive resort for the next few days to cool off, relax, and celebrate our successful trip. We will be returning home to the U.S. with lots of ideas for furthering our efforts and continuing to expand our partnerships in felid conservation in Borneo. I'll fill you in more in the next several weeks. Goodbye from Borneo! (But don't forget to check back for expanded coverage and photos next week.)


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