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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Another Young Clouded Leopard Crusader
Thanks to Madison of Orem, Utah for sharing news of her class project featuring clouded leopards. Madison researched and put together an in depth presentation and shared it with the other students in her second grade class.

Sharing with classmates
Madison handcrafted a clouded leopard skull replica to show off the cat's unique teeth - awesome job, Madison!

Teeth made from clay
She also created a diorama to demonstrate the clouded leopard's hunting method.

Diorama
Thanks to Madison's dad for sharing news of her project and supporting our conservation efforts by purchasing Clouded Leopard Project patches for Madison's classmates. We love hearing of the talented kids who help spread the news about our cause. Keep up the great work Madison!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Josie's Ultrasound
Well, it was 30 long days of biting our nails waiting to find out if our artificial insemination attempt with Josie was successful. The result? Looks like we have to keep chewing! We were able to take a look, but not draw any conclusions. The good news is, we definitely can't rule pregnancy out. There were some areas that were questionable, but determining if they were fetuses or just other internal features wasn't quite possible. We will repeat the procedure in a week. Since we are only at 30 days potential gestation, it is normal that it would be tough to see much of anything. Within a few weeks things would be much more visible. We just couldn't wait that long and wanted to take a look!

Because Josie was hand-raised, she is very tractable. She actually seems to enjoy the procedure, practically going into a trancelike state. She is not sedated in any way.


She doesn't even mind the gel on her tummy. To do the test, I hold Josie in my lap while Maureen strokes her head and Dr. Karen Goodrowe (our curator and reproductive physiologist) perfoms the ultrasound.


We are fortunate to have such a tolerant patient. Stay tuned for further updates and keep those fingers crossed for cubs!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

News From the Thailand Breeding Program
Here's the most recent report from Clouded Leopard Project Vice President Andy Goldfarb as he spends time in Thailand as relief manager for the clouded leopard breeding program:


Hey there,

I just wanted to fill everybody in on what's going on over here during long month of March. Things have warmed up big time, today it was a nice 99 degrees with about 78% humidity. As long as you like to sweat from the moment you wake up till the moment you go to bed then it's lovely. Most of my days lately have been building stuff or rebuilding old stuff. We have four older exhibits that we're rehabbing to accommodate more cats. It's is a brutal job, the jungle has taken them over and going in there to clear them out is tough. My first day starting this project I stepped on a snake, I didn't stop to see what kind. Then we hoist these 200 lb logs up and hang them from the fence. We're using a pulley that's got to be older than me so I feel real good about standing under logs when we're doing this. Oh did I mention it's real hot?

Andy

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Josie Update
We're still in the waiting phase for determining if our insemination attempt with Josie was successful. We will be performing our first ultrasound on Friday. That will be one month from the procedure so it should be possible to get a glimpse of a fetus by then. From a behavioral standpoint, Josie is being extremely friendly and affectionate lately; always a good sign when looking for evidence of pregnancy. That will also be important for the ultrasound. We depend on Josie's cooperation to perform the test. We did a practice session yesterday and she was great. I'll post photos and our findings on Friday.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Congressional Hearing on Wildlife Trade
On March 5 the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the impact of wildlife trade. You can read the transcripts of the meeting by visiting http://tinyurl.com/yu3pb9 and clicking on the names of the speakers. One speaker was Steve Galster, Director of Field Operations for Wildlife Alliance Thailand, a Clouded Leopard Project partner. He provided passionate testimony about the effects of organized illegal wildlife traffickers wrecking havoc on ecosystems throughout Asia, endangering wildlife officials, and making a mockery of wildlife protection laws. Steve advocates for the U.S. government taking a leading role in the fight against these international criminals by committing security resources and expertise to aid global law enforcement efforts. I strongly urge you to read his testimony and that of other experts for their views on combating these crimes against nature.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Deadly Trade
For those of us who work in the conservation arena, having an optimistic outlook is essential. Without keeping the faith that there is hope in our efforts to save endangered species and habitats, success will never be possible. However, maintaining optimism despite the daunting challenges facing wildlife can be difficult. This is perhaps best illustrated by the torrent of disturbing reports of wildlife trade that continue to flow from Southeast Asia. On a nearly daily basis reports from the region catalog the consumption of wildlife ranging from seahorses, snakes, and pangolins to bears, primates, and some of the earth's rarest big cats.

One recent report from a National Geographic journalist illustrates the extent of the problem. In just one town on the Burma-China border, illegal trade takes place openly through the brutal exploitation of living wildlife as well as through the sale of every wildlife body part imaginable. Read the story here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/02/080228-wildlife-trade.html

Clouded leopard are being increasingly affected by trade. Now that larger cats, such as tigers and leopards, have been hunted out of most of their range, clouded leopards are increasingly targets for traders in pelts and bones. The rapidly rising standard of living in China has resulted in millions of people with new discretionary income for the purchase of luxury items such as furs or traditional tonics made from wildlife body parts. Stemming this trade will require a phenomenal effort bringing international commitment to law enforcement, education, and providing alternative economic opportunities to impoverished communities sharing space with wildlife.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Clouded Leopard Support from Two Amazing Girls
Thanks to Jacqueline Windh for sharing this CBC radio story of two amazing girls in Port Alberni, British Columbia, who have traded in their birthday presents for a chance to help save the endangered clouded leopard.

Cassia and Annika
Cassia and Annika have already devoted a significant portion of their young lives to working towards clouded leopard conservation. Through amazing efforts such as theirs, the clouded leopard will be assured a secure future. The Clouded Leopard Project is extremely grateful for their continued support!

To listen to the CBC story, click on this link: Clouded_Leopard_Girls.mp3 (3.23 mb)

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...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Our New Logo
We just completed the design of our new Clouded Leopard Project logo and thought we would share it here.


We'd like to thank Kerry Crow of Crow Design (crowdesign.com) for contributing her artistic talent to our conservation efforts!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Thailand Greetings From Andy
We received this message from Andy Goldfarb, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Staff Biologist. Andy is spending about two months in Thailand managing the clouded leopard breeding project while the regular manager is taking some well deserved vacation. Visit the website for more information about the project.

"Hello there or I should say Sawadeecup!!

This is Andy Goldfarb back for another adventure in Thailand with the clouded leopards. I'm continuing my work for the Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium. This is a group of zoos, such as the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and the Nashville Zoo. My zoo (Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium) basically donates me to work for two to four months at a time at the Khao Kheow Open Zoo. My job as project leader is to oversee the day to day operations of a very large collection of clouded leopards.

I'll have to start at the beginning to give a quick overview of the work that has gone on over here. Clouded leopards in Thai zoos represent a key genetic resource to the survival of clouded leopards. The program started back in 2002; at that time there were 27 clouded leopards in Thai zoos. Sixteen were sent to Khao Kheow. The job was to provide an environment that was less stressful for the cats to hopefully improve the chances of breeding. This meant providing a large area for the cats to climb and feel safe. They were also given a proper diet, with vitamins and minerals.

So to make a long story (with a lot of ups and downs) short we have had great success. When I arrived we had 34 clouded leopards on site. We have had 35 cubs born with 29 surviving. We have sent leopards to other zoos within Thailand and as of last week I sent four more cats to the U.S. to join the breeding program there, bringing a total of six cats imported into the U.S."