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Friday, May 30, 2008

Clouded Leopard Rehabilitation in Sumatra
I've recently been in touch with Debbie Martyr of Flora and Fauna International. She works in Kerinci Seblat National Park in Central Sumatra, Indonesia. Although primarily concerned with anti-poaching efforts and conflict mitigation with tigers, Debbie also encounters a wide variety of wildlife through her work. Debbie has cared for and released snared or injured animals brought to her by park rangers as well young, confiscated carnivores such as bears, binturongs, golden cats, flat-headed cats, and marbled cats. Last year she cared for and released two young clouded leopards injured by wild pig snares. Here's a photo of the young male with a foot injury from the snare (left fore foot). (Note this is a N. diardi, the species from Sumatra and Borneo - very different markings from the mainland cats.)

Sumatra Snared Cat
Most recently, Debbie received word that someone in the small village near the park had a "tiger cub" available for sale. Apparently the cub was found by a rubber tapper in some brush in a forest edge habitat. The cub had probably been stashed by mom, but the rubber tapper brought it home in hope of selling it. Word got back to Debbie's team and they were able to track the cub down. Here it is:

Sumatra Cub<br />
The cub (unsexed) is probably around 6 weeks old and was quite dehydrated. However, it has a good appetite and seems to be doing well so far. Debbie is hoping to keep human contact with the cat to a minimum in the hopes she can release it back to the forest when it is old enough. This could be a challenge, but hopefully the shy, secretive nature of the clouded leopard will be an advantage in this case. I'll share updates with you when I receive them. Many thanks to Debbie for sharing her story with us and for dedicating her life to protecting the endangered cats of Indonesia.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Ghost Cat Airs on Smithsonian Channel

The Smithsonian Channel is now airing its new program, Ghost Cat. This is the first-ever television program featuring clouded leopards and highlights the clouded leopard breeding project in Thailand. It also addresses clouded leopard research and conservation efforts. You can visit the Smithsonian Channel website to view some clips from the show if you don't subscribe to the network. You can click on their schedule to find out when the program airs next. We are excited about this newest effort to publicize the clouded leopard's conservation needs and hope that it may bring some new CLP supporters.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

NPR Story on Southeast Asia's Illegal Wildlife Trade
I found an archive of a three part National Public Radio series on Southeast Asia's wildlife trade. The series is worth a listen for a brief overview of the challenge of protecting wildlife in the region. Part 2 describes a market in Burma, just over the Thai border, that is notorious for selling illegal wildlife parts. The reporter encountered clouded leopard skins being sold openly by several vendors.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

CLP Receives Challenge Grant
We are excited to announce that a private foundation has provided us with a challenge grant. They will match donations we receive to fund the Clouded Leopard and Small Cat Conservation Summit next year in Bangkok. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to stretch our donors' generosity even farther. We anticipate that with this added support we will be able to provide some funding for clouded leopard conservation initiatives identified through the meeting. If you have been thinking about supporting Clouded Leopard Project activities but haven't yet taken that step, the timing would now be ideal. Any amount would help! We greatly appreciate the generosity and support of all of our donors and major funders.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Palm Oil Problems
I was just thinking that I wanted to tackle writing about the ever more serious situation of the growing impact of palm oil production on the wildlife of Southeast Asia. I've been mulling over how to tackle this complex issue and today found an interesting article that we can all relate to. Glenn Hurowitz wrote an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times, Clean Hair or Clean Air?, that is definitely worth checking out for a brief overview of the wide-ranging use of palm oil in foods and cosmetics. The destruction of tropical forests to make way for palm oil plantations is accelerating throughout Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia - most notably on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. This rapid growth is due in no small part to the use of palm oil for biofuels. It's hard to miss the irony of vast environmental destruction for the use of a purported environmentally friendly fuel. While there are little data assessing the impact of palm oil plantations, it is logical to assume that wide scale destruction of tropical forests will irrevocably damage the region's incredible biodiversity. One of the most prominent species already being impacted is the orangutan, an animal completely dependent on large tracts of primary rainforest. Early evidence indicates that clouded leopards may be impacted by this habitat change to a lesser degree as individuals have been observed on palm plantations. However, their survival would be totally predicated upon enough prey remaining in these new agricultural areas.

The CLP is supporting several studies that are examining how changes of the forest structure impact clouded leopards and other cats in the region. Hopefully we can learn enough, quickly enough to address the problem. In the meantime, check the list of ingredients of products you buy and look for ones that leave out the palm oil. It's better for you and as Glenn Hurowitz noted, this is a way to try and "keep dead orangutans out of our hair, food, and gas tanks."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Super Girls Strike Again!

I just finished sharing a couple of days with some of the nicest people you could hope to meet. You'll remember CLP friends Cassia and Annika from an earlier post. They are the amazing young ladies who, for the last several years, have asked their friends and family to provide donations to support clouded leopard conservation for their birthdays instead of gifts. This week they traveled to Tacoma from their home in Port Alberni, British Columbia with their parents Rhonda and Blake to present a check for over $1000! Josie and I (above) were thrilled to accept this generous donation. We will put it to great use, probably to help complete our storybook, The Clouded Leopard's Secret, for use in Thailand.

I wish everyone could meet this terrific family. Not only are the girls amazingly unselfish, they are smart, curious, polite, and all-around great kids. Rhonda and Blake have provided great role models for the girls through the ongoing community support they provide for a variety of causes through their kayaking/adventure guiding business, Batstar Adventure Tours (www.batstar.com). The fact that these girls have embraced the philosophy of giving in such a big way at such an early age is so inspiring. I know I would never have thought of doing such a thing at their age.

We had such a nice visit with Cassia, Annika, Rhonda, and Blake and look forward to the next time. We are truly honored to call them Clouded Leopard Project friends!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Educational Outreach in Bangkok
On Earth Day, staff members from PeunPa visited the International School in Bangkok with outreach materials provided by the Clouded Leopard Project. The event had great participation from the students and school staff. The ISB has been a long term supporter of PeunPa's efforts to reduce trade in wildlife and wildlife products and encourage sustainable farming activities around Khao Yai National Park. Here are some photos from the event.



Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Thailand Snake Tale
Just in case you thought managing the clouded leopard breeding program at the Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Thailand sounded like an idyllic adventure, read this fascinating account of a run-in with some native wildlife by project manager Rick Passaro!

"All was quiet this particular afternoon up at the Breeding Center when we were startled by a sudden noise from Sak-daa's cage across the way. I went to check it out and saw he was keyed in on something moving in the brush out in his large enclosure like a hound on point. I knew it had to be something unusual since all of the cats here are fairly habituated to the more common mammals, birds, lizards and other assorted creatures we contend with on a daily basis. Then... I saw it. A snake. A big snake. No python this. It was a cobra. A King Cobra. Two meters at least and as thick as your wrist. And he was on his way to the next enclosure-Max and Jao Nai. YIKES! Instantly I thought, "Scaring it away is not an option, it has to be caught or we'd be forever worrying about where it would pop up next!" Killing it never crossed my mind.

I ran, grabbed a net and was in Sak-daa's cage in a flash trying to head off the beast, but I was too late. He'd already squeezed halfway through the wire into Max's cage next door. So, into Max's cage I go but now it heads back to Sak-daa's cage. I'm concerned about the little female Jao Ying in the small cage next to Sak-daa. Not yet a year old, one bite from this guy and she'd be dead in minutes. Which starts me to thinking: did he already bite Sak-daa? Was that the noise we heard? Is he dying right now? No time to think about that now! So, I head the thing off before it reaches Jao Ying all the while blocking his progress with my net and him periodically rearing up-perfectly hooded and aggressive as can be coming right at me! Each time I flee, I can't help but be taken by the beauty of this creature but still...scary. I finally herd him out through the wire and off he goes across a wide grassy area that leads directly to...OH NO!..the juvenile holding cages! Yikes! I zip out of the cage and sprint after him. After a few more lunge and chase episodes I eventually get him secured in the net. Whew!

Humm. Now let me see if I can't get him just a bit better situated in the folds of the net, then OH MY GOSH!!!!! Out he comes right into my face hooded and striking! Good thing there was at least a foot of hot humid Thai air between him and me or you'd be reading a different type of story right now-very different. And... I'm off and running again and he's RIGHT BEHIND ME giving chase. I'd always heard that King's were aggressive but... GEEZE!

So now he's again headed off towards the juvenile holding cages in earnest but luckily he can't fit through the small mesh of the cages, only through the larger mesh of the safety area of the newest cages we'd just built. Thankfully, the cats in these cages, Tawan and Wan Dee, don't come down to investigate the commotion. He can't get into their cages, but he's trying, oh yeah, he's trying. As he works his way along the fence line he's poking, poking, ever poking his nose into the mesh trying to find the least little opening he can squeeze into but he doesn't find a thing. I hold my breath as I notice the space beneath the gate leading into Wan Dee's cage that I'm sure he could get under but luckily he misses it. So now he HAS to come out the end gate and there I am ready and waiting for his slinky self. After a few more scary lunges I get him secured in the net once again, weight it down with bricks and call for help.

I am not making this up: A guy arrives on his motorcycle with only a snake hook and a seven year old boy. (Bait? I thought). However, he does an admirable job of getting the snake transferred from the net and safely secured into a sack and off they go...to the Children's Zoo! But of course!

Now, where in the heck did my keepers get to during all this...?

By the way, Sak-daa's just fine."

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Clouded Leopard's Secret Cover Peek
Progress continues on the bilingual storybook we are creating for use in Thailand. Here is a peek at the cover mock-up, complete with title treatment. Bear in mind that this will actually be painted in acrylic. The coloring here was just done to get a sense of the palette for the mood of the piece. The final version will have much more detail. We're very pleased with the progress of our illustrator. It's hard to be patient, though. I'm ready for the finished product!