Just a reminder that the Wildlife Conservation Expo is taking place this weekend in San Francisco. Three of us from the CLP will be there with a booth discussing our conservation efforts and selling cool clouded leopard merchandise. We will also be selling a limited number of handicrafts from Borneo. We'd love to meet some of our Bay Area supporters so please stop by for a visit. The event runs Saturday, Oct. 4 from 10 am to 6 pm at the Mission Bay Conference Center. Please visit Wildlife Conservation Network's website for more information.
One of my favorite things about this website is hearing from all the great folks who support our efforts, especially kids. We just received a wonderful letter from thirteen-year-old Maggie in Illinois who says that she is "obsessed with" clouded leopards. Maggie is president of her school's environmental club and has helped her friends also become clouded leopard experts. Best of all, Maggie says she wants to work with clouded leopards when she grows up to "help with conservation and educate people about them." I can't think of a better career path and hope that she can achieve her goal!
Here is Maggie's fantastic clouded leopard portrait. She tells us she is also working on a story so hopefully it will make its debut here too!
It's been interesting when traveling to clouded leopard range countries to see how local people often don't really differentiate between the types of wild cats found in their area. For example, in Thailand most people refer to all the wild cats as seua, or "tiger." The situation is similar in Malaysian Borneo. Except for the clouded leopard, all the Borneo cat names include "kucing," or cat, pronounced "kuching" - the name of the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. While many people recognize the Malay name for leopard cat, kucing batu, using the other Malay names for cats will be met with glazed faces. There are likely many different names in the local dialects, but here are the Malay names and translations for the five species:
While in Sabah, I picked up a neat little book entitled "Animal Tales of Sabah" by P.S. Shim. This book contains contributions of charming tales from communities all over Sabah. Since clouded leopards are the largest predator in Borneo, several stories reflect human fears of them. Here's one to enjoy. (Harimau is from Harimau Dahan - tree tiger - the local name for clouded leopard. A bungkau is a jaw harp carved from a thin piece of bamboo or other wood.)
Why the Harimau is Afraid of the Bungkau
Narrated by KK Jabil bin Bahiri
A newly married man took his bride back to his hut in the jungle somewhere near Ulu Malagatan. The very next day, the man went hunting. When he returned in the afternoon, he found to his horror the bones and skull of his wife lying on the ground. On looking up, he saw a huge harimau on a branch of a tall tree. The harimau was taking a siesta after its full meal.
The heartbroken husband resolved to kill the harimau. He sat down and thought up a plan to destroy the large cat. Soon an idea came to him. He went out and killed a wild boar. After cutting a huge chunk of meat, he buried his bungkau in it. He then placed the meat in the jungle where the harimau would see it. Sure enough, the harimau, after digesting its previous meal, came down and swallowed the bait. Alas, the bungkau got stuck in its throat and killed the animal.
The man swore aloud, "If ever a harimau were to eat a human being with a bungkau, it would suffer the same fate as this dead harimau." Since then, clouded leopards have been afraid of the bungkau and people of the Mangkaak tribe carry one with them whenever they go into the forest. Should they meet a harimau, they have only to play their bungkau and the animal will either keep still or flee.
A hopeful step forward for clouded leopard conservation took place on September 17 when the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously voted to pass the Great Cat and Rare Canid Act. This act would provide funding for conservation efforts on behalf of a variety of wild cat and wild dog species around the world. Clouded leopards and Borneo bay cats are the Southeast Asian felids specifically targeted for receiving resources under this legislation so there is exciting potential for funding new projects if passage occurs. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on May 20 and will be moving to the full Senate for a vote. Because of a change made to the bill, if it passes in the Senate it will return to the House for another vote. This highly anticipated legislation was originally introduced in the fall of 2006 and was modeled on other legislation already supporting the conservation of tigers, rhinos, great apes, elephants, and sea turtles. You can read the full text of the bill here.
Thanks to 11-year-old Lizi from Lakewood, Washington for her wonderful collage of a clouded leopard. Lizi honed her wildlife artistry skills while participating in Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium's Wild Artist Summer Camp. Her work will be featured in the CLP' website's Kids For Clouded Leopards Art Gallery. Send us your art, poems, or stories and we might feature them too!
Our friends Andy Hearn and Jo Ross who are working in Sabah, Malaysia's Danum Valley (a project supported by CLP) just recorded their first camera trap image of the extremely rare Sumatran rhino. This is fantastic confirmation that the rhino population continues to cling to existence in Borneo. You can read more about the story and rhinos in Borneo here.
On August 14, Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent, Great Britian, announced the birth of clouded leopard cubs through the following press release. We applaud this facility's great success breeding clouded leopards.
"Howletts Wild Animal Park is celebrating the birth of four baby clouded leopard cubs. Male and female cubs were born to pairs, Nhi-Ha and Nanyo as well as to Ben and Mandalay a few months ago. Visitors to Howletts, near Bekesbourne in Kent can view the cubs most days when they venture out to play. Nanyo, an eight year old male was born at Howletts as was Ben, now aged six. Both females were introduced to Howletts as part of the vital breeding programme carried out by the Aspinall Foundation to help the plight of endangered species. Commented Jim Vassie, head of the cat section at Howletts, 'Generally, breeding of these animals is especially difficult in captivity but currently, with 23 clouded leopards, Howletts Wild Animal Park is one of the very few zoos to have been successful in its breeding programme with no less than 30 births at the park since 2003.'"
"Howletts has housed clouded leopards, originally from South East Asia, since the late 1960s with the first successful birth taking place a decade later.Commented Overseas Director, Amos Courage: 'The Aspinall Foundation is proud of its breeding programme especially as, in comparison to the rest of the world, where no births were recorded by the US Species Survival Plan, during a sixteen month period from 1 January 2006 through 1 April 2007, Howletts recorded five successful births.' With the steady and alarming decline in this species over the last 20 years, we are thrilled that we have been able to fulfil our ambitions to conduct a successful breeding programme and we are now the studbook holders for this animal.'
"The smallest of the big cat family, clouded leopards are under threat in their natural habitat due to widespread deforestation and hunting for use in Chinese medicinal preparations. Notorious for being difficult to breed, the main reasons for this are identified as male aggression towards females, decreased breeding activity between paired animals, stress and high cub mortality. This also signifies that the captive populations around the world are steadily aging with few new births to build up genetic diversity in the captive stock.
"The Aspinall Foundation not only manages and supports its wild animal parks in the UK but manages and supports a number of conservation activities worldwide to preserve and restore wild populations. It is renowned for its work in saving rare and endangered species. The charity relies on the support of members of the public. Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks hold more clouded leopards than any other ISIS (International Species Inventory System) registered institution in Europe or the USA."
After a 30+ hour trip yesterday, we have finally returned home to Washington. Our trip was a wonderful learning experience about the daily rigors and excitement of field work as well as Borneo conservation issues. We are so grateful to all the wonderful folks who hosted us. We look forward to continuing towork with them and hope to visit again in the future.
As a wrap up for our trip, we have compiled a few statistics:
Total Air Miles Traveled: 21,024
Number of Different Airports Used: 9
Meals with Rice (each): 48
Number of Times Shoes Were Taken Off: At least 210!
Currencies Used: 4 (U.S. dollar, Hong Kong dollar, Singapore dollar, Malaysian ringitt)
Modes of Transport: 13 (plane, bus, subway, train, streetcar, taxi, ferry, tram, 4WD truck, small boat, speedboat, minibus, walking)
Different Types of Mango Preparations Consumed: 8 (milk shake, ice cream, juice, fresh, pudding, chicken, lassi)
Wild Cats Observed: 3 of Borneo's 5 species (leopard cat, flat-headed cat, marbled cat)