Sunday, December 27, 2009

Clouded Leopard Conservation in Assam, India

As we near the end of 2009, we have been receiving progress reports from several of our grant recipients. One is from Karabi Deka and Jimmy Borah whose project, “Status, distribution, and ecology of small cats in Assam, India with a focus on the clouded leopard as a flagship species,” received funding from the CLP. This is the first project we have supported outside of our usual area of emphasis in Southeast Asia. We received a number of requests for India-based projects this year. In fact, we had an all-time high number of proposals submitted in 2009. Although we wish we weren’t so limited in our ability to provide support, it’s exciting to see how the number of clouded leopard and small cat field efforts has boomed over the last few years. With such dedication to uncovering the ecology of these cats and bringing much needed awareness to local communities we are confident that the clouded leopard and other small felids have a promising future.

While the tiger and leopard have been long-studied in Northeast India, Karabi and Jimmy’s team has been investigating the six species of rarely-studied small wild cats in the region. Their work takes a multifaceted approach comprised of ecological research, conservation awareness, and training in field techniques. The team has already conducted educational presentations for elementary and college students as well as community members in areas surrounding protected areas in which their research is taking place. The college students are also trained in basic field techniques and provide assistance in the field.

The team has also produced and disseminated a Field Guide to the Small Cats of Assam and a poster to raise awareness of these species, most of which are completely unknown to local people. They also participated in a training program for members of the Assam Forest Department staff to learn wildlife monitoring techniques.

The team also initiated a camera trapping project in Nameri National Park. They are having some difficulty with access (no roads!) and interference by elephants (!) but trapping is ongoing. To augment the trapping data, Karabi and Jimmy have compiled secondary information from the Forest Department, local NGOs, and community members to document cat sightings. We will be posting their entire progress report on the website and wish them great success in the continuation of their conservation efforts.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Claws

Hey guys Merry Christmas!!

I decided to have some fun with the staff and the cats with a very appropriate Santa Hat.It's hard to say if the cubs were reacting to it or just being themselves... yeah, just being themselves. Lets just say that Santa isn't Ho Ho-ing. It's more like OOOHHH OWW. Besides the one cat hanging from his claws on my shoulder there is one that you can't see right behind me...that's the face of getting bit where the good lord split me!!!

Merry Christmas!!

Andy (Santa Clawed)

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm Back...Again!

CLP Vice President Andy Goldfarb has returned to Thailand for another stint as Manager of the Clouded Leopard Consortium, a breeding project based at the Khao Kheow Open Zoo. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium sends Andy there annually in support of the project where he raises cubs and manages care of the adults. This is Andy's first report since his return:

Hey guys I'm back in Thailand again. This will make four months in under a year. Don't get me wrong, I know I should be bummed that I'm missing out on the 18 degree weather back at my home versus the 90 degree temp with a very low humidity here in Thailand, but I'm not! I was never a cold weather guy. I've been coming here for 6 years and this it the first time that I have come in December and January which I have to say is just awesome. It's still hot, but the humidity is very low so it's quite nice. There are still all the bugs to deal with but to a lesser degree.

Okay, when I left back in April there were three cubs that I had been working with: Mang Po, Dawk Mi and Taifun. Also there was a little girl named Ginnaree born while I was here and she lived with me for my last month. Everybody is still here except Taifun, he went to Chang Mi in northern Thailand to meet a girl. Mang Po is one of my favorite cubs, so it was incredible to see her again. She's a lot bigger but still a sweetie and just jumped in my arms when I showed up. Everybody is doing great. The big news is that in the time that I was gone we have had six more cubs born at the breeding center. That makes ten cubs in a year! So the place is over run with the spotted little rats! What a dream come true for me. I have to say that it's hard to pay attention to all of them, they're always screaming at you when you walk past the enclosures. So I spend a fair bit of time going from one area to another playing with the cubs.

I know you're thinking, "Oh how brutal is that, poor Andy, he's suffering" Okay I know you're not thinking that but it isn't as fun or easy as you might think. Only those brave enough to enter know the truth, that’s why the guys that work with me don't go in. In one area there are four cubs that are five months old, three boys (what a nightmare ) and one little cute, but semi-evil, girl. When you first enter the area there are heaps of cute squeaks, chuffs, and rubbing all over your legs for attention. This lasts for about a minute and then it starts. A flurry of spots start flying through the air. They take turns jumping on you from every direction. From below, one of them always strikes first, and while you're bent over to detach the little beast another one hits from behind and then you lurch backwards to try to remove that one and you get hit from the front that’s when the other moves in for the big prize, your head. Now for those of you that kept up with me last time know that I copped it good in the face. So far my face has remained un-scarred, the rest of me is in real rough shape; my arms, legs, back, neck and scalp look like I scrubbed them with a wire brush.

I do love these maniacs and I'll write more soon ….I promise….. kinda.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First-ever Video Footage of Borneo Bay Cat!

Researchers and friends of the CLP, Andy Hearn and Joanna Ross have released the first video footage ever captured of the little known Borneo bay cat. This elusive cat is one research subject in their quest to study the ecology and status of Borneo's five wild cat species as part of Andy and Jo's work with the Global Canopy Programme.

To see the 7 second video clip and learn more about the exceptional bay cat, found nowhere else in the world but the island of Borneo,visit the story on Mongay Bay. We applaud the efforts of Andy and Jo to learn more about Borneo's threatened wild cats and are proud to support their work.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Clouded Leopard Conservation Stamps Unveiled by the National Zoo
The National Zoo has introduced a series of U.S. postage stamps that represent their preeminent science programs. Naturally, this includes a beautiful clouded leopard stamp representing their ongoing work with our favorite endangered species. These stamps can be purchased through the Zoo's website and a portion of the proceeds will benefit their conservation programs. Great holiday gift idea (along with a donation to the Clouded Leopard Project)!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!
Halloween is Raja's favorite holiday...he always gets a pumpkin to "carve."
Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Recent News from the Field
It's been an exciting time for CLP supported researchers studying Borneo's wild cats. We just received word from Andy Hearn and Jo Ross that after two months of incredibly difficult work setting up camera traps in Sabah's Tabin Wildlife Reserve they have captured five photos of clouded leopards representing at least three individual animals. In addition, they've photographed two marbled cats, a species that usually proves challenging to capture with cameras.

However, not all visitors to the camera traps are as welcome. Although it is the world's smallest bear species, the sun bear is proving to be quite a nuisance to Andy and Jo's project. Recently a bear ripped two cameras from their trees and gave them the chew toy treatment. The dying act for both cameras was to photograph their murderer! At least it looks like the bear had some fun, right?

Despite the damage, the team was able to repair the cameras so they can be placed back out in the field. While these events are amusing to us, they can be devastating to researchers who count on every piece of data they can get for their project. Andy and Jo also just had two cameras stolen by poachers. We hope this is the end of their bad luck with the cameras.

This photo is so great I wanted to share it too. This elephant stolled down the trail just 20 minutes before Andy and Jo arrived to check the camera. How cool is that?

For more information and stories of the tribulations of studying elusive cats in the tropics, visit the Bornean Wild Cat blog.

In other field news, Dr. Susan Cheyne, working on the CLP supported Sabangau Felid Project in Indonesian Borneo, has captured two marbled cats on camera in the space of two months. This is an especially noteworthy achievement since no previous sightings of marbled cats have taken place in this area since 1994. For more information, visit the project blog.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We are excited to introduce an adorable new way to showcase your love of clouded leopards! Through a partnership with clothing designer Daughter Earth, the Clouded Leopard Project will receive a portion of the proceeds of sales of this charming shirt for women (navy blue) and kids (in light blue and pink). We love how they portray the "clouded" in clouded leopard!

Daughter Earth spreads awareness of endangered species and habitat conservation through the artful design of environmentally conscious clothing, accessories and housewares and we are very grateful for their support.

To order, visit the special ordering page in Clouded Leopard Project online store.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium Press
photo by David Canavan

I realize I neglected to post this article, The Plight of the Clouded Leopard, when it first appeared in the Bangkok Post in August. It is a overview of the Thailand Clouded Leopard Breeding Consortium and the Consortium Manager, Rick Passaro. It's great to see the project get such wonderful press - check it out!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Clouded Leopard Project at International Zoo Keepers Conference

Last week the Clouded Leopard Project was an exhibitor at the annual conference of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) that was held for the first time in conjunction with the International Congress of Zookeepers (ICZ). The conference took place in Seattle and brought together nearly 400 delegates from all over the world. There were several days of presentations sharing a wide range of information and experiences from this highly diverse group of animal professionals. Clouded Leopard Project Vice Presidents Maureen O'Keefe and Andy Goldfarb gave a well-received joint presentation on the evolution and accomplishments of the CLP. Their great talk no doubt generated visits to our vendor table and spurred merchandise sales to support our conservation efforts. The hot seller was our insignia fleece, thanks in part, no doubt, to the sub-Arctic temperature of the hotel meeting room! It was great seeing so many conference delegates decked out in their CLP finery.

Thanks to all our supporters and new CLP friends from this event. A special thank you to Corinne, Kelsey, Paul, and Diana (above) for spending long volunteer hours manning the booth and sharing our story with conference attendees.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Clouded Leopard Cubs Prepare for Release in India

Two seven-month-old male clouded leopard cubs handraised after being confiscated by wildlife officials from a village in India were transferred to a forest site in Assam where they will undergo a transition to life in the wild. This is the first attempt to return hand-reared clouded leopards to the wild in India. Their familiarity with people and lack of experience as hunters make the outcome of the release uncertain but officials are determined to give the cubs a chance at life in the wild.

The cubs will continue to be cared for by their keeper at the release site, going for walks in the forest to acclimate them and grant them increasing independence. This "soft" release may take many months as the cubs mature. We will be following the project closely and wish them success.
Clouded Leopard Project Grants Awarded

The CLP recently elected to award two mid-year grants to worthy projects in need of funding.

The first went to Dr. Susan Cheyne, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, Oxford University for her Sabangau Felid Project in Indonesian Borneo. Susan has long been studying orangutans and gibbons in the region and recently expanded the project to research the behavior and ecology of the wild cats as well.

I had the good fortune of meeting Susan at the Clouded Leopard Conservation Summit and was very impressed with her commitment to learning about and conserving Borneo's wildlife. Our funding will help Susan and her team with these goals. For more details on the project visit her page on our website or check out the project's blog for updates.

The second grant was awarded to Dr. David Reed of the University of Louisville for a Small Carnivore Conservation Workshop to take place in Bangkok this November. We are very pleased to support this meeting as it is a direct offshoot of the Summit held in January. A group of researchers working in Thailand realized the need to continue networking to gain a more complete picture of the distribution and status of Thailand's small felids and other carnivores in order to develop research and conservation priorities. The goals of the workshop are to compile, disseminate, and eventually analyze existing data on small carnivores in Thailand. Researchers will bring data to the meeting from over ten years of carnivore surveillance in the region, greatly expanding the collective body of knowledge on these species. Meeting participants also aim to develop standardized protocols for conducting research on small carnivores in SE Asia. We wish them success in bringing all this disparate data together to benefit carnivore conservation.

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Clouded Leopard Exhibit Construction About to Leap Into Action!

After a summer of planning and designing, we are finally close to getting started on construction of our long-awaited Cats of the Canopy exhibit at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The construction documents are nearly complete so they will be submitted for permitting very shortly. Although that process is not very excitement-inducing, events of last week certainly were.

The exhibit is being planned and built in tandem with the Zoo's new Red Wolf Woods. That site requires significant ground work in preparation for construction, including felling of a number of large trees to create a more open feel and provide sunlight to the new habitat. So what does this have to do with a new clouded leopard exhibit?

Clouded leopards + trees = crazy arboreal acrobatic antics! The exhibit will provide great climbing opportunities for the cats with branches reaching over twenty feet high. To achieve this, we need to take advantage of any source for natural branching - what better way than to recycle trees from the Zoo itself!

So we spent a couple of days overseeing the harvest of trees from the red wolf site. With all of the native alders here in the Northwest, we had an abundance of long, straight, and sap-free pieces to choose from for use as the cats' aerial "highways." We also have some nice thick, curvy madrona trunks serving as access ramps to the upper level. All of these pieces will be stockpiled and hoisted into place during construction - some of these puppies are very large and will require a crane to move them before the mesh is installed!

It was fascinating watching the loggers fell the trees perfectly and maneuver the logs with their dozer with such precision. It was less fascinating cutting and stacking the pieces (very dirty, bruising work!). However, all of it was exciting knowing it was the first step in the construction phase of the wonderful new home for our wonderful clouded leopards!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Art Showing for The Clouded Leopard's Secret Storybook

Now that all the illustrations have been completed for our storybook, artist Heather Hudson stopped by the Zoo to show us all the original pieces. It was exciting to see the full-size versions of her amazing work, especially since I have witnessed the evolution of the pieces from idea to sketch to color draft to the finished product. Although it is purely Heather's artistry, I can't help but feel a close attachment to the work!

The amount of time and effort Heather invested in this project went well beyond my (and her!) expectations. I'm so pleased I selected Heather to be the illustrator for this book; I can't imagine anyone else being so dedicated to getting the images so right by both her and my standards. I'm sure I drove her crazy with some of the tiny details (tweaking a paw here, slimming a belly there) but she never complained. It was definitely a privilege working with her!

We hope to wrap up the graphic design and final translation within a month or so, then off it goes to print. I really can't wait to get this beautiful book in my hands and share it with the students in clouded leopard range countries!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mr. Relaxation

Since I haven't had too much to report lately, I thought I'd share a nice photo shot by Ali Wallace, one of our staff members. Cloudies are masters at relaxing, as demonstrated nicely by Raja!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Clouded Leopard's Secret Storybook Nears Completion!

After several years of planning and production, our bilingual storybook The Clouded Leopard's Secret is nearing completion. The last of the artwork was just completed, the translation is done, and we expect the layout to be finished soon so we can go to print. The book will be a great tool for teaching students in Thailand about clouded leopard field research and will hopefully inspire conservation action or perhaps even help nurture the next generation of scientists! We plan for this book to serve as a starting point for a comprehensive wild cat curriculum that will be distributed widely in clouded leopard range countries.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Clouded Leopard Cools Off at the Zoo

Although their counterparts in the wild inhabit hot, tropical forests, the clouded leopards at Point Defiance are a bit more temperate in their climatic tastes. Having spent essentially their entire lives in the Pacific Northwest, our cats rarely encounter temperatures approaching even the 80s. Well this week they are getting a taste of their homeland as the Seattle/Tacoma area faces temperatures approaching the all-time record - nearly 100 degrees. So how do the cats keep cool in the dog days of summer? One way is with cool treats like this giant blood-sicle. Their keepers freeze blood and bits of fish, chicken, or other yummy meat treats into blocks that provide long-lasting licking fun! Today Raja kept busy for hours with his yummy treat.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Another Clouded Leopard Cub for the National Zoo

The Smithsonian National Zoo welcomed another clouded leopard cub last Friday at its off-display Conservation and Research Center. This cub was born to parents Jao Chu and Hannibal who were brought to the U.S. from Thailand through the Clouded Leopard Breeding Consortium. The pair had their first litter of two male cubs in March. The gender of the new cub has not yet been determined.

Because the cubs are being hand-reared, Jao Chu came back into estrus quickly after giving birth and was able to breed again, producing the new cub in a short time span. This rapid return to estrus is an adaptation that allows wild cats to breed again quickly in the event they lose their cubs to predation or other causes. Because gestation is so short - approximately 85 days - the cats can have another litter within the same breeding season when conditions are optimal.

Congratulations to the National Zoo for some more great news!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Update on New Clouded Leopard Exhibit

Work is progressing on the design of Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium's new clouded leopard exhibit. We've received the 45% construction documents and our Zoo Society also commissioned a model to assist in fundraising. This is all making it seem even more real! I can't wait to get one of our flagship conservation species back on exhibit.
Above is pictured Stan, the Zoo's Operations Manager who is overseeing the design and eventual construction of the exhibit. Stan has tons of project management experience, helping us pull off our many new exhibits and facilities over the last eight years. He excels at keeping architects and contractors on time and budget and is a great advocate for our needs. We are happy that he is on the job!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Another Great Clouded Leopard Photo from the Field

It is so amazing to me that just a few years ago almost no one had seen a wild clouded leopard. But thanks to the technology of camera traps, now many of us get at least frequent armchair "views" of these extraordinary cats. Here's the latest, taken in Sabah, Borneo's Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary during the research of Dr. Henry Bernard of the University of Malaysia, Sabah's Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation.

He also got a wonderful shot of a bay cat:

Dr. Bernard is also partnering with the CLP to translate and distribute our forthcoming storybook, The Clouded Leopard's Secret, in Sabah. We are grateful to both him and his student, Danial Pamin, for sharing these photos with us.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Clouded Leopard Goes Crazy for Catnip!
Housecats are not the only types of felines to fall under the spell of catnip. At Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, we grow fresh catnip especially for our wild cats - especially the clouded leopards who seem to love it the most.
Here's Raja enjoying some sprigs today. He don't go quite as nuts as he sometimes does, but it's cute to see nonetheless.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Clouded Leopard Cubs Born at Nashville Zoo
Congratulations to the Nashville Zoo on the birth of three cubs (2 males and 1 female) on May 30. The cubs were born to a pair imported from Thailand's Khao Kheow Open Zoo in 2008 as part of the Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium. This is great news on the heels of the birth of the two male cubs at the National Zoo, also the offspring of cats imported from Thailand. The female cub from Nashville will eventually be paired with one of the National Zoo's male cubs. It's great to see such a positive outcome for all the effort that has gone into the Thailand breeding program for many years. Congratulations to all involved!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Clouded Leopard Storybook Update

After several years in the making, the bilingual (Thai/English) storybook, The Clouded Leopard's Secret, is nearing completion. Artist Heather Hudson has just a few more pieces to complete before we turn the project over to the graphic designer to complete the layout. After printing the book will be piloted in Thailand before wider distribution. We also plan to print a Malaysian version right away for use in Sabah, Borneo in conjunction with the Borneo Wild Cat and Clouded Leopard Project supported by the CLP. We look forward to learning how students in clouded leopard range countries respond to the messages in the book!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

2009 Clouded Leopard Project Grants

The Clouded Leopard Project has provided grant funding for the following research and conservation projects for 2009. We are pleased to support these important efforts to learn more about and protect clouded leopards and the other rare small cats that share their range. We will add profiles of the new projects to the website in the near future.

Bornean Wild Cat & Clouded Leopard Project
Andrew Hearn and Joanna Ross, Global Canopy Programme, Principal Investigators

Consequences of different forest management strategies for clouded leopards and other felids and viverrids in Sabah, Malaysia
Andreas Wilting, Leibniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research, Principal Investigator

Conservation Genetics of Threatened and Endangered Bornean Wild Cats in Sabah, Malaysia
Daniel Pamin, Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation, University Malaysia Sabah

A comparison of the abundance of medium- and large-mammals within a primary rainforest and palm oil plantation of Borneo
Nathan Roberts, University of Cumbria

Effects of Fragmentation, Habitat Conversion, and Hunting on Clouded Leopard Abundance and Distribution in East Kalimantan
Rustam, Tropical Rainforest Research Center, Mulawarman University and Anthony J. Giordano, S.P.E.C.I.E.S, Principal Investigators

Southeast Asia Wild Cat Education Initiative PeunPa Outreach Staff Funding, Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, Thailand

Status, distribution and ecology of small wild cats in Assam, India with a focus on the clouded leopard, Neofelis nebulosa as the flagship species
Dr. Jimmy Borah and Dr. Karabi Deka, Alliance for Research and Conservation of Wild (ARCW), Principal Investigators

Sunday, May 17, 2009

IUCN Cat Specialist Group Project of the Month

Congratulations go to Andreas Wilting and Azlan Mohamed and their field team for having their project featured as Project of the Month on the IUCN Cat Specialist Group website. Their project, supported by the CLP and also featured on our website, focuses on comparing different forest management strategies on felid populations in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Be sure and check out the story!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Clouded Leopard Summit Report
The report from the Clouded Leopard and Small Felid Summit convened in January is now available. Visit the main Clouded Leopard Project website and check under Conservation and Research section or use this link to download the full report.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan Meeting

The annual Felid TAG conference includes meetings of several Species Survival Plans(SSPs), the AZA programs responsible for managing the populations of rare animals in accredited North American zoos and aquariums. This year's conference included meetings of the Clouded Leopard, Lion, and Ocelot SSPs. The Clouded Leopard SSP meeting lasted about six hours and included a wide variety of presentations as well as a planning session to manage reproduction within the population in both North America and the Thailand breeding program (whose cats are included in the SSP.) I'll be updating the main website with some of the new zoo-based projects which primarily focus on continuing to enhance reproduction of these challenging cats.

In the meantime, here's a brief overview of what's new in zoo-based clouded leopard conservation:

Heather DeCaluwe, a student at the University of Maryland, is working with researchers at the National Zoo on determining ways to characterize and control male aggression in an effort to mitigate some of the issues that make it so difficult to form new pairs of clouded leopards.

Despite many years of research, ongoing successful artificial insemination in clouded leopards is still out of reach. (The only success was in 1992.) Therefore, scientists working on this topic are now branching out to pursue in vitro reproduction. This process will use eggs and sperm from donor cats to attempt to create embryos that would then be implanted into cats for gestation. Rebecca Hobbs will be undertaking the first steps of this research through the National Zoo. She will use donor clouded leopards from a number of zoos around the country for the first IVF study in an attempt to create embryos. (None will be implanted in the first stage of the study.) Using IVF will allow genetically valuable unpaired females and older females to have the potential of still contributing to the breeding population. This technique has ralready resulted in live offspring in tigers, servals, caracals, and other species so will hopefully be successful for clouded leopards as well!

In addition to the discussion of assisted reproduction, meeting participants also spent a great deal of time examining the status and genetic lineage of the individual animals in the population to determine the possibility of creating new pairs. We also worked on determining how to pair the numerous cubs born in Thailand, many of which share the same lineage - a situation that presents many challenges. After much work, a plan was created that will hopefully benefit the entire population in the future. I'll have an update on the final plan on the website once the meeting report is published.