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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Update from Thailand - New Clouded Leopard Cub, Crazy Weather



Hey gang, it's me Andy writing from Thailand. Last time I wrote I suspected one of the cats, "Mini," was very close to giving birth. Well, on the 20th of March she started to go into a mild labor (not that I would know if it was really mild – to her could hurt big time.) So that started a birth watch that would last until 8pm on the 21st when she gave birth to one little cub. Mini wasn't so mini, so I thought for sure there would be two cubs in there, but no such luck. Don't get me wrong I'm very happy for the one little bugger but it’s tough raising a single cub. It's great for them to have somebody to chew other than you.

Back to the birth, it went well and the cub looked good. We stay there the whole time and watch the mother with her cub on closed circuit TV. This part of the job isn't great. You're sitting in the building, which is not sealed from the outside, so while hanging out in there throughout the night you are being bitten by all kinds of bugs, and there are lots of other critters that live there as well. While I was driving up to the building (1am) to relieve one of the guys, there was a termite boom. I have never seen anything like this. The wood eating bugs come flying out from everywhere; there were millions of them – it looked like I was driving through a snow storm. I had to use my wipers! It was really cool until I got to the building. You got it, the place was full of them and even turning off the lights didn't help because the TV was on so we could watch the mother and her cub. So I got to sit there with these bugs flying all over and then anything that eats bugs is coming out from everywhere in the building to mac out. It was entertaining for a while but it got old, they get in your hair, ears, up your nose but it keeps you awake. I survived the night with only few dramas. At one point the mother sat on her cub so I had to run down there and shake the gate to get her to stand up, then the cub wasn't moving which always makes your heart stop. But soon things went back to normal.

At 8 am the next day I decided to pull the cub from Mini. Let me explain there are many reasons why we do this, but the most important one is the safety of the cub. The survival rate of cubs raised by their mother is low (in captivity, nobody knows what goes on in the wild). Also the success of the breeding program (this little one makes number 40) is because the cats are comfortable with us. Clouded leopards are very sensitive animals and can be stressed so easily by the simplest things, especially people. So when we are fun and no big deal in their lives it removes a tremendous amount of stress. There can also be a great deal of aggression from the males towards the females when we are introducing them. In cases of hand raised cats we can physically intervene in those situations.

So now I have a little girl who needs to be fed every three hours so sleep isn't much of an option. Well I have help, Maureen is here and a girl name Nok is a great baby raiser and has been a part of this program from the start. When you have this little one it is amazing how much your whole day revolves around if this cub poops and it's such a joy when it happens, but I won't carry on about cub poop.

Well what else has been happening around here? The rainy season is starting and the other day Mother Nature dished out a whopper of a rain storm. I was up at the building working with one of the guys (Plaa) when the thunder started in the distance. I went out to take a look and it reminded me of that scene in the new War of the Worlds movie that came out a few years ago. There was this dark wave storm cloud moving in over the mountain with lighting shooting out in all directions. It was unreal. I ran inside and told Plaa to take off, get on his moped and go now or he was going to be stuck outside when this thing hit. I had to finish feeding some cats, the thunder was deafening and then the rain just started dumping everything it could and the wind was the strongest I've experienced. It was crazy! I was trying to get some of the cats to come inside and they didn't want to move - they were the smart ones. The wind pushed the water inside the building, tools were blowing off the wall, the power went out and it was dark and scary. I always have my video camera with me but it was in the truck not more than 15 feet away out the door. When I went to look out there to decide if I should go get it, I couldn't believe what I was seeing - not only wind that was folding over palm trees, but HAIL!!! I'm not talking some namby pamby fertilizer-sized hail, I'm talking marble-sized hail that was hitting the ground with some serious force. I started to go for it when I started to get pummeled by the ice; I only made it a few feet and had to retreat back inside the building. But being the crazy nut that I am I wanted this shot so I waited for the wind to die down, grabbed a plastic bag to protect my camera and ran out and got it. I was soaked and the truck got heaps of water inside but it was worth it. So I had to do the crazy thing and go out in the storm and act like one those idiot reporters that stand out there for your entertainment, no chance! I ran out there and picked up some of the hail that was still there to show to all the fans out there. Hail in Thailand! Yeah there's no such thing as global warming…….

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