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!