August 18, 2008

Rare Leopard Spotted In Indonesia

Images of a clouded leopard spotted in Borneo's Sebangua National Park have researchers scratching their heads, since cats have not been caught there before.

Researchers say motion-activated cameras have captured amazing images of the leopards' presence, which they say proves the need to protect the region's habitat.

The National Park is one of the world's largest deep peat-swap forests. However, it's at risk from illegal logging and forest fires.

The recorded images are helping a team of scientists identify what big cat species are found in the area.

"The Bornean clouded leopard is a top priority for our program," said Professor David Macdonald, director of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, which is part of the Sebangau Felid Project.

"We are very excited by this evidence that they occur at Sebangau - a great deal remains to be discovered about these beautiful felids, which are a flagship for conservation in South-East Asia."

The team says early estimates of density and population range mean the clouded leopards number no more than 10,000 sexually mature adults.

In 2007, scientists classified the cat as a separate species after genetic testing highlighted at least 40 differences from clouded leopards found on mainland Asia.

The Sebangau Felid project aims to protect Indonesian Borneo's wildcat species, which also include the leopard cat, marbled cat, and flat-headed cat.

The national park is also home to the world's largest remaining population of Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii), and a "substantial" number of Bornean southern gibbons (Hylobates albibarbis).

Park cameras have caught more than just the Bornean cloud leopard (Neofelis diardi) in the park; the cameras have photographed a number of other species, including Malaysian sun bears, bearded pigs and lesser mouse deer.


Image Caption: This image of a Bornean clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi) was taken on 3 July by a remote camera in the Sebangau National Park, Indonesia. Males weigh about 25kg (55lb), yet are among the best tree climbers in the cat family. To date, almost nothing is known about the cats' predatory habits.


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