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February 11, 2010

Clouded leopard caught on camera for the first time

     London: Reports indicate that the Sundaland clouded leopard, a recently described new species of big cat, has been caught on camera for the first time ever. According to BBC News, the film, the first footage of the cat in the wild to be made public, has been released by scientists working in the Dermakot Forest Reserve in Malaysia. The Sundaland clouded leopard, only discovered to be a distinct species three years ago, is one of the least known and elusive of all cat species. "Clouded leopards are one of the most elusive cats. They are very hardly ever encountered and almost no detailed study about their ecology has been conducted," said Andreas Wilting of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany. Wilting is leader of a project that evaluates how changes to the forest in the Malaysian part of Borneo impact carnivores living there. As part of that project, the team places a network of camera traps in the forest, that automatically photograph passing animals. The team, which includes the Malaysian field scientist Azlan Mohamed, also conducts regular surveys at night, by shining a spotlight from the back of a vehicle driven around the Dermakot Forest Reserve in Sabah. During one of these surveys, they encountered a Sundaland clouded leopard walking along a road. "For the first eleven months we had not encountered a single clouded leopard during these night surveys. So every one of our team was very surprised when this clouded leopard was encountered." said Wilting. "Even more surprising was that this individual was not scared by the light or the noises of the truck," he said. "For over five minutes, this clouded leopard was just roaming around the car, which compared to the encounters with the other animals is very strange, as most species are scared and run away after we have spotted them," he added. The clouded leopard, the largest predator on Borneo, appears to live at very low densities within the reserve, as it has only rarely been photographed by the researchers or camera traps. As well as capturing images of the clouded leopard, the researchers also recorded four other wild cat species.
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