The review is about researches that have been done concerning the bio-geography of clouded leopards of Southeast Asia. It highlights on the specific countries (Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand, China and others) that the species is found. The review mainly discusses the geology of the species and the factors affecting its geographical distribution. Extinction being the biggest problem has taken up most of the discussion.
Analysis on the various researches was done to identify the gap in the research on the species. The species faces a risk of being extinct, which might have implications for the ecosystem. The problems have been discussed in details and various recommendations made to mitigate the problems. Some researchers that have been presented provided new insight on the topic and opened a different viewpoint on dealing with the problem of losing biodiversity.
The review will be of help in further research on the subject and also may be of help in making decisions concerning the issue at hand. The review may be of help to other scholars because it provides lots of information and clarity to the reader. It talks about a topic that affects the species being discussed and many more species. Therefore, the solutions offered here are not only applicable to the present case but on others too.
Since 1986 the status of clouded leopard has been vulnerable ("Neofelis nebulosa (Clouded Leopard, Clouded Leopard)", 2016). However, this was made official in 2008 when the ICUN published its status. The species has been on the decline and if not checked would lead to extinction. The clouded leopard is one the smallest of the big cats and seems to have a link of evolution between the small and the big cats. The clouded leopards live in the dense tropical forest of southeast Asian. In the past, the clouded leopard was classified as one species, but the species was split from 2006 to the Sunda clouded leopard found in Sumatra and Borne (Island) and clouded leopard found on the mainland. Their scientific names are (Neofelis diardi) and (Neofelis nebulosi) respectively. ("Clouded Leopard - Cats - Research Guides at Harvard Library", 2016)
The clouded leopard is an elusive animal hence, focus on the study of this animal have been difficult. Another disadvantage is that the animal is nocturnal, and spends most of its daytime on trees. Study of the animal, therefore, becomes difficult especially when there are no means of tracking it down (Wilting et al., 2007). The cause of vulnerability of the clouded leopard, however, has been attributed to the loss of habitat as a result of deforestation and direct exploitation where they are killed for their beautiful hide and for traditional medicine by the Chinese. ("Basic Facts About Clouded Leopards", 2012)
This review is about the various countries in the Southeast Asia and their efforts in protection of the clouded leopard in preventing the extinction of this species. It also gives recommendations on areas where the countries have failed to achieve the goal of protecting the species.
In Thailand poaching of endangered species is a consistent problem. As mentioned earlier, the clouded leopard is hunted for its beautiful pelt to be sold in a marketplace known as Chatuchak in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand ("Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium - National Zoo| FONZ," 2016). To conserve this species, Dr.Lon Grassman was based in Phu Khieo since 1998 to 2002 conducting an ecological study of the endangered species.
The study involved capturing of a sample of clouded leopards, and the other sample left in the wild. To be able to track the ones in the wild were set in the natural habitat. There was a difficulty in following them since they are nocturnal. In his findings, he was able to determine that the clouded leopard has difficulties in reproducing when in captivity ("Ecology and Conservation of the Clouded Leopard," 2016).
The ones in the wild were captured by poachers and could not survive for long in the environment. His research seems to support capturing of the clouded leopard and genetically altering its molecular formation to conserve and ensure that the species does not become extinct. His work has been backed up by his decision to continue his study in Thailand in collaboration with other scientists ("Ecology and Conservation of the Clouded Leopard", 2016).
In China, the clouded cat is known as ‘mint leopard’ because of the spots on its pelt which is similar to those of mint leaves. The clouded leopard in China can be found in forestry regions in the southern area of the country below Qinling Mountains. The period between 1950 and mid-1980, the Chinese government had allowed its citizens access the forest and utilize it as it was one of the primary resources ("endangered cats | International Society For Endangered Cats | Page 7", 2016). The country was dealing with poverty and therefore the forest use to provide some of the essential resource like wood, meat from the animals and also grazing grounds for their livestock which caused a severe effect on the ecological biodiversity. The results led to the vulnerability of the clouded leopard which caused them to reduce drastically in numbers.
To conserve this vulnerable species the Chinese government in 1998 put up Laws that forbid people from poaching the animals for medicine, or destroying the habitats. They set up conservational facilities in different levels, and the basis of the divisions was mainly on the significance of the protected area. The levels include; National, Provincial and County parts ("endangered cats | International Society For Endangered Cats | Page 7", 2016).
Although the country has put up these regulations, there are always the people who go against the laws and poach. There is also a high case in human-wildlife conflict since the proximity of the natural habitat for the clouded leopard to the human settlement areas is close and so cases are reported of the wild animals being seen in the settlement areas or attacking the domestic animals at night.
Clouded leopards occur in Nepal and some parts of India. However, these countries do not have specific regulations to protect the vulnerable species. The states have set laws to take care of conservation establishments and which also be in charge of wildlife in these countries. Due to this negligence the clouded leopard may become endangered and in the end, it becomes extinct. The situation would be a repeat of what happened in Taiwan ("Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) - Animals - A-Z Animals - Animal Facts, Information, Pictures, Videos, Resources and Links", 2016).
There are grave consequences in neglecting clouded leopards. The problems are the loss of biodiversity and species which will cause an imbalance in the ecosystem. The researchers have covered the evolution of the clouded leopard over the past years and have been able, in the recent past to classify another species of the clouded leopard. However, their efforts in this would be of no significance if the species they uncover became extinct.
In various researches, it has been seen that the main factors that will cause the extinction are, human-wildlife conflict. An example of this conflict is where the animals attack the people in their homes. The reason why this may happen is when there is a lot of deforestation and the animals to not have anything to eat (due to the migration of prey) they might attack the homesteads looking for food and end up eating the livestock or attacking the human beings on the way. The attacks might put a lot of pressure on the authorities, on the other hand, the people end up counting losses. The animal involved if caught by the angry residents may end up being killed.
The other factor that may be associated with causing extinction is the lack of proper rules and regulations to protect the vulnerable species (clouded leopard). Governments in the countries involved have tried to formulate rules to prevent harm to the animal like poaching for their hide or their medicinal value, but there is still a significant problem since the people are still in the poaching business.
Deforestation is another problem that is caused by human beings. Clouded leopards spent most of their life on trees (Wilting et al., 2007). By cutting down trees and destroying the forests, human beings render the animals homeless. They might not be able to survive in the changed environment.
The problem of poaching has been there and will always be there not unless there is the implementation of severe penalties on those caught in the illegal business. The governments like China, Thailand, India, and Nepal should come together and form a foundation that will cater for the issues concerning the clouded leopard.
For the case of human-wildlife conflict, the authorities involved in handling the animals should be proactive to prevent the attacks by the animals. Measures should be put in place to prevent the intrusion by the animals in homesteads. They could be done by using barriers like an electric fence of the conservation. In case there is an attack, proper compensation should be done to the people involved.
Finally, Dr. Lon Grassman’s research should be used in ensuring that the biodiversity of the clouded leopard continues. The research involves the assistance of the clouded leopard mating in captivity. The research, therefore, finds some loopholes in the protection and conservation of the clouded leopard and would be useful to further research on the issue.
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Clouded Leopard - Cats - Research Guides at Harvard Library. (2016). Guides.library.harvard.edu. Retrieved 19 June 2016, from http://guides.library.harvard.edu/fas/cats/Cats/CloudedLeopard
Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) - Animals - A-Z Animals - Animal Facts, Information, Pictures, Videos, Resources and Links. (2016). A-z-animals.com. Retrieved 19 June 2016, from http://a-z-animals.com/animals/clouded-leopard/
Ecology and Conservation of the Clouded Leopard. (2016). Cloudedleopard.org. Retrieved 19 June 2016, from http://www.cloudedleopard.org/thai_ecology
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Kitchener, A., Beaumont, M., & Richardson, D. (2006). Geographical Variation in the Clouded Leopard, Neofelis nebulosa, Reveals Two Species. Current Biology, 16(23), 2377-2383. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2006.10.066
Wilting, A., Buckley-Beason, V., Feldhaar, H., Gadau, J., O'Brien, S., & Linsenmair, K. (2007). Clouded leopard phylogeny revisited: support for species recognition and population division between Borneo and Sumatra. Front Zool, 4(1), 15. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1742-9994-4-15
Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium - National Zoo| FONZ. (2016). Nationalzoo.si.edu. Retrieved 19 June 2016, from http://nationalzoo.si.edu/SCBI/ReproductiveScience/ConsEndangeredCats/CloudedLeopards/consortium.cfm
Neofelis nebulosa (Clouded Leopard, Clouded Leopard). (2016). Iucnredlist.org. Retrieved 19 June 2016, from http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/14519/0
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