Sunday, 9 May 2010

Orphaned clouded leopard cubs returned to wild

May 2010: Two clouded leopard cubs have been radio-collared and returned to the wild in India.

The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and its partner the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) were behind the project, thought to be the first of its kind in India.

The collars will help rehabilitators track the movement of the cubs as they become completely independent of human care and begin exploring on their own.

The orphaned cubs were rescued by the Assam Forest Department in March last year and hand-raised at an IFAW-supported mobile veterinary station. Since September 2009, the cubs have been living in Manas National Park to acclimatise to the wild.

Only about 10,000 remain
‘The cubs have undergone eight months of acclimatisation in the wild,' explained Dr NVK Ashraf, wildlife rescue director at the WTI. ‘Initially, they were taken for walks during the day, while being kept in a spacious enclosure at night for safety. In the past two months, the cubs were allowed to be in the wild full-time. As the cubs are now free-ranging and no longer dependent on the enclosure, it was prudent to radio-collar them for monitoring.'

Only about 10,000 clouded leopards remain in the wild - and the species is classified as ‘vulnerable' in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. An extremely shy, nocturnal and tree-dwelling animal, it is found in the north-east of India.

‘We are doing everything possible to assure a successful transition back to the wild for these animals,' said Dr Ian Robinson, IFAW's emergency relief director. ‘We are using expandable collars and they are expected to remain in place for a year, if not longer. They will stretch and fall off due to normal wear and tear.'

The head of the forest department at BTC, G.C. Basumatary says there is much excitement about the radio-collar project. ‘BTC has been supporting this effort to rehabilitate these clouded leopards in Ripu Reserve Forest - part of Manas Tiger Reserve - and we are eagerly waiting for the result.

‘The clouded leopard is seen in limited numbers in these forests and this effort will contribute in the conservation of this rare animal.'

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