Saturday, 5 March 2011

Spotted! The elusive Sunda clouded leopard of Sumatra is caught on film for the first time

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 9:09 AM on 5th March 2011

A rare and elusive big cat discovered just four years ago has been filmed in Sumatra for the first time.

The camera-shy Sunda clouded leopard has finally been snapped by a camera trap in Indonesia's Berbak National Park on the island of Sumatra.

The 22-second-long video footage shows the rare cat snaking its way through the dense jungle undergrowth.

And it provides evidence that the predator has adapted to living in tree-tops - unlike some leopards it has a long tail that ensures balance on branches.The cat also relies on long claws and highly flexible ankles to scramble among the trees - and even shimmy down tree trunks like a squirrel.

'This footage is further evidence of the rich wildlife found in Berbak National Park, and is yet another reason why it [is] essential that a conservation plan is put in place for the long-term protection of these forests,' Sarah Christie of the Zoological Society of London said.

Clouded leopards are the most elusive of the big cats, which include lions, tigers, jaguars, snow leopards and normal spotted leopards. Living across south-east Asia, into China and India, the leopards have larger cloud-like spots than ordinary leopards.

Until recently, all clouded leopards were thought to belong to a single species. However, genetic studies have shown that there are actually two distinct clouded leopard varieties.

Researchers only realised that the breed living on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra was a new species - distinct from clouded leopards living elsewhere in Asia - in 2007. The two species are thought to have split over one million years ago.

It is understood the Sunda variety has been filmed only once before - in Borneo's Tangkulap Forest Reserve last year.

Since 2008, the Sunda clouded leopard has been listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Researchers believe there are less than 10,000 of the cats alive in the wild.

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