Rare clouded leopards reintroduced to the wild for first time in India

May 5th, 2010 - 1:40 am ICT by BNO News  

MANAS, INDIA (BNO NEWS) – Two clouded leopard cubs have been returned to the wild for the first time in India, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said Tuesday.

The orphaned cubs, rescued by the Assam Forest Department in March last year, were radio-collared before being released into the wild by the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), IFAW, and its partner the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). This is the first known instance of clouded leopards being rehabilitated and radio-collared in India.

The radio 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 cubs were hand-raised at an IFAW-supported mobile veterinary station, and in September 2009, the two cubs were relocated to Manas National Park for in situ acclimatization.

“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 for a year, if not longer. They will stretch and fall off due to normal wear and tear.”

“The cubs have undergone eight months of acclimatization in the wild. 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 24/7. As the cubs are now free-ranging and no longer dependent on the enclosure, it was prudent to radio-collar them for monitoring,” Dr. NVK Ashraf, WTI Wildlife Rescue Director said.

The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is a nocturnal, tree-dwelling species found in India’s northeast region, and is characterized as being extremely shy. The species is currently in danger of extinction with only about 10,000 remaining in the wild, listed in the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and is classified ‘vulnerable’ in IUCN Red List of threatened species.

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