Dr. Bhaskar Choudhury, Head Vet of IFAW-WTI writes notes about the clouded leopard at Wildlife Transit Home of IFAW-WTI at Charaikhola in Kokrajhar.

Sushanta Roy is a journalist in the north eastern states of Assam and Meghalaya, India, who photographs and writes about the people, animals and flora, and the things that affect them.

Diphu August 25: Manas National Park, Assam, 21 August 2015: A male clouded leopard cub aged between three to six months was admitted to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Wildlife Transit Home in Charaikhola, Kokrajhar on 13th August, 2015. Wildlife Trust of India runs the transit facility.

The cub came to the Wildlife Transit Home from the proposed Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) zoo campus. IFAW-WTI officials and Assam Forest Department staff located in Kokrajhar town of Assam arranged for the transfer.

According to the accessible information, an unknown person handed over the sick clouded leopard cub to the staff of the proposed zoo. The cub was kept for more than 10-15 days at the zoo after which it was handed over to the IFAW-WTI for medication and rehabilitation in its natural environment.

“The animal was very weak, anaemic and pot-bellied at the time of admission. A suitable diet chart has been framed for its health improvement,” said Dr Bhaskar Choudhury, Regional head and head Veterinarian who examined the cub at the centre. The animal weighs 2.2 kg.

The zoo staff believe that the cub was picked up from nearby Kachugaon Reserve Forest under Manas Tiger Reserve (MTR). “This theory needs further investigation and we need to get to the bottom of the story on how the cub landed at the zoo facility,” Dr Choudhury further added when he was at Diphu, in Karbi Anglong last week.

Clouded leopard cubs
CC BY-NC-ND by Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Presently the cub is under observation and care at the Wildlife Transit Home in Charaikhola, Kokrajhar. Following the clouded leopard rehabilitation protocol, the cub will be hand raised at the centre and rehabilitated to release him to the wilderness in future.

One of the main threats to the clouded leopard is habitat loss, as it is a species that does not fare well in human dominated landscapes unlike the common leopard. Infrequently, clouded leopard skins are confiscated by the enforcement authorities indicating that there is an active trade in clouded leopard fur (for decoration and clothing) , and meat as substitute for tiger in Chinese traditional medicine.

WTI has handled seven cases of clouded leopards in Assam, most of them originating from the Western Assam area near Manas NP. The first batch was admitted in 2009, after two cubs were found unaccompanied in Kanthalmari village, Kokrajhar District, Bodoland. With the mother assumed dead, the cubs went into rehabilitation (as reunion was not possible). This pair enabled IFAW-WTI to initiate the clouded leopard rehabilitation program, with the objective of rehabilitating these orphans back into the wild. After almost a year of hand-raising and acclimatization, these cubs were rehabilitated back in the wild.

In 2010, another pair of cubs were displaced in the Silonijan area of Karbi Anglong. The team however, managed to reunite these cubs back with the mother. The last batch of two cubs came in 2012 and were rehabilitated using the protocols formulated with the first batch.

Dr. Bhaskar Choudhury, Head Vet of IFAW-WTI weighs the clouded leopard at Wildlife Transit Home of IFAW-WTI at Charaikhola in Kokrajhar. Photo: Sanatan Deka/IFAW-WTI
Dr. Bhaskar Choudhury, Head Vet of IFAW-WTI examines the clouded leopard at Wildlife Transit Home of IFAW-WTI at Charaikhola in Kokrajhar. Photo: Sanatan Deka/IFAW-WTI
Dr. Bhaskar Choudhury, Head IFAW-WTI Vet of writes a note about the clouded leopard at Wildlife Transit Home at Charaikhola in Kokrajhar. Photo: Sanatan Deka/IFAW-WTI