Rare Clouded Leopard Spotted in Nagaland Mountains

It is a great occasion for wildlife conservationists as a team of researchers has recorded photographic evidence that spotted the vulnerable species of clouded leopard in Nagaland Mountains. The elusive animal was spotted at an elevation of 3,700 meters in a community-owned forest along the Indo-Myanmar border in Nagaland, perhaps making it one of the highest recorded altitudes where the wild cat has been sighted across the globe till date.

The tree-climbing clouded leopard is a medium-sized wild cat and is the smallest of the large wild cats. It is categorized as ‘Vulnerable’ under the IUCN Red List, which makes the sighting even more significant.

The researchers, led by the Delhi-based non-profit Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), documented camera trap images of the clouded leopards in the forest of Thanamir village in eastern Nagaland’s Kiphire district. The forest is sprawled across 65 sq. km and houses Nagaland’s highest peak, Mount Saramati.

Rare Clouded Leopard Spotted in Nagaland Mountains

Image: WPSI

The survey was part of a combined initiative between the WPSI and Thanamir village to study and document the region’s bio-cultural diversity. The team included five residents of the village and placed over 50 camera traps in the village community forest in two different durations. The first documentation took place between January and June, 2020, and the second was between July and September, 2021.

A part of the peer-reviewed publication by the team stated;

In total, we have evidence of at least two adults and two cubs. Two distinct individuals were photo-captured at a camera placed above the tree line at 3,700 m close to the summit of Mt. Saramati. Another individual was photo-captured at 3,436 m.

The paper was authored by by Ramya Nair, Alemba Yimkhiung, Hankiumong Yimkhiung, Kiyanmong Yimkhiung, Yapmuli Yimkhiung, Toshi Wungtung, Avinash Basker and Sahil Nijhawan.

Nijhawan is a conservation anthropologist working in Arunachal Pradesh and is advisor to the WPSI initiative. Talking about clouded leopards, he said;

They are residents of the area, and are reproducing there, which indicates that there is enough food and forest cover for them to do so…Traditionally, across India, forest and wildlife is protected by law enforcement. While this may work in the rest of the country, in the Northeast, much of the forests are owned by local communities. Villagers use these forests, yet they support amazing biodiversity, which are globally threatened.

The team has been collecting data on wildlife population in the forest through camera trap images. All the data will help the local authorities to formulae further conservation schemes in these forests.

Much of high-elevation records were documented during summer months, suggesting that clouded leopards may seasonally expand their habitat range toward mountainous region as snow withdraws and increases the prey base. The paper also indicated that with warming climate, the species will experience range shifts, impacting their populations.

Via: Nagaland Post

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