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WildCRU

Sunday, January 17, 2010

postheadericon Identifying individual cloudys...



Great news from the field… we’ve discovered yet another male Sunda clouded leopard, which means that we can now identify at least six males and two females from our study area in Tabin. I say ‘at least’ because for some of these guys we only have photographs of one side of the animal, which means that we cannot be 100% sure that some of the photographs are not from the same individual.

The photo above is a collage of all of our cloudys we’ve discovered so far in Tabin. As with other felids each clouded leopard has a distinct coat pattern which we can use to tell individuals apart. Clouded leopards share many features of their coat pattern, but close inspection of the size and shape of individual’s clouds and spots will reveal key differences. Surprisingly, we’re finding that there may be less variability in the coat morphology of Tabin’s clouded leopards (see photo). Could this be the result of reduced gene pool?  We've also noticed that coat and tail morphology may differ between male and female clouded leopards, but that's a story for another day...

To aid in the ID’ing of these beasties we use ‘Photoshop’ to produce a tightly cropped image of both left and right sides (if we have them) of each animal. If needed, we can use the programme to sharpen the image or increase contrast etc. This reference collection can then be used to identify new cloudy photos as and when they come in.