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OK, keeping to my word from yesterday, I'm back with my beloved cats from Khao Kheow Open Zoo (KKOZ)! This picture was taken about a month and a half ago, when the two sister Clouded Leopards were around a week shy of being five months old. Even though this is again a privileged situation insofar as me working with them inside their enclosure – as opposed to having to shoot through wire fencing – as always the main difficulty is dealing with the low ambient light, well shaded as their enclosure is.
The sisters are currently housed up at KKOZ's Clouded Leopard Breeding Compound, which is off limits to pretty much everyone who isn't working directly with these beautiful cats. Clouded Leopards are very sensitive and easily alarmed, and in order for the females to produce the necessary estrogen (US spelling: oestrogen) – which is the primary female sex hormone in both humans and animals – to get them, well, let's say frisky and in the mood for male company, they need to be kept in a relatively quiet, calm, and stress-free state.
The primary goal I am currently working toward is the construction of a new Clouded Leopard compound that will have a number of large enclosures into which some of the zoo's present Clouded Leopard population (which numbers 34 cats) can be relocated to live out the rest of the captive lives in much more comfortable and natural surroundings than the ones they live in right now.
This is a project I put forward to KKOZ's director at the end of last year, an idea he was immediately taken with, and we have his full support and encouragement. There is plenty of unused land within KKOZ, however, being that KKOZ is situated in the foothills of a mountainous region, finding a area suitable for the size we're looking at is something of a challenge, but one that we'll no doubt overcome.
Of course the principal factor upon which all this depends is raising the funds required to build this new compound, and that's where hopefully my usefulness will come into play! The idea is, once I have a decent enough sized portfolio of captivating Clouded Leopard images, we will organise a charity exhibition of my work up in Bangkok and invite as many people as possible to purchase our prints and, thereby, contribute toward a very worthy cause.
Being that the Clouded Leopard is a Vulnerable species native to Thailand, I'm aiming to awaken a sense of pride in what is a valuable part of Thailand's natural heritage, in the hope that people will appreciate how value this animal is and realise that they can play an important role in its preservation and conservation for future generations of Thailand … well, at least that's the plan anyway ;^)
In line with all this, you can now perhaps understand why I have been given special access to these marvellous cats, and appreciate that for me this is not merely about my love of wildlife photography, but a whole lot more about my passion for Clouded Leopards and my desire to do whatever I can for as many of them as I can.
Bit of a long read, then again, I only really wrote this for those of you who I know already have the patience and interest to read what I write, so I'm sure the others won't really mind – LOL ;^)
Wishing one and all a very pleasant continued weekend :^)
by Ashley Vincent
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