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Mainland clouded leopard: IUCN Red List status update

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CATnews 74 Winter 2021
36
THOMAS N. E. GRAY1*, JIMMY BORAH2, CAMILLE N. Z. COUDRAT3, YADAV GHIMIREY4,
ANTHONY J. GIORDANO5, EVAN GREENSPAN6, SHARIFF MOHAMAD7, WYATT J PETERSEN8,
S. ROSTRO- GARCÍA9 AND WAI-MING WONG10
Mainland clouded leopard:
IUCN Red List status update
In September 2021, the Cat Specialist Group completed the Red List Assessment for
mainland clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa (Gray et al. 2021) for the IUCN Red List
of Threatened SpeciesTM. Since the previous Red List assessment (Grassman et al.
2016), there have been several published studies investigating the range-wide dis-
tribution of remaining habitat and recent occurrence records (e.g., Macdonald et al.
2019, Petersen et al. 2020a). These assisted the most recent assessment, as did new
published estimates on site-specific population densities (e.g., Singh & Macdonald
2017, Petersen et al. 2020b, Fig. 1.). This latest assessment resulted in the species
maintaining its status as globally Vulnerable.
The 2021 assessment of mainland cloud-
ed leopard triggered the criteria for
Vulnerable due to inferred population reduc-
tions of >30% over the past three generations
(21 years: 1999–2019) which have not ceased
(A2cd). Criterion A4cd was also triggered be-
cause populations continue to decline. The
assessment suggested that the global popu-
lation was likely fewer than 10,000 mature
individuals. Such a low population size would
also have been sufficient to trigger Vulnerable
under Criterion C1 if there existed robust es-
timates regarding the extent of population
decline. However, despite being a species
whose unique coat pattern allows for density
estimation within a capture-recapture frame-
work, few studies have monitored the trajec-
tory of a population at a single site over time.
One study, which showed a 90% probability of
a decline in the density of mainland clouded
leopard in Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park,
Lao PDR between 2013 and 2017 (Rasphone
et al. 2021), is currently the only published
estimate of a site-specific change in main-
land clouded leopard abundance during the
review period. Long-term monitoring of main-
land clouded leopard abundance within priori-
ty sites was therefore strongly recommended
by the assessment in order to more accurately
estimate rates of population change.
Population declines of mainland clouded
leopard are driven by a combination of direct
exploitation and targeted hunting, incidental
mortality due to snares set for other spe-
cies (although any mainland clouded leopard
caught would likely enter trade), and habitat
loss. Snaring has been implicated in the de-
clines of many ground-dwelling forest depen-
dent species throughout Cambodia, Lao PDR,
and Viet Nam (hereafter Indochina), including
big cats (Rasphone et al. 2019, Rostro-García
et al. 2016), and it is likely to have impacted
Mainland Clouded Leopard populations in all
three countries (Fig. 2). In Cambodia and Lao
PDR, intensification of snaring throughout
forests and protected areas occurred during
the assessment period (Gray et al. 2018). As
a result of snaring mortality and other illegal
hunting, mainland clouded leopard appears
absent or very rare in several protected areas
where the species should occur, particularly
within Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Viet Nam
and Cambodia (e.g. Coudrat, 2021, Greenspan
et al. 2021). At many sites where the species
has been detected (often as by-catch from
camera-trap efforts focusing on tiger Panthe-
ra tigris), detections were insufficient to es-
timate density, suggesting that population
densities across large areas of the species’
range may be lower than those reported in
the literature (Coudrat 2021).
Significant resources have been allocat-
ed in South and South-east Asia to the
conservation of tigers, which are sympatric
with mainland clouded leopards across ma-
ny parts of the species’ range. Presumably,
short communication
Fig. 1. Camera-trap images of Mainland Clouded Leopard from across the species’ range. Clockwise from top-left: Kawthoolei-Myan-
mar photo Kawthoolei Forestry Department; Bhutan, photo Bhutan DoFPS; WWF-Bhutan/Canada; University of Southampton, Panthera;
Southern Cardamom National Park, Cambodia photo Wildlife Alliance; Assam, India photo Aaranyak – J. Borah.
CATnews 74 Winter 2021
37
the site-security and anti-poaching activities
in place for tigers will also benefit main-
land clouded leopards. However, while tiger-
mainland clouded leopard interactions are
relatively unknown, it has been documented
among carnivores that subordinate species
may be displaced by dominant ones (Harihar
et al. 2011). This process generally results in
subordinate species being displaced to mar-
ginal areas where there are perhaps less in-
tense site-security/anti-poaching measures.
In order to conserve mainland clouded leop-
ards, it is critical to implement anti-poaching
measures both inside and outside of protected
areas. Additionally, in the regions where
mainland clouded leopards exist outside of
protected areas, it is important to understand
the extent of human mainland clouded leop-
ard conflicts and establish effective mitigation
measures to prevent retaliatory killings.
As with other species that occur throughout
the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot, there are
major differences in the conservation status
of mainland clouded leopard between 1) In-
dochina-China; 2) Thailand-Malaysia, and 3)
North-east India and the Himalayas. Similar to
tiger and leopard Panthera pardus, mainland
cloud-ed leopard are close to extirpation in
Indochina-China, surviving within a few pro-
tected areas in Thailand, still quite widely
distributed within Malaysia, and seemingly
secure in suitable habitat within India, Nepal
and Bhutan. These three South Asian coun-
tries have governments largely supportive of
conservation, and adequately staffed, well-
managed protected areas (Jhala et al. 2021).
The extent to which North-east India, Nepal,
and Bhutan are able to avoid of the intense
hunting-driven defaunation and infrastruc-
ture-driven habitat loss, which have plagued
mainland South-east Asia, will be critical to
the future of mainland clouded leopard and
many other species. Myanmar represents a
significant component of the range of main-
land clouded leopard. Although the status
of the species there is unclear, threats and
trends are more likely to be similar to those
within Indochina than across the Indian sub-
continent. The tragic current political, public
health, and human-itarian situation within
Myanmar will likely further increase pres-
sures on the species.
In eastern Myanmar, the assessment was
strengthened using data collected by the
Karen National Union’s Kawthoolei Forestry
Department, an indigenous Karen led orga-
nization who manage important protected
and unprotected areas of mainland clouded
leopard habitat in the transboundary Daw-
na Tenasserim Landscape. The protected area
system and land management regime of the
Kawthoolei Forestry Department differs from
the central Myanmar Government. The as-
sessment team struggled to obtain recent and
reliable information from China. Strengthen-
ing Chinese language participation in Red
List Assessments such as this is recom-
mended. Additional information on trends
in trade-driven threats to mainland clouded
leopard, including the use of bones in medi-
cinal pastes and tonics, is needed and would
have strengthened the assessment.
Based on the information collated during the
assessment, mainland clouded leopard may
be closer to the threshold of globally Endan-
gered than Near Threatened. However,
due to the Red List Categories and Criteria
guidelines, any future extirpations or signi-
ficant population declines in Indochina and
Myanmar could under certain circumstances
lead to future down listing. That is because
as these populations become smaller their
contribution to overall global trends for the
species is reduced. If, in the future, main-
land cloud-ed leopard were restricted to
small but stable populations in well man-
aged landscapes in Malaysia, Thailand,
Bhutan, India and Nepal, the species might
trigger Least Concern despite loss from
>75% of the historic range. By comparing a
species’ status against its full historic ran-
ge, and population functionality across all
ecological settings, the newly developed
Green Status (Grace et al. 2021) will be a
valuable tool to better assess long-term ran-
ge wide recovery for this ecologically sig-ni-
ficant and iconic species of mainland Asian
forests.
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mainland clouded leopard IUCN Red List status update
CATnews 74 Winter 2021
38
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1* WWF Tigers Alive Initiative, Phnom Penh, Cam-
bodia
*<tgray@wwf-tigers.org>
2 Aaranyak, 13 Tayab Ali Byelane, Bishnu Rabha
Path, Beltola Tinali-Bhetapara Link Road,
Beltola, Guwahati, Assam, India
3 Association Anoulak, Lao PDR
4 Friends of Nature, Kathmandu, Nepal
5 S.P.E.C.I.E.S. - The Society for the Preservation
of Endangered Carnivores and their Internatio-
nal Ecological Study, Ventura, California, USA
6 Karen Wildlife Conservation Initiative, 10A
Dunford St, Willagee, WA 6156, Australia
7 WCS Malaysia, Kuching, Malaysia
8 Conservation Ecology Program, King Mongkut's
University of Technology Thonburi, 49 Thakham,
Bangkhuntien, Bangkok 10150, Thailand
9 WildCRU, Zoology, University of Oxford, The
Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney House, Abin-
gdon Road, Tubney, Abingdon, OX13 5QL, UK.
10 Panthera, New York, New York, United States
of America
short communication
ERWIN WILIANTO1*, DEDE AULIA RAHMAN2,3, DESY SATYA CHANDRADEWI4, IRENE MARGA-
RETH ROMARIA PINONDANG3,5 AND HARIYO TABAH WIBISONO1,6
Better knowledge for better
management: Javan leopard
is downlisted to Endangered
The latest assessment of the Javan leopard Panthera pardus melas for the IUCN Red
List of Threatened SpeciesTM resulted on revised categorization of the species from
Critically Endangered (CR) to Endangered (EN). This downlisting was defined based
on better information and data quality about the geographical distribution, popula-
tion size, and threats. However, this re-categorization of the status does not neces-
sarily imply an improvement in population conditions and decreased threats, nor is
it evidence of the conservation intervention success. This can also be seen from the
fact, that the Javan leopard is very close to classify for Critically Endangered under
criterion C2a(i) (small population size and decline, and small subpopulation size). We
believe that the condition of the leopard in the wild is not yet viable and the level of
threat is still at a concerning level. Therefore, it must be monitored and reassessed
periodically, using new information as a basis for planning and implementing the
necessary interventions.
The Red list of Threatened SpeciesTM is a plat-
form developed by the IUCN, as a standard
assessment tool used globally to document
the risk of extinction of a taxon. The previous
assessment by Ario et al. (2008), was relied
only on mean leopard density in two nation-
al parks which was then extrapolated to a to-
tal area of 10 habitat patches considered as
the geographic distributions. This assess-
ment defined the effective population size
as the number of mature individuals equal to
50% of the island-wide estimated population.
Therefore, the number of mature individuals
of Javan leopard was fewer than 250 individ-
uals with no single subpopulation larger than
50 individ-uals. Given the data limitation, this
calculation was acceptable as the best ap-
proach; and therefore, the subspecies met the
category of Critically Endangered under cri-
terion C2a(i).
The latest assessment was supported by larg-
er datasets and robust analytical procedure
from several studies. A total of 162 unique
individuals were documented using came-
ra traps from more than 42,000 trap-days,
resulting in population density estimates in 9
landscapes. Wibisono et al (2018), provide a
better understanding on the distribution of the
Javan leopard habitat in 22 suitable land-
scapes (Fig. 2). Alongside the population
density estimates, the distribution modeling
helped us to estimate the current population
status. Applying the precautionary principle,
we used three criteria to estimate the island-
wide population. First, we used the Hierarchi-
cal Cluster Analysis to classify 13 landscapes
with no density estimate, based on similari-
ty in habitat characteristics. Second, within a
cluster, we used the lowest existing density
estimate associat-ed with the cluster to calcu-
late the population size of a given landscape.
Third, we used only prime forest habitats, or
57% of the total suitable landscape area (i.e.,
Wibisono et al. 2018), as a proxy to calculate
the island-wide effective population size of
the Javan leopard. This resulted in an island-
wide population size of 319 (188–571) mature
individuals. This assessment also revealed
that no single subpop-ulation had more than
50 individuals, except three national parks,
Article
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A global status assessment for mainland leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis was published in July 2022 for the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. The previous assessment on the species was carried out in 2015 when both mainland and Sunda leopard cat Prionailurus javanensis were still considered to be a single species. There has been more research on the mainland leopard cat, albeit with help of by-catch data, after the previous assessment which has enhanced our knowledge of the species’ ecology, abundance and status in certain parts of its range. This has shown that the species still has sustainable populations in most of the areas surveyed and that there is no evidence that it would qualify for any threatened category across its wide range. As such, the recent assessment has categorized the species as Least Concern (LC) as did the previous assessment.
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ContextMaintaining landscape connectivity for large felids by preserving and restoring corridors between core habitats is crucial to their long-term conservation. Tiger, leopard, and clouded leopard populations occur in isolated habitat patches across the Dawna-Tanintharyi Landscape (DTL) of Kawthoolei (all Karen National Union administrative areas in Myanmar) and Thailand.Objectives We analyzed connectivity among 18 habitat patches in this transboundary region based on large felid presence and expert opinion of large felid dispersal requirements.Methods Least-cost corridor and circuit theory analyses were used to identify corridors, determine corridor quality and their relative importance to connectivity in the landscape, and pinpoint bottlenecks to movement.ResultsForty-eight corridors were identified. Lower resistances to dispersal were in forested montane areas. High-quality corridors remained in the northern DTL and south of Tanintharyi Nature Reserve in Kawthoolei based on cost-weighted distance to least-cost path ratio. Pairwise current pinch point analyses revealed a possible landscape level bottleneck to movement north of Thailand’s Western Forest Complex. Area corrected centrality scores indicated smaller habitat patches disproportionately contributed to landscape connectivity.Conclusions The DTL may retain connectivity across the landscape if conservation actions are taken to protect integral habitats and corridors. Conservation efforts that expand the protected area network in Kawthoolei, either by increasing the size of current protected area habitats or by demarcating new protected areas in regions with confirmed felid presence, will aid DTL connectivity. The DTL should be managed to preserve connectivity on both sides of the border, entailing international governmental, indigenous community, and non-governmental collaboration.
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Determining the density trends of a guild of species can help illuminate their interactions, and the impacts that humans might have on them. We estimated the density trends from 2013 to 2017 of the clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa, leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis and marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata in Nam Et—Phou Louey National Park (NEPL), Laos, using camera trap data and spatial capture-recapture models. Mean (± SD) density estimates (individuals/100 km²) for all years were 1.77 ± 0.30 for clouded leopard, 1.50 ± 0.30 for leopard cat, and 3.80 ± 0.70 for marbled cat. There was a declining trend in density across the study years for all three species, with a ≥ 90% probability of decline for clouded leopard and leopard cat and an 83% probability of decline for marbled cat. There was no evidence that mesopredator release occurred as a result of tiger (Panthera tigris) and leopard (P. pardus) extirpations. We believe that snaring, the factor that led to the extirpation of tiger and leopard in NEPL, is now contributing to the decline of smaller felids, to an extent that over-rides any potential effects of mesopredator release on their densities and interactions. We recommend that the NEPL managers implement a more systematic and intensified snare removal program, in concert with extensive community outreach and engagement of local people to prevent the setting of snares. These actions might be the only hope for saving the remaining members of the felid community in NEPL.
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In a world where biodiversity is on the decline, examples of conservation success especially of large carnivores are of interest to policy makers and conservation practitioners. Herein, we elucidate the conservation actions that have been responsible for the recovery of tigers and their ecosystems in India; a feat many range countries are struggling to achieve. Demand‐driven poaching resulted in extinctions at two prestigious Tiger Reserves. India's Prime Minister constituted a Tiger Task Force that led to the formation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, scientific monitoring of tiger populations and incentivized voluntary relocation of human settlements from tiger reserves. Tiger Conservation Plans, cognizant of constraints imposed by small reserves embedded in human land uses, aimed to create source populations within tiger reserves with corridor links between sources and to sink habitats. Metapopulation management enhanced occupancy and long‐term viability of tiger populations. Tiger Protection Force and technology like MSTrIPES, E‐eye and drones effectively reduced poaching. Community support was attempted through profit sharing, mitigating human–tiger conflict with a fast, fair and transparent compensation process and removal of problem tigers. Reintroduction and reinforcement of tigers and prey assisted natural recovery. Political will ensured resources. Tigers were monitored using Spatially Explicit Capture–Recapture with camera traps and ecological covariates. In 2018–2019 from 381,000 km2 of tiger habitat, 89,000 km2 was occupied. Currently, 50 tiger reserves cover 72,750 km2 and harbour 65% of India's ~3,000 tigers. Tiger reserves are managed with an annual investment of ~1,000 USD/km2 with one staff per 6.5 km2. Tiger reserves were regularly evaluated for Management Effectiveness. Tiger reserves were valued to have benefit flows between 76,900 and 292,300 US$ km−2year−1. In the Anthropocene it is unlikely that tigers will survive without targeted conservation investments. Political commitment and resources can become available for conservation when people and tigers benefit simultaneously. Conscious balance by governments between development for rapid economic prosperity and long‐term ecological security will ensure that wild tigers and their intact ecosystems will survive for future generations. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article. एक ऐसी दुनिया में जहाँ जैव विविधता घट रही हैं, विशेष रूप से बड़े मांसाहारी जानवरों के संरक्षण की सफलता के उदाहरण नीति निर्माता और संरक्षण कर्ताओं के लिए रूचि रखते है| इस लेख में, हम उन संरक्षण कार्यों को स्पष्ट कर रहे हैं जो भारत में बाघों और उनकी परिस्थिति तंत्र की बहाली के लिए जिम्मेदार हैं| यह एक ऐसी उपलब्धी है जो बाघों के इलाके वाले देश हांसिल करने के लिए संघर्ष कर रहे हैं| हाल ही में वैश्विक मांग से प्रेरित अवैध शिकार के कारण दो बाघ संरक्षण क्षेत्रों से बाघ विलुप्तह हो गए, इस कारण भारत के प्रधान मंत्री ने एक बाघ कार्यकारणी बल का घट्न किया| इस कार्यकारणी बल ने राष्ट्र बाघ संरक्षण प्राधिकरण, वन्य जीव अपराध नियंत्रण ब्यूरो, बाघों की आबादी की वैज्ञानिक निगरानी और बाघों के संरक्षण क्षेत्रों से मानव बस्तियों के स्वेच्छिक पुनर्वास को प्रोत्साहित करने का कार्य किया| बाघ संरक्षण योजना इसको ध्यान में रख कर बनाई गयी, के बाघ की ज़्यादातर जनसंख्या छोटे क्षेत्रों में बिखरी हुई है| जिसके लिए जन संख्या क्षेत्रों को गलियारों से जोड़ना जरूरी है| मेटापापुलेशन प्रबंधन को अपनाने से बाघों के आबादी को संरक्षण क्षेत्रों में अधिक समय तक जीवित रहने लायक बनाया| बाघ संरक्षण बल और तकनीकी का उपयोग, जैसे, एम् स्ट्राइप्स, इ‐ऑय, और ड्रोन्स ने प्रभावी रूप से अवैध शिकार को काम करने में मदद की| लोगों से सामुदायिक समर्थन का प्रयास इस प्रकार किया गया, जैसे लोगों को संरक्षण से होने वाले लाभ में हिस्से दारी हो, मुआवजा निष्पक्ष और पारदर्शी हो, मानव बाघ संघर्ष को काम करने के उपाय कारगर हो| बाघों और चौपायों के पुनर्स्थापन और बचाव से प्राकृतिक बहाली हुई| राजनीतिक सुनिश्चिता ने संसाधन मुहैय्या कराने में मदद की| बाघों की जनसंख्या कैमेरा ट्राप द्वारा स्पेश्यली‐ एक्सप्लीसिट‐ कैप्चर‐रीकैप्चर पद्धती से एवं पारस्थितिक सहसमानयोजकों का इस्तमाल कर की गयी| २०१८‐१९ में ३८१,००० वर्ग की|मी| वन क्षेत्र में कार्य किया गया, जिसमें ५० बाघ संरक्षण क्षेत्रों का ७२,२१८ वर्ग की.मी. भी शामिल है| इन बाघ संरक्षण क्षेत्रों में देश के ३,००० बाघों में से ६५% इन क्षेत्रों में पाए जाते है| बाघ संरक्षण क्षेत्रों के प्रभंधन में १००० यू यस $/ की.मी. का व्यय प्रति वर्ष होता है एवं प्रति ६0.५ वर्ग की.मी. में एक सरकारी कर्मचारी इन क्षेत्रों की देखभाल करता है| बाघ संरक्षण क्षेत्रों का नियमित रूप से प्रभंधन मूल्यांकन उनकी प्रभावशीलता मापने के लिए किया जाता है| बाघ संरक्षण क्षेत्रों से लगभग ७६,९०० से २९२,३०० यू यस $ प्रति वर्ग की.मी. का फायदा समाज को होता है| आज के मानव आधारित युग में यह संभावना नहीं है की लक्षित संरक्षण निवेश के बिना बाघ जीवित रहेंगे| राजनीतीक प्रतिभद्धता और सनसाधन संरक्षण तभी उपलब्ध हो सकते है जब लोग और बाघ एक साथ लाभवंतित हो| आर्थिक समृद्धि और दीर्घकालिक परिस्थितिक सुरक्षा के विकास के लिए, सरकारों द्वारा संतुलन सुनिश्चित करेगा की जंगली बाघ और उनके परिस्थितिक तंत्र भविष्य की पीढ़ी के लिए जीवित रहेंगे| A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.
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