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in search of the clouded leopard
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By Jesse Oak Taylor-Ide

A 17-year-old American continues a family tradition of conservation in India.

Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

Yesterday we had a visit from Pekyom Ringu, the deputy chief wildlife warden of Arunachal Pradesh. “That was a mountain pit viper,” he said, explaining why the men wasted no time in killing the snake. “Had it bit you instead of striking at your camera, you would only have time to say, ‘I leave my boots to him, my dao to him, my Swiss bank account number is such and such. . . . ’ And that would be the end. My man, you would be dead within five minutes.”

This morning I’m sitting outside my hut in Pange, sipping tea and preparing the camera units we will set today. The dew glistens on the high grass and trees surrounding the camp, reflecting rays of sunlight through a thousand tiny prisms. The mist, rising gently off the hills and ridges, reveals the thick jungle canopy and huge ferns crowding in the shade of the trees.

Lampung, wearing flip-flops and a long red cloth wrapped around his waist like a skirt, is squatting on some rocks in the middle of the stream below camp, emptying the fish traps for our breakfast. Sha sits beside me on a folding chair, enjoying an early morning cigarette after a bath in the river. A strong man with a quick sense of humor, he too wears flip-flops, crammed on over his socks, which are pulled up to cover the cuffs of his pajama pants to keep out the leeches. “The leeches are so smart,” he says, his voice breaking the morning reverie, “they do not let us rest even when we take a bath.” When Sha doesn’t have a dao in his hand, he walks unburdened except for a water bottle and cigarettes, often with his hands clasped calmly behind his back like a man out for a stroll.

Get the whole story in the pages of National Geographic Magazine.

Since National Geographic went to press, floods devastated this area of northeastern India.

In More to Explore the National Geographic Magazine team shares some of their best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is the least known of the leopard species, which include spotted and snow leopards. Cloudeds are elusive forest dwellers, and most of what is known about them comes from observing them in captivity. The animals are amazingly agile in trees and have been seen running down tree trunks headfirst, climbing on horizontal branches with their backs to the ground, and hanging by their hind feet. Clouded leopards are endangered throughout their South Asian habitat, where there is an extensive market for their distinctly marked pelts.

Future Generations
The nonprofit organization Future Generations encourages local people in northeastern India, Nepal, and Tibet to improve health care and education and to manage their forests, wildlife population, and natural resources.

Wildlife Conservation Society
Based at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, the Wildlife Conservation Society strives to protect wildlife and native habitats around the world.

Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan
The American Zoo and Aquarium Association posts information about clouded leopards, as well as many other animals.

The World Conservation Union
The World Conservation Union encourages and assists societies worldwide to preserve the integrity and diversity of nature.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
This website provides information about conservation issues and lists endangered species throughout the world.

India’s Ministry of Tourism
Offers general information for visitors to Arunachal Pradesh, including attractions, climate, and a calendar of events.

Discover India
For general cultural, geographic, and political information about India, try this Indian government site.

Jackson, Peter and Kristin Nowell, eds. Wild Cats, Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, 1996.

Johnson, Kirk. “The Clouded Leopard: The ‘Littlest’ Big Cat,” Endangered Species Update, Vol 17, No. 2, March/April 2000.

Singh, K.S., ed. People of India: Arunachal Pradesh, Vol. XIV. Seagull Books, 1995.

Taylor-Ide, Daniel. Something Hidden Behind the Ranges, A Himalayan Quest. Mercury House, 1995.

“King of the Clouds.” National Geographic World, April 1993, 18-21.

“India’s Black Market is Alive—Wildlife Is Not.” National Geographic, July 2000.

Ward, Geoffrey. The Year of the Tiger. National Geographic Books, 1998.

Ward, Geoffrey. “India: Fifty Years of Independence.” National Geographic, May 1997, 2-57.

Ward, Geoffrey. “Making Room for Wild Tigers.” National Geographic, Dec. 1997, 2-35.

Ward, Geoffrey. “India’s Wildlife Dilemma.” National Geographic, May 1992, 2-29.

Rinard, Judith E. “Wild Jungle Journey.” National Geographic World, Jan. 2000, 9-13.


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