The Sumatran clouded leopard is a type of wild cat that inhabits the island of Sumatra. This animal is nocturnal, aka active hunting at night.
The main feature of an adult clouded leopard is gray-brown fur with a cloud-like pattern and black spots on its body. The black spots on the head are smaller, there are white spots behind the ears. Short legs with large feet, and a long tail with black stripes and spots.
Data or information about clouded leopards in the forests of Aceh Province, including in the Leuser Ecosystem [KEL], is very difficult. One reason is the lack of research.
“We are interested in doing research, but we are worried about the data,” said Raiza, a Biology student, at Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh.
In addition, not many academics and researchers are aware of the types of wild cats, including the clouded leopard.
Since July 2021 until now, Save the Indonesian Nature and Threatened Species [SINTAS] Indonesia together with the Leuser Conservation Forum [FKL] and the Forest Management Unit (KPH) of the Aceh Province Environment and Forestry Service [DLHK], have conducted a survey of wild cats in KEL. This is done to strengthen the conservation of wild cats in their natural habitat.
“Apart from the Sumatran tiger, we got several pictures of clouded leopards, golden cats, rock cats, and jungle cats,” said SINTAS Indonesia’s Liaison Officer, Meidina, recently.
Erwin Willianto, a wild cat observer and member of the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group, explained that globally, clouded leopards are divided into two types. Neofelis nebulosa which is in mainland Asia and the Sunda clouded leopard or Neofelis died whose habitat is in Indonesia.
Research conducted by Andreas Wilting, Per Christiansen, Andrew C. Kitchener, Yvonne JM Kemp, Laurentius Ambu, and Jörns Fickel, which was published in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution in February 2011, explains that clouded leopards in Sumatra and Kalimantan are different.
Hunting Clouded leopard
Hunting for the clouded leopard as a pet still occurs. On Wednesday, October 2, 2019, personnel from the Criminal Investigation Unit of the Banda Aceh Police arrested a resident of Darul Imarah District, Aceh Besar District, HR , for raising and selling two clouded leopard cubs.
To the police, HR admitted that the branch kitten was obtained from a forest area in Babahrot, Southwest Aceh District, Aceh Province. This forest area is included in the Leuser Ecosystem Area.
The Manager of the Suar Galang Justice Institute [LSGK], Missi Muizzan, said that clouded leopard hunting did occur in the forests of Aceh. According to Missi, from the several cases that were revealed, generally, the perpetrators sold them outside Aceh.
Rock Cat, A Type Of Wild Cat Similar To A Clouded Leopard
The stone cat [ Pardofelis marmorata ] is a type of wild cat that is still found in Indonesian forests.
This species is small. Known as good at climbing and likes to live in trees. When descending, he was able to turn his head upside down.
“Little is known about its biological conditions and behavior,” said Meidina Fitriana, Liaison Officer of Save Indonesian Nature & Threatened Species/CINTAS Indonesia to Mongabay Indonesia, Friday [17/02/2023].
This rock cat has something in common with the clouded leopard. Both have distinctive and irregular spotted patterns on their fur. The color of the rock cat’s hair is brownish-gray to reddish-yellow brown in wide spots. The color is paler in the middle. Meanwhile, on the legs, there are black spots, as well as on the head and neck which have black lines.
However, the appearance of this stone cat’s head looks short and round, compared to other cats. The forehead is wide and the pupils are large.
In Sumatra, stone cats are spread across the Bukit Barisan landscape from Aceh to Lampung.
The results of SINTAS identification through camera traps, this stone cat was found in Gunung Leuser National Park, Aceh.
Meanwhile, in the Riau Ecosystem Restoration [RER] area in the Kampar Peninsula, Riau, this species has been identified.
Medina explained, based on observations, this wild cat is a nocturnal territorial animal [active at night]. However, there were also findings of daytime activity, and most importantly, it was a solitary animal.
Distribution in Borneo
In Kalimantan, stone cats are observed quite often. Andrew J Hearn, Joanna Ross, Raymond Alfred, and Rustam’s research entitled ” Predicted distribution of the marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata [ Mammalia: Carnivora: Felidae ] on Borneo “in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 2016, explains that there are 106 records of the cat’s discovery from 2001 until 2011.
In Indonesian territory, such as South Kalimantan, researchers suspect it is in the Meratus mountains. “Surveys of wild animals in this province are very rare, intensive research is needed to find out their distribution,” the researcher wrote.
In Central Kalimantan, the habitat that is considered very suitable for rock cats is Sabangau National Park and the surrounding forest. In West Kalimantan, the potential areas are Gunung Niut and Gunung Palung.
Based on the IUCN World Conservation Institute’s report, the stone cat is Near Threatened / NT or close to endangered. The main threat to Marbleb Cat’s life is the conversion of forests into settlements, large-scale plantations, as well as agriculture. Poaching is also a serious threat because skin, meat, and bones are often traded.
Clouded Leopards are Increasingly Targeted
Clouded leopard, an animal that is often the target of hunting. Last February in Jambi, a joint team of officers from the Bukit Seblat National Park (TNBKS), the Directorate General of Law Enforcement (Gakkum) of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), and the Jambi Regional Police (Polda) thwarted an attempt to trade in leopard skin and bones. This clouded leopard skin is to be sold for IDR 35 million and one kilogram of bone, is valued at IDR 3 million. The two perpetrators received sentences from the Jambi District Court last July, respectively two years and 1.6 years.
Habitat destruction and hunting are serious threats to the survival of the clouded leopard population in Sumatra. The clouded leopard skin, which used to be as high as Rp. 5 million, now has soared to more than Rp. 50 million. There is a trend to keep this type of wild cat as a pet.
Based on the observations of the Indonesian Flying Foundation, over the past two years, there have been four cases of trading in the clouded leopard. “Two cases of trading in skins and two cases of trading in live clouded leopards,” said Marison Guciano, Director of the Indonesian Flying Foundation.
In 2015, Polda Metro Jaya thwarted an attempt to trade in clouded leopards that were to be brought out of the country. This clouded leopard was bought by Libyans to be kept as pets in the Middle East. It is valued at IDR 85 million.
The clouded leopards that are traded mostly come from the Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS) and Gunung Leuser National Park (TNGL). Clouded leopard traders and hunters have the same network as the Sumatran tiger.
Maison identified that there are two groups of traders in the cloud, namely conventional traders and those who are “technologically literate”. From this observation, the conventional traders are the ones selling the skins and bones of the clouded leopards. The pattern is the same as tiger skin traders, very secretive, and must go through intermediaries in their network.
“Technologically literate” traders usually offer the Clouded Clouds through buying and selling forums on social media such as Facebook. These dealers target lovers of exotic pets. They offer live clouded leopards to be pets.
This human greed, he said, increasingly threatens the survival of the clouded leopard. This predator is classified as a protected animal, as stated in the Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry Number P.20/MENLHK/SETJEN/KUM.1/6/2018. The clouded leopard is also on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.
Difficult accurate data
This wild cat is rather difficult to find and seems mysterious so there is no accurate data on the population of this species. Because it is difficult to detect, the researchers used camera traps to observe the clouded leopard. They installed cameras at 671 points in the TNKS with a total area of 16,000 km 2.
The camera is installed for 55,856-night captures. This sighting data is integrated with deforestation data in the TNKS area for the last 17 years. The data collection process in the field lasted for two years.
Data from these camera traps also provides information that clouded leopards prefer plains with moderate altitudes, dense forest cover, and minimal human activity. “When compared to the golden cat, the clouded leopard is very sensitive to humans,” said Iding.
He gave an example, if an activity such as illegal logging occurs in an area, the effects of the clouded leopard can be felt up to a 15-kilometer radius.
This species has a wide home range and a ” dispersal phase “, in which individuals begin to venture out of their territory in search of a better habitat or to find a mate (breeding).
Admittedly, Nurhamidi, Head of the National Park Management Section for Region I of the TNKS, has never conducted a clouded leopard population survey. This does not mean that the TNKS does not pay attention to the clouded leopard.
Even though the main task of the PHSKS team was monitoring tigers, in the field when monitoring with camera traps, clouded leopards were also recorded. “There are no special security activities for clouded leopards, just like general patrols,” explained Nurhamidi.
Since 2004, the KSNP is one of three national parks in Sumatra which are part of the World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).
This area was chosen because it has tropical forests as a contributor to life, not only for animals but also for the surrounding community. The condition of the TNKS has been eroded by encroachment and road construction proposals.
He said the loss of forest cover could result in the clouded leopard habitat being fragmented and potentially cutting off connectivity between groups. Disconnection, the connection between these population groups can cause numbers to decrease and be isolated so that the gene pool ( gene pool ) does not increase and diversify. If this condition occurs, he said, this species will certainly become extinct.
To remove the TNKS from the list of world heritage in danger, the Indonesian government made an action plan. The government will carry out a strategic environmental assessment in every development plan. Biodiversity monitoring is one part of this strategy.
According to Iding, modifications to area boundaries can be carried out so that monitoring of core habitat is more focused so that species conservation efforts are more targeted.
According to him, clouded leopards can become surrogate species, groups of species that can represent various species in an area. This replacement species is a common term in systems-based conservation planning using the species as an indicator of landscape habitat and system conditions.
Substitute species, he says, for comprehensive conservation planning that supports multiple species and habitats within a given landscape or geographic area.
Iding said that making the clouded leopard a substitute species was one of the strategies if certain conditions existed in that area.