The Indochinese Leopard

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3 weeks 14 hours ago - 3 weeks 2 hours ago #5101 by Paul T
The Indochinese Leopard was created by Paul T
The Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) is a leopard subspecies native to mainland Southeast Asia and southern China. In Indochina, leopards are very rare outside of protected areas and are threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation as well as poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. The name "leopard" comes from the Greek word leopardus, which is a combination of leon (lion) and pardus (panther)...............

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The Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) is a leopard subspecies native to mainland Southeast Asia and southern China. In Indochina, leopards are very rare outside of protected areas and are threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation as well as poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. The name "leopard" comes from the Greek word leopardus, which is a combination of leon (lion) and pardus (panther).

As with most large mammals the population trend is suspected to be decreasing and a recent survey of surveys by a group of prominent conservationists noted:

 ‘The [indochinese] leopard is extirpated in Singapore, likely extirpated in Laos and Vietnam, nearly extirpated in Cambodia and China, and has greatly reduced distributions in Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand. There are plausibly only two major strongholds remaining, which we consider priority sites: Peninsular Malaysia, and the Northern Tenasserim Forest Complex [Thailand]." [1]

In Thailand the the population estimate is just 400–800 total individuals, with only 175–350 breeding adults.

 

 

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Their range is essentially limited to the west of the country in a small number of forest complex’. These being in the Western Forest Complex and Kaeng Krachan-Kui Buri Forest Complex (collectively known as the Northern Tenasserim Forest Complex), Khlong Saeng-Khao Sok Forest Complex, Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary, Lum Num Pai-Salawin Forest Complex, and possibly in the Phu Khieo-Nam Nam Forest Complex where they have not been recorded for many years however a potential pug mark was found and cast in 2017 leaving hope they may still survive there.

I have been fortunate enough to be involved with attempting to photograph some of the Northern Tenasserim Forest Complex leopards over the last 4 years with the staff of the DNP. For the casual visitor wishing to catch a glimpse of one of these magnificent animals, be it a spotted individual or the melanistic (black) variety your best bet is probably going to be Huai Kha Khaeng WS, Kaeng Krachan NP or Kui Buri NP. Chances are higher in the early morning or dusk BUT I have even seen them at mid-day walking on the road in Kaeng Krachan National Park. Make no mistake about it though - if you do see one you can count yourself one of the fortunate ones as sightings are not that common, but your chances will increase in the drier months before the rains. 

In earlier attempts to photograph these magnificent wild cats the camera trapping team concentrated on just finding them and were happy with any photographic glimpse we could get but as we have continued over the years we have used our cumulative knowledge to try and get closer to the animals in an attempt to get some “character” in close-up images. And we have been very happy with the results - there is something about the Indochinese leopard’s face and stare. They are obviously highly intelligent animals with a high degree of curiosity for our cameras. They show no fear - just intrigue. Observing the cameras in an almost nonchalant manner much like the ingrained mannerisms of a domestic cat. They have become my favorite wild cat species to photograph, some of the other felids are more difficult to photograph but the character that the leopards show make them my favorite. 

 

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Paul Thompson is a member of the Thailand Wildlife Collective - a group of photographers who are creating a “conservation archive” of high quality wildlife images to be used by Thai conservation organizations to help promote conservation efforts and increase awareness of Thailand’s bio-diversity. Paul specialises in cryptic mammal photography using camera traps with Ian Edwardes. The collective also includes specialists Ton Smits and Geoff Potter. All the pictures in this article are of wild Indochinese leopards photographed in their natural habitat.

 

[1]  Endangered leopards: Range collapse of the Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) in Southeast Asia [2016] - S.Rostro-García, J.F.Kamler, E.Ash, G.R.Clements, L.Gibson, A.J.Lynam, R.McEwing, H.Naing, S.Paglia



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