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LEARNING TO CLIMB

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one had ever attempted to do so itat of dense forests. The tiny A clouded with a clouded leopard. However, ats nervously trail behind their leopard can with only about 10,000 clouded eepers, which is good. “Initially catch monkeys, leopards left in their natural the cubs have to be under the birds, and habitat in Southeast Asia, the control of the keeper,” Ashraf squirrels staff decides to try. says. “The role of a keeper is to in trees. “When animals are this rare, rovide security—much like a every single individual matters to ter parent.” the population,” says Ian Robinson, er one week, the keepers IFAW’s head of wildlife rehabilitation.“And we remove the leashes so that Runa and Kata believe that wildlife belongs in the wild. When can climb and jump around freely. Clouded animals are taken out of the wild, they ought leopards are arboreal, which means they to be put back.” spend most of their time up in trees. Adult clouded leopards are acrobats of the forLEARNING TO CLIMB est: They climb along branches while clingBasumatary and fellow veterinarian Bhaskar ing underneath like sloths, hang upside Choudhury—along with WTI’s Wild Rescue down from their hind legs like monkeys, director, N.V.K. Ashraf—begin attending to and scramble headfirst down the sides of the clouded leopards. The baby leopards are trees like squirrels. These young clouded assigned two keepers who will stay with them leopards have to learn all this. “They’re almost 24/7. Throughout the rehabilitation, very comfortable climbing, but they do fall these keepers are the only humans who regudown every once in a while,” Ashraf says. larly come into close contact with the cats. “They have to learn which branches are the This way, the cubs will retain their instinctive thinnest they can hold on to.” mistrust of all other humans, which will be BEGINNING THE HUNT essential for survival in the wild. The keepers These climbing skills aren’t just for playing choose names for the orphans: Runa and around, though. Adult clouded leopards are Kata, taken from the name of the forest master predators that stalk and hunt prey near where they were rescued, Runikhata. such as monkeys, birds, and deer. To help The clouded leopards begin going trigger their predatory instincts, liver soup on leashed walks through their natural

IFAW / WTI A. MOOKERJEE (PLAYING, CLIMBING); IFAW / WTI S. KADUR (WALKING, PORTRAIT)

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