One of the world’s most beautiful cats (my favorite is still Pallas’s Cat) is the clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa, a denizen of southeast Asian forests—and highly endangered. Habitat loss and poaching have reduced the cat’s population to around 10,000, and that’s not many.
That’s why people are excited about the birth of a clouded leopard cub in Tampa, Florida’s Lowry Park Zoo—that and the fact that the cub is adorable, what with its little squeaks and all. Here is the two-week-old cub, which is simply overwhelming the Internet, especially Facebook (even I’ve posted it):
And here is video from 2011 of a one-month-old cub in the Nashv9lle zoo:
But although some places, like the Tampa Bay Times, aver that this birth is a good sign for the species’ survival, what does that survival mean if the animals are kept in zoos—jails for endangered species? Even the zoo is overly optimistic; as the Times notes:
“This birth signifies a milestone accomplishment in our conservation programs at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo,” said Dr. Larry Killmar, vice president of animal science and conservation. “Species survival programs for animals like clouded leopards take years of planning, development and staff commitment. This kitten will contribute to the long term viability of our conservation efforts within the managed population, as well as range countries.”
I’m not sure what that last sentence means, but I translate it roughly like this, “Since we can now breed this cat in captivity, it gives us hope that we can have them to see behind bars for years to come, and of course we can always hope that they can be reintroduced.”
Yeah, right—not with poachers around and habitat loss rampant in their range. We simply have too many damn people.
Here is what we’ll lose, except for those in animal jails: