This month finally saw the clouded leopard get her upgrade into the long-awaited new enclosure that has been under construction for the last 8 months. Though two cages have been completed for the two individuals that were surrendered to Matang, tragically the youngest of the two died weeks ago. Both individuals suffered from seizures around Christmas time, which were attributed to acute hyponatraemia – an electrolyte disturbance in which the sodium concentration in the serum is lower than normal, generally caused by excessive fluid consumption. With extensive veterinary treatment, they did recover from this, though the youngest did not fully. Unfortunately he eventually died last month. We have not seen hyponatraemia in any of our animals prior to this, and the severity of the condition, which left both cats in a coma for a short while, led us to think that we may lose both of them. It was very sad to lose the youngest one, just weeks before he got to try out his new living space. It does mean that the older female can now spread out through both enclosures, and enjoy a more substantial upgrade in living space.
The transfer went very smoothly, though when the leopard was released into the outdoor space she made directly for the entrance to the night den area. As we suspected, she appeared quite daunted by the enclosure and was keen to enter a space more akin in size to the cage she had been kept in. This discomfort towards the enclosure highlights the difficulties in releasing animals that have been kept captive; we tend to assume that an animal will be grateful and happy (anthropomorphic though it is) to be moved from a small cage to a large enclosure, or from an enclosure/cage to the wild but the move into larger space is often highly stressful for an animal that has become accustomed to small, secure areas.
We kept a close eye on her over the following days, and she actually adapted very quickly to the new space, to the extent that we had to restrict her to the night den on a couple of occasions due to her immense excitement, and her insistence on exploring every tree trunk and every corner, at high speed, was causing her to massively overheat! I am looking forward to trying out different enrichment devices for her, and seeing her make the most of the athletic prowess possessed by these cats – they are the best tree climbers of the felines, with huge paws and a very long tail serving as adaptations to aid their arboreal lifestyle. They can also jump incredibly high; there have been no opportunities yet for this clouded leopard to express these natural behaviours, so it is very exciting and rewarding to observe her in a space with the capacity for climbing, hunting, jumping, scent marking, prowling and of course, sleeping, which is an important past time for all cats. Now she has the means to sleep off of the ground on branches and in trees, which must be much more comfortable for her, and is much more in tune with natural behaviour.
Our huge thanks go out to all volunteers that chipped in to help this building project, from the first bricks that were wheel-barrowed to the site to the enrichment structures that were built inside to finish the area last month. Many of you developed a soft spot for this beautiful creature, and I hope that some of you will return to see her in her new environment in the future. For now though, you will have to make do with the photographs posted to accompany this blog!
By Natasha Beckerson