cats of the canopy

Cats of the Canopy

As the smallest of the big cats, clouded leopards have fallen through the cracks of mainstream conservation efforts. Because they have been overshadowed by other charismatic Asian megafauna, very little is known about their status on local or even regional scales. However, it is precisely their unique ecological and evolutionary characteristics that make clouded leopards a potential flagship species, and is why they represent S.P.E.C.I.E.S. as our logo. In fact, the clouded leopard may possibly be related to the saber-tooth cat!

S.P.E.C.I.E.S. is working to not only collect important baseline information on the 2 species of clouded leopards, but also to inform the general public about the clouded leopard. In particular, S.P.E.C.I.E.S. aims to publicize the major threat facing clouded leopards today: oil palm displacement of natural habitats. By donating to projects like Project Neofelis or Cameras4Conservation, people can help support clouded leopard conservation.

To learn more about the clouded leopard and S.P.E.C.I.E.S. efforts to conserve this unique species, read the latest article at Purr and Roar here.

Can Taiwan’s Formosan clouded leopard claw its way back from extinction?

Today, 2 species of clouded leopard roam throughout Asia: Neofelis nebulosa (clouded leopard), and Neofelis diardi (the Sunda clouded leopard). These species are rarely glimpsed in the wild, and are now at risk of extinction. Indeed, only 4 years ago, a third type of clouded leopard, Neofelis nebulosa brachyura (the Formosan clouded leopard), was declared extinct from its home in Taiwan. However, questions remain as to whether the Formosan clouded leopard ever existed at all.

No clouded leopard has been seen in Taiwan for decades. For 16 years, camera traps and snares were set up to try and capture evidence of their existence, but not a single leopard was found. Still, most biologists believe the Formosan clouded leopard existed as a subspecies or subpopulation of N. nebulosa.

Now, conservationists hope to return the clouded leopard to the island of Taiwan. Taiwan has suitable habitat to support clouded leopard populations, and S.P.E.C.I.E.S. is working to determine how locals would feel about this reintroduction.

To learn more about this unusual extinction story, read Post Magazine’s article here.

A little cat goes a long way

Jaguarundis have the second-greatest north-south distribution of any wild cat in the Americas. They have historically been known to range from Argentina all the way to Arizona. However, as no one has ever photographed a wild jaguarundi  in Arizona, the question remains – are they actually there?

“The jaguarundi, for me, represents a big mystery,” says Giordano. “In some areas, they’re more like ghosts.”  Although it has been assumed that they are common and widespread in certain areas, basic information on where they live is incomplete. In Arizona, for instance, jaguarundis are frequently identified, but no evidence has been shown of their existence in the state.

Read more about the hunt for the jaguarundi in Arizona, featuring S.P.E.C.I.E.S. founder and director Anthony Giordano, below:

A little cat goes a long way

A clouded future: Asia’s enigmatic clouded leopard threatened by palm oil

The clouded leopard is so elusive that we didn’t know there were two species of this cat until 2006. Its elusiveness has made conservation efforts very difficult. Although both species are listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN, we know very little about their behavior or ecology. Because of this, they have been largely overlooked by both conservationists and the public.

It is known, however, that palm oil production is greatly affecting the clouded leopard. The clouded leopard’s habitat lies within three of the world’s top palm oil producing nations: Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Palm oil production is destroying the natural habitat of this small big cat, and it is difficult to know how the cat will adapt to these huge changes. Along with palm oil, poaching, trapping, and a decline in prey have also negatively affected the clouded leopard.

Read more about the different challenges, solutions, and future predictions that palm oil production will have on the clouded leopard in Mongabay’s recent article, featuring S.P.E.C.I.E.S. director and founder Anthony Giordano, here.

Charcoal and cattle ranching tearing apart the Gran Chaco

Do you know where your charcoal comes from?

A recent investigation by the NGO Earthsight has found that the trees being cleared for cattle ranching in the South American Gran Chaco is ending up as charcoal on the shelves of grocery stores across Europe.

“The clearance of the Chaco forest is one of the largest and fastest losses of natural forest ever seen,” says Sam Lawson, director of Earthsight. At its current deforestation rate, Earthsight estimates that 200,000 hectares could be gone from the Chaco’s forest this year.

This report affirms what S.P.E.C.I.E.S. director Anthony Giordano has seen firsthand of the rapid and extensive clearing and conversion of land in the Gran Chaco. This is threatening the hundreds of bird, mammal, and reptile species that call the Gran Chaco home.

Read more about the impact of charcoal and forest clearing in the Gran Chaco in Mongabay’s recent article, featuring S.P.E.C.I.E.S., here.

It’s a bear, it’s a cat; no it’s a binturong and it’s threatened

The binturong is unique; part bear, part cat it is rare across its range that encompasses many South Asian countries. The bearcat, as it’s also known, is also threatened by the rapid expansion of agriculture in its forest habitat and hunting for bushmeat and traditional medicine.

S.P.E.C.I.E.S has designated the binturong as one of our focal species and the first step to conserving it is understanding how it is adapting to the changes to its ecosystem. The species was recently profiled in an article on, featuring an interview with our founder and director, Anthony Giordano.

Read the full article at

Fishing cat’s cradle

The world’s only wetland cat species, the fishing cat, is elusive and endangered. Its wetland home is quickly disappearing across its range as urban and agricultural expansion quickens. Compounding this is the fact that little is known about the species.

Recently S.P.E.C.I.E.S founder and director discussed fishing cats and their conservation with Biographic magazine. Read the full story here.

The search for the Javan fishing cat

The Javan fishing cat is perhaps the rarest cat in the world. The last survey of the species was conducted in the early 1990s, and this led to its designation as “critically endangered.” Since then, the habitat which the Javan fishing cat depends upon has been developed, and today, the fate of the species remains largely unknown. S.P.E.C.I.E.S plans to conduct the first assessment of the status of the Javan fishing cat to lay the foundations for much needed conservation of this unique small cat.

Read media coverage of the hunt for the Javan fishing cat in New Scientist, EarthTouchNews and Mongabay.