In a significant finding from the perspective of wildlife and ecology, a team of researchers have clicked photographs of a bunch of clouded leopards at an elevation of 3700 meters in a Himalayan community-owned forest in Nagaland. The community-owned forest which is at the Indo-Myanmar border is at an altitude of about 3700 meter which is one of the highest peaks at which the elusive big cat has been seen across the world, the Indian Express reported.
While the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) has been sighted at several places previously as the species usually inhabit the low altitude evergreen rainforests, the research is significant as it shows that the big cat can survive at a higher altitude as well. A total of two adults and two cubs have been recorded by the researchers inhabiting the high altitude forest in the area. Clouded leopard is considered the smallest of the large wild cats and has been categorized as vulnerable under the IUCN classification.
The research which was conducted by the Delhi-based Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) included setting up cameras at several places at a high altitude and recording the images of the fauna. About cameras were placed during two periods- January-June 2020 and July-September 2021. The research found photographic evidence of the species at Thanamir village in the Kiphire district of Nagaland. The district which falls in the Eastern Nagaland is close to the state’s highest peak-Mount Saramati.
Nijhawan, a conservation anthropologist based in Arunachal Pradesh and who is also an advisor to the WPSI initiative, told the Indian Express that the research was very significant as the camera captured the breeding species at such a high altitude. Nijhawan said that the big cat recorded in the camera appears to inhabit the place and are reproducing there which indicates that there is enough prey and food for them at this altitude.
Previously also, the species has been recorded at an altitude of 3720 meter in Sikkim but that was in a state-protected forest. This is the first instance when the species has been recorded at an altitude of over 3700 in a community-owned forest. Nijhawan said that the development indicates that even the non-protected forests host a significant number of biodiversity.