15 March 2007

Leopard is one of 52 new species found


Clouded Leopard Latest in a List of Unique Species of Borneo, Scientists Say

By VIJAY JOSHI

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Mar 15, 2007 (AP)— The clouded leopard of Borneo
discovered to be an entirely new species is the latest in a growing list
of animals and plants unique to the Southeast Asian country's rainforest
and underscores the need to preserve the area, conservationists said
Thursday.

Genetic tests by researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute
revealed that the clouded leopard of Borneo and Sumatra islands is a
unique cat species and not the same one found in mainland Southeast Asia
as long believed, said a statement by WWF, the global conservation
organization.

"Who said a leopard can never change its spots? For over a hundred years
we have been looking at this animal and never realized it was unique,"
said Stuart Chapman, WWF International Coordinator of the Heart of Borneo
program, which is dedicated to preserving the flora and fauna in the deep
jungles on Borneo.

The secretive clouded leopards are the biggest predators on Borneo,
growing sometimes to the size of a small panther. They have the longest
canine teeth relative to body size of any cat.

"The fact that Borneo's top predator is now considered a separate species
further emphasizes the importance of conserving the Heart of Borneo,"
Chapman said.

The news about the clouded leopard comes just a few weeks after a WWF
report showed that scientists had identified at least 52 new species of
animals and plants over the past year on Borneo, the world's third
largest island that is shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

The Heart of Borneo, a mountainous region about five times the size of
Switzerland covered with equatorial rainforest in the center of the
island, is the last great forest home of the Bornean clouded leopard.
Researchers believe that the Borneo population of the clouded leopard
likely diverged from the mainland population some 1.4 million years ago.

Over the millennia, at least 40 differences emerged between the two
species, making them as distinct as other large cat species such as
lions, tigers and jaguars.

ABC News - 16 March, 2007

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