We wanted to pay tribute to an inspiring animal that is a key element of our KENZO Spring Summer 2013 collection: the clouded leopard. So there was no better choice we could possibly have made than talking to Karen Povey, president at Clouded Leopard Project, an organization that supports clouded leopards' conservation and research. We will provide a lot of information about this endangered animal this week on KENZINE, starting with Karen's interview.


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KENZINE: Why did your association choose to protect "Clouded Leopard" in particular?
Why are they so special?

KAREN POVEY: We started our organization as a group of zoo keepers working at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. We had just received a hand-raised clouded leopard cub, Raja, that we were working with in our education programs. He was such an amazing cat - so beautiful, athletic, and with a wonderful personality that we wanted to do something to help his wild cousins. After doing some research, we learned that there was no one really working to publicize the plight of clouded leopards or raise funds to help them. In fact, most people had never even heard of them. So we took on the challenge! That was about twelve years ago, and we are proud of our role in helping to raise awareness about clouded leopards since that time.

K: Clouded Leopards are an endangered species what is being done now to help and save them?

K. P.: First of all, there has been a great deal of interest by researchers in studying clouded leopards in the last ten years. Before we can develop conservation plans for endangered species, we need to understand their habits and conservation needs. Clouded leopards are incredibly elusive and live in rainforest habitat where it is very difficult to conduct research so studying them is terribly challenging. You can read about their habitat and research techniques on our website. The Clouded Leopard Project raises money to support these research efforts by selling CLP merchandise and offering a variety of donation packages.

In addition, the CLP provides educational materials and teacher training used to teach students in communities bordering clouded leopard habitat. By teaching local community members about the importance of wildlife, we can help establish attitudes of stewardship that will support conservation efforts. We are very excited about a new three year program we are developing for students in Malaysian Borneo where they will learn about clouded leopards in the classroom, then visit a research center to see how they are studied. Projects like these make our efforts very rewarding and fuel our optimism about the clouded leopard's future.


K: Are sometimes Clouded Leopard born in zoos reintroduced in reservation territories?

K. P.: No, this is not a reality at this time. Before this might ever be a consideration there is much work to be done to provide better law enforcement to protect clouded leopards from poaching and habitat loss. These are enormous issues that are very negatively impacting the long term survival of this species. Until these cats are truly safe in the wild, there would be no point in trying to establish additional populations.


K: The leopard print is a classic in terms of fashion. We learned that it was first a symbol of power, then a symbol of rebellion, why do you think that it is visually so iconic?

K. P.: Well, as I am a zoologist, that's a tough one for me to answer! I do know that the clouded leopard is one of the most beautiful of all wild cats and have such a distinctive spot pattern. Whenever I am working with the cats at the zoo people are incredibly drawn to them. Wild cats have such an appeal due to their grace, beauty, and mysterious natures.


K: Why do you think that online videos involving cubs are so popular now? Do you think it is our way to "go back to nature" at least five minutes a day?

K. P.: Well just one look at these videos and I dare you not to smile! I think it's impossible not to be drawn to nature in its most amazing forms, such as a clouded leopard cub. They are such incredible climbers - so athletic and daring as they vault through the trees. I hope your readers will enjoy learning about this wonderful cat that has inspired your beautiful collection.


The Clouded Leopard Project is dedicated to the conservation of clouded leopards and their habitat by supporting field research, implementing education initiatives in range countries, and bringing global awareness to clouded leopard conservation issues.

The Clouded Leopard Project website serves as the official website of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium's Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan®.

If you want to help.