Clouded in mystery: the global trade in clouded leopards
D Cruze N., Macdonald DW.
© 2015, The Author(s). In the first global review focused specifically on clouded leopard trade, we assess its impact on the basis of information gathered from annual CITES reports, literature and expert opinion. Although international and domestic trade regulations are in place, in ‘exceptional circumstances’ trade in Asian big cats is legally permitted. More generally, and irrespective of its legal status, trade also has potential to compromise wild animal welfare. We report an apparent shift toward commercial trade in captive bred clouded leopards, trade irregularities that point toward possible laundering of wild caught animals, and document the presence of individuals on ‘tiger farms’ in south-east Asia and a ‘lion park’ in South Africa. We found CITES records contradictory and incomplete, with data on source country particularly lacking. This study highlights ‘legal loopholes’ that apply to all Asian big cat species. As a precautionary measure, we support calls to extend existing bans on Asian big cat trade so that they include commercial trade in captive bred individuals. Illegal trade in derivatives can openly be observed online and at wildlife markets in range countries where enforcement is weak. However, an energetic search has revealed that specific information regarding clouded leopards is lacking. We argue that this is not grounds for complacency, but rather suggests a need for research into trade dynamics, cooperation between national enforcement agencies, improved compliance with trade data management systems, the destruction of private held stockpiles and the revision of existing legal frameworks to prevent illegal trade in these and other threatened wild felids.