Javan leopards may be one of the rarest, most highly threatened species in the world, shrouded in mystery and legend. But as it turns out, when they think no one is watching, they're really just adorable big cats -- and well worth saving.
Camera traps have long been a favorite tool among conservationists, allowing for the visual tracking of animals' movement and behavior with minimal disturbance. Most of the time though, such footage offers just a fleeting glimpse of passing wildlife going about their business. In this video on the other hand, captured in the forests of Indonesia, we're lucky enough to see one Javan leopard getting all cozy in front of the camera, almost as if to ask for a belly rub.
In all, folks from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) installed 30 or so cameras around a rainforest national park in West Java to capture this scene -- though with such clear footage, all that effort was certainly well worth it. And to think, this species was first caught on film just two years ago.
"After I set up the camera and I checked the results, and I saw the leopard pictures I was very, very happy," says CIFOR researcher Age Kridalaksana.
Sadly, such candid footage of Javan leopards in the wilds of Indonesia may among the last the world will ever see. After decades of being poached for their skins and losing their crucial habitat to human encroachment, the species of big cat is currently listed as 'critically endangered'.
"Indeed we have a very big challenge since more than 300 villages are located inside or around the park with more than 100,000 individuals," says forestry technician Iwan Ridwan. "The most significant threat is deforestation, since deforestation reduces the habitat of these species and reduces their living space in order to search for food and to reproduce."