Video: One-day-old clouded leopard cubs at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Conservation and Research Center

One-day-old clouded leopard cubs at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Conservation and Research Center, originally uploaded by Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

An endangered clouded leopard at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center (CRC) in Front Royal, Va., gave birth to a genetically valuable litter of two cubs on Tuesday, March 24. Staff had been on pregnancy watch of the two-and-a-half year-old clouded leopard “Jao Chu” (JOW-chew) for five days. She gave birth to the litter early Tuesday morning.

This is Jao Chu’s first litter. She and the cubs’ father, two-and-a-half year-old “Hannibal,” were born in Thailand in a collaborative research program with the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand. The cubs’ sex will not be known until the first veterinary exam.

Due to deforestation and hunting, clouded leopards are vulnerable to extinction. National Zoo scientist Dr. JoGayle Howard and colleagues are aggressively working toward saving this species from decline. The Zoo has been working with clouded leopards at the Conservation & Research Center since 1978, with the goal of creating a genetically diverse population. In the past 30 years, more than 70 clouded leopards have been born at the Zoo’s research facility in Virginia, with the last litter born in 1993.

Breeding clouded leopards in captivity has been a challenge, primarily due to male aggression, decreased breeding activity between paired animals, and high cub mortality. In 2002, the National Zoo in collaboration with the Nashville Zoo and the Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP) created the Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium—the largest population of confiscated clouded leopards in Southeast Asia. The Clouded Leopard SSP oversees clouded leopard populations in zoos worldwide, and makes breeding recommendations for potential pairs based on the genetics of each cat. Since Thailand’s captive cubs are only one or two generations removed from the wild, their genes are especially valuable.

To date, the Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium has produced 32 surviving cubs. The National Zoo’s program at the Front Royal facility is the only one of its kind combining breeding with scientific research. For example, scientists still do not know why male clouded leopards attack their possible mates, but several graduate students at the National Zoo are studying the males’ behavior—one student plans to test anti-anxiety drugs used in humans and domestic cats in an attempt to suppress male aggression.

Howard and colleagues have learned how to reduce the risk of fatal attacks by hand-rearing cubs for socialization and also introducing males to their mates when they are six months old, allowing the pair to grow up together. Hannibal and Jao Chu, the only compatible pair of clouded leopards at CRC, are proof that these techniques work. The new cubs also will be handreared by experienced CRC staff.

Following mating, the gestation period for clouded leopards is about 86 to 93 days. The average litter size for clouded leopards is two to five cubs. Clouded leopard cubs weigh about a half of a pound when born.

Little is known about clouded leopards. They are cats native to Southeast Asia and parts of China in a habitat that ranges from dense tropical evergreen forests to drier forests if there is suitable prey.

They are the smallest of the big cats, weighing 30 to 50 pounds and measuring about five feet long. Their short legs, large paws, and long tail (accounts for half their length) help them balance on small branches, and their flexible ankles allow them to run down trees headfirst.

The newborn cubs will not be on exhibit at CRC. However, visitors may get an up-close treetop view of two clouded leopards—a male named Tai and a female named Mook—at Asia Trail at the National Zoo’s campus in Washington, D.C.
For more photos, visit the Zoo’s Flickr site:

Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 7:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Subject Wanted in Reference to Double Homicide in Bath County

A Be on the Lookout alert from the Virginia State Police:

On March 21, 2009 Beacher Ferrel Hackney entered the kitchen of The Homestead Resort located in Bath County and shot two co-workers. He then left the scene on foot. Hackney has not been seen since the shooting occurred. Hackney has known ties to West Virginia. He is currently charged with capital murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Hackney is a white male, born 2/10/1950
5’6″ and 145 pounds
Brown hair and brown eyes.

If you have any information pertaining to this shooting or Hackney’s current whereabouts, please contact the Virginia State Police Fusion Center at 877-4VA-TIPS (877- 482- 8477) or by filling out a Suspicious Incident Report at or Bath County Sheriff’s Office at (540) 839-2375.

Published in: on March 25, 2009 at 4:57 pm  Comments (1)  

Free complete print edition: Late March, 2009

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Published in: on March 19, 2009 at 4:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Obenshain, V-DOT duke it out over YouTube videos

Fresh from his self-declared 'War with the Eastern Box Turtle,' Sen. Mark Obenshain is now battling with VDOT over YouTube videos he says are a waste. VDOT says they were free and draw viewers to public safety videos. Turtle photo by Flickr user fleshmeatdoll.

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

FRONT ROYAL, VA–Area Republican State Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg, recently pummeled by Warren County Report readers for his self-declared ‘War with the Eastern Box Turtle’ has set his sights on another slow-moving target, the Virginia Department of Transportation.

In a March 16 press release, Obenshain attacked VDOT for posting videos on YouTube that he says are a waste of tax money.

Obenshain’s release “expressed disappointment at learning that the cash-strapped department, which is cutting essential services to rural areas, is not so broke as to stop producing its own YouTube videos – some legitimate public service announcements, but others unadulterated examples of government waste.”

One example Obenshain cites is a video of kids sledding. Obenshain said that although VDOT officials “have insisted that limited funds give them no choice but to abandon all snow and ice removal on unpaved roads, the department had no trouble finding the resources to film children sledding during a recent snow. Instead of sending film crews to watch kids go sledding, VDOT should be clearing the roads to get those kids to school,” said Obenshain.

VDOT Chief of Communications Jeff Caldwell agrees that some of the videos are not “hard news” but says that they are an effective way to reach out to the masses. “We recognize that these are tough times. We are pulling back on traditional expensive media and are finding that social interactive web sites, like YouTube, are a great way to get our message out. Plus they are free,” he said.

Caldwell went on to say that the ‘kid’s sledding’ video was not shot with expensive “film crews,” as Obenshain claims but rather was taped by an off-duty videographer. The employee shot the video near his home with his own camera, Caldwell said.

Among the videos targeted by Obenshain’s release is one of bridge demolitions set to opera. Caldwell said that video was done using old footage and was created as a training exercise for employees working on a new video editing computer that had just been installed. “These types of videos are popular and cost us nothing to post. They draw in a lot of traffic and we find that some of those visitors will stick around and watch our other informational videos and messages about public safety,” Caldwell said.

The Obenshain release says the senator “unearthed VDOT’s YouTube Channel on Sunday.” Apparently not many people have unearthed the senator’s own YouTube channel.  Regardless of who wins this debate, the YouTubers appear to have sided with VDOT. The bridge demolition set to opera video received about 130,000 views in it’s first 12 days. Obenshain’s latest YouTube video of the senator talking about the budget received 140 views in the same period.

VDOT’s YouTube channel:
Sen. Mark Obenshain’s channel:

Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 5:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

DUI chase

FRONT ROYAL, VA–At approximately 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 15, 2009 the Warren County Sheriff’s Office received a call of a vehicle driving through a yard on Guard Hill Road. The vehicle was described as a blue SUV. While responding to the call Deputy Butch Carper passed a vehicle matching the description. Deputy Carper turned around and got behind the vehicle and activated emergency equipment. The vehicle failed to stop. Deputy Carper pursed the vehicle from North Royal and 8th Street to Mary Shady Lane where the subject wrecked the vehicle. The subject was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license, child endangerment and felony eluding. While testing the subject‘s alcohol level the subject attempted to flee and was charged with attempted escape.

The male subject was identified as Robert B. Lockhart, age 21, of 7601 East Main Street, Middletown, VA.

A female passenger in the vehicle was charged with under age possession of alcohol and turned over to her parents.

Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 1:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Money changing scams

According to Lieutenant Mike Arnold, at approximately 3:44 p.m. on Saturday, March 14, 2009 the Sheriff’s Office received a call from Quizno’s advising that a black male, 30 to 40 years old, approximately 5’9″ tall and 200 pounds confused a cashier while making change by being verbally forceful about the domination of the currency. This tactic is used in money changing scams. The subject is reported to have a shaved head, mustache, wearing baggy blue jeans, a vertical striped multi-colored shirt, tan boots, and a black coat with a fur trim hood.

Wal-mart’s loss prevention security advised they were scammed in the same manner approximately five minutes prior to the incident at Quizno’s. When checking Wal-mart’s security cameras in the area it was noted that the subject and another black male left the area in a black Dodge Charger with tinted rear windows. The vehicle appeared to have Virginia license plates on the front and rear of the vehicle.

Deputies checked the area but were unable to locate the subjects or the vehicle. Anyone with additional information is asked to contact Lieutenant Mike Arnold at 540 635-4128.

Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 1:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

7 arrested in 7-Eleven holdup

FRONT ROYAL, VA–Early Sunday morning, Front Royal Police arrested five juvenile males ranging in age from 14 to 17 years old and two adult males in connection to the armed robbery which occurred at a 7-Eleven store early Thursday morning.

On Thursday at approximately 2:35 am, two individuals entered the 7-Eleven located at 711 South Royal Avenue (intersection with Criser Road). One of the suspects was armed with a handgun and demanded money from the cashier. An undisclosed amount of cash was turned over to the suspects and they fled from the store on foot.

On Saturday afternoon, Detective Nicewarner interviewed a male juvenile connected to the investigation.

During the interview, the subject subsequently admitted to his involvement in the robbery. Further intensive investigation continued through the night which led to the identifications of several other suspects involved.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, police responded to a residence on Acton Street. During contact with the individuals there, three of the juveniles and the two adults were taken into custody. The last remaining juvenile was taken into custody shortly after.

The juveniles were charged with armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, abduction and grand larceny. All juveniles where detained at the Northwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center pending a hearing on Monday afternoon. Aaron Cameron, 19, of Front Royal and Dwayne Cameron, 18, of Front Royal where charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Both of the Cameron’s are being held without bond at the Warren County Jail.

Interim Chief Richard Furr commended the work of the investigators and the officers involved in this matter. “This incident became a high priority because of the use of a weapon. Our officers worked around the clock to make these arrests and to bring this matter to a conclusion.”

Anyone with additional information is requested to contact Detective Nicewarner with the Criminal Investigations Division at 540-636-2208.

Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 12:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Town begins online posting of meeting videos

FRONT ROYAL VA–Front Royal Town Manager Mike Graham and Director of Information Technology Jonathan McMahon unveiled the new Town of Front Royal Municipal Video Portal today. This video portal will provide citizens with the ability to view webcasts of Front Royal Town Council meetings and other video communications from the Town. Prior to this time, the only way to watch a Town Council meeting without actually being present at the meeting was to view the Tuesday night broadcast on Comcast Channel 16 (the local government access channel). Copies of the videos of Town Council meetings have always been available to citizens upon request; however, there is a fee to cover the cost of duplication.

The webcasts are available by visiting the website At this time, webcasts of the past two Town Council meetings are available online (February 23 March 9 meetings). Mayor Tewalt’s 2009 State of the Town Address is also available for viewing, and several other webcasts will be online by the end of the week. The Town will continue posting new council meetings as they occur, with the intent of having each webcast online by the Wednesday following the Town Council meeting. Since storage space is not unlimited, the webcasts of the older meetings will be rotated out over time to allow for new meetings to be posted.

Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 10:55 am  Comments (21)  

Bentonville man in custody after standoff

A Bentonville man is taken into custody following a 45-minute standoff with police on Thompson Hollow Rd. March 14 in which shots were fired from a BB or pellet gun. Photo by Dan McDermott, Warren County Report.

[UPDATED 13:59 MARCH 16, 2009]

According to Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron, at approximately 9:30 p.m. on March 14, 2009 the Warren County Sheriff’s Office responded to 61 Noahs Road for a complaint of a possible suicidal subject. The deputies observed a male subject, later identified as Jeffrey Z. Robbins, age 41, of 61 Noahs Road, Bentonville, VA, enter the front porch of the residence and retreat back into the home. Deputies noted that no lights were on in the home but very loud music was playing. Deputies attempted to communicate with Mr. Robbins and later reported shots were being fired at them from the residence and called for assistance. The subject appeared to be shooting an air rifle or a small caliber weapon at the deputies and their vehicles. The deputies determined that Robbins was shooting an air rifle and after approximately 45 minutes, the deputies were able to convince Robbins to put down his weapon, exit the home and surrender.

Robbins was arrested and charged with one count of maliciously discharging a firearm within a building ({18.2-279} Class 4 felony) and one count of attempted malicious wounding of a law enforcement officer ({18.2-26} Class 4 felony).

No one was injured in the incident. One Sheriff’s Office patrol car received minor damage. Mr. Robbins was taken to the Warren County Jail and is now being housed outside of Warren County.


By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report Newspaper

BENTONVILLE, VA–A  Bentonville man is in police custody Saturday after a standoff in which shots were fired at Sheriff’s deputies with what is believed to be a pellet or BB gun.

Warren County 911 received a call approximately 9:30 pm from a Bentonville woman who said her husband of 12 years had taken poison and locked himself in a trailer adjacent to their home. She told dispatchers that the man had a mental disability and could not purchase a “real gun” but that he had a BB gun.

Sheriff’s deputies and a K-9 officer from the Front Royal Police Department responded and surrounded the area dodging at least two pellets or BBs from the trailer from which the suspect was also blasting loud music. At least one of the projectiles is believed to have hit a vehicle.

Deputies at the scene had difficulty transmitting with their portable radios and also requested some non-lethal weapons. One officer responded to the scene with a shotgun loaded with bean bag rounds.

The suspect was taken into custody approximately 10:20 pm and left the scene in an ambulance. A deputy at the scene said he expected the man would be charged with attempted malicious wounding.

Warren County Report is attempting to confirm the man’s identity.

Published in: on March 14, 2009 at 10:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Not just a rumor – Iraq vet killed on Skyline Drive loved ‘The Joker’

Photo by Dan McDermott, Warren County Report

Lanum donned Joker Halloween costume, face paint readying for ‘war’

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

FRONT ROYAL, VA–Well it seems the Front Royal “rumor mill” referenced in our March 9 story on the slow pace at which factual information on the Skyline Drive shooting was forthcoming wasn’t all that far off the mark.

That story’s somewhat satirical “Joker” face paint conclusion was verified to an alarming degree in a 9-page, March 11 arrest warrant and a March 13 Virginian-Pilot story referencing that warrant. That affidavit for the arrest of Patsy Ann Marie Montowski cited her involvement in what was initially described as an attempted homicide of another Fort Eustis soldier by her companion, 25-year-old US Army Specialist and 15-month Iraq War veteran Christopher Neal Lanum. Lanum was dead at the scene and Montowski slightly wounded following a noontime shootout on Sunday, March 8, at the north entrance to Skyline Drive near Front Royal.

Lanum “admired the Joker because everything he did, he did for a reason, like killing people, and he agreed with the philosophy of doing things for a reason,” was Montowski’s chilling appraisal of her boyfriend to federal investigators questioning her at INOVA Fairfax Hospital after the shooting. FBI Special Agent Jennifer V. Collins submitted the affidavit charging Montowski with being an accessory after the fact to assault on maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the US (Fort Eustis). The affidavit notes that Montowski initially refused to give her name and was admitted to the hospital under the name Havana Havana.

The most detailed descriptions to date of both the Skyline Drive shooting and what led up to it are contained in the FBI affidavit citing Montowski for her role in an attack on Army Specialist Mitchell Stone, a soldier who shared a suite with Lanum in Building 696 at the Fort Eusis Army Post in Newport News. According to that affidavit, Lanum and Patsy Montowski fled Fort Eustis after a fight during which Lanum slashed both Stone’s thighs and throat after Stone was repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by both Lanum and Montowski. Montowski admitted the stun gun was hers and that she had carried it with her when she left Lanum’s room to get cigarettes out of her car shorlty before the altercation at the base. Stone also told authorities Lanum had a Joker Halloween costume on at the time he was attacked. Both Stone and Montowski concured that Lanum had not yet painted his face like the Joker at the time of the attack around 5:40 a.m.

Despite what were described as multiple stab wounds to both his thighs and throat, Stone managed to flee the scene of the attack and reach help from base personnel. He was taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital by helicopter. His injuries were described as serious but he was reported to have been released by the end of the week of the incident.

Some Joker

According to the affidavit the couple fled Fort Eustis in the minivan with a 12-gauge shotgun, as many as a dozen knives and a bloody razor, as well as a full clip for a .45 caliber handgun that was left behind in Lanum’s room. As Montowski steered the 1999 Ford Windstar van into western Virginia, Lanum augmented his Halloween Joker costume, which including black pants and a green vest, by painting his face like the Joker. While Montowski said Lanum had painted his face in the past, she told the FBI it was done in more detail this time.

Actor Heath Ledger raised eyebrows and won a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his dark and nihilistic portryal of the Joker in last year’s “Dark Knight” Batman film. After Ledger died of a drug overdose following his work on the film, there was much discussion of the potential psychological impact of his modern film noire characterization of the Joker on his own personal psychology. One actor in the film described Ledger’s protrayal as “Sid Vicious-like.” Vicious was the British punk band the Sex Pistols’ bass player. In the 1980’s Vicious overdosed on heroin while on bond awaiting trial for stabbing his girlfriend Nancy Spungen to death in their New York City hotel room. Both were heroin addicts. Jack Nicholson, another actor not known for his lighthearted roles, also made the Joker character famous in another Batman film over a decade ago.

The affidaivt describes Lanum’s room as decorated with “masks, pictures, paintings of the Joker, a character from the recent Batman movie on the walls and face paint on the hutch and dresser.”

Lanum and Montowski had fled the scene of the attack on Stone by the time military police were dispatched there after the incident was reported at 5:55 a.m. the morning of March 8. At 11 a.m. a Shenandoah National Park Ranger spotted the couple parked at the Gooney Creek Overlook in Shenandoah National Park. His attention was attracted by the way the couple both had their heads covered at the overlook. The couple quickly returned to their vehicle and initially proceeded south with Lanum now driving. The ranger sought information from Fort Eustis on a BOL (“Be on the Lookout”) which had been issued for the vehicle and then called for backup from Virginia State Police and the Page County Sheriff’s Office since the couple was listed as armed and dangerous suspects in an attempted murder at the military base in Newport News.

Eventually Lanum pulled the van across both lanes of traffic and stopped. Still alone in pursuit at this time, the ranger backed his vehicle off to a point around a curve where he could not see the van. After a period of time he proceeded toward the spot where Lanum had stopped and passed the van now going in the other direction, northbound toward Front Royal. Eventually state police and Page sheriff’s units joined the chase, which proceeded at speeds from 35 to 55 mph, according to the FBI affidavit. Due to the winding nature of Skyline Drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, the speed limit is 35 mph.

When the van ran over the spike strip at the roadblock near the north entrance to Shenandoah National Park in Warren County, Lanum sped up to 60 to 65 mph, losing control, hitting the parked blue pickup truck and coming to a stop.

The FBI affidavit describes officers then observing Montowski reaching into the back of the van. As a number of officers approached the drivers side, one state trooper approached on the passenger side. The shotgun was now in Lanum’s hands, pointed toward several officers on his side of the vehicle “with his finger on the trigger.” After refusing repeated orders to drop the weapon and raise his hands, one trooper fired through the driver’s side window and Lanum’s shotgun discharged. “Lanum was ultimately struck several times and killed,” the report concludes.

Montowski told the FBI Lanum had first tried to shoot himself after the vehicle stopped, then handed her the shotgun and asked her to shoot him. She said she threw the weapon down and Lanum then picked it up.

Montowski was in federal court in Norfolk on Thursday, March 12, charged as an accessory after the fact in the assault on Stone. The 9-page affidavit includes statements from both Stone, Patsy Montowski, as well as descriptions of rooms 258 and 259 in the Fort Eustis barracks where Stone and Lanum lived.

The war comes home

The Virginian-Pilot reported that Lanum was born in Portsmouth and later attended Kellam High School in Virginia Beach. Funeral services for Lanum were scheduled for Friday, March 13. Fort Eustis officials said Lanum returned from Iraq in September 2007. He had been stationed at the base since November. Both he and Stone were assigned to the post’s health clinic. The 600 uniformed and civilian employees of the clinic have been offered psychological counseling, according to base officials. It was not immediately apparent whether Lanum had sought or received such counseling. Virginian-Pilot reporter Kate Wiltrout also reported base officials said they were about to complete a month-long safety stand-down focused on military personnel suicide prevention.

Montowski told investigators that morning, prior to the assault on Stone, Lanum had told her he was getting ready to go to war, something he had done on other occassions. After cleaning his knives and donning his Joker outfit, Lanum dictated a letter to his daughter, Andrea, for Monkowski to transcibe. In it he said he could not explain his actions.

Montowski then wrote a similar note to her children only because Lanum had, not because she had intended to die that day, she told the FBI.

No joke – ‘ready for war’

The March 11, FBI affidavit indicates Montowski told authorities that the trouble started after she left Lanum’s barracks room to get cigarettes out of her car. After his earlier preparations to “go to war” and the letters of farewell to their children, she said Lanum refused to let her back into his room. So she told the FBI she knocked on Stone’s door and asked if she could pass through to a common kitchen and bathroom area he shared with Lanum.

Stone went back to bed but got up to get water, noticing the couple in Lanum’s doorway. Stone told the FBI Lanum said “Get him!” several times before attacking Stone with the stun gun Montowski later admitted was hers. Stone told investigators Lanum shocked him three times with a stun gun before he was able to wrestle Lanum to the floor. At Lanum’s urging, Montowski then stunned Stone four more times. As Stone broke free and tried to flee out the door he felt blood on his legs from his thigh wounds. At this point Lanum came up behind him and slashed at his throat wounding him there and on his arms, which he put up for protection. Stone then got out and made it to the first floor where he was able to get help from base personnel.

According to the warrant Fort Eustis MPs found blood spattered on the walls, floors and furniture, a knife and loaded .45 caliber handgun on the floor of the common room the men shared. A blood-covered stun gun was also on the floor of Stone’s room. Hanging on a bedpost in Lanum’s room was a purse with Montowski’s driver’s license inside.

Some idiot took it

After the fatal noon shootout within site of Skyline Drive’s intersection with Route 340, this paper’s editor Dan McDermott was able to establish Internet contact with the apparent owner of the 1999 Ford van in which Lanum and Montowski were traveling.
That owner was Barron Robert Montowski, of Virginia Beach. His relationship to Patsy Montowski has not yet been established. Robert Montowski told McDermott “an idiot” had taken his van and he wanted information on its whereabouts. Told the vehicle was involved in a local Front Royal news story, Montowski’s online voice went silent.

His damaged vehicle is now in a state police impound in Frederick County.

Read the affidavit.

See photos from the scene.

Published in: on March 13, 2009 at 10:17 pm  Comments (4)  
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