The clouded leopard looks like a scale model of a big cat.
Roughly the size of a small leopard, the clouded leopard has the powerful, robust build of a much larger cat. Relatively speaking, it has the longest canine teeth of any contemporary felid species. This rare felid has a long tail, short and stout legs, large feet, and short, rounded ears. The fur is marked with the distinct cloud-shaped markings that give the cat its name. The spots appear on a background color that varies from earthy brown or dark gray to pale or rich yellowish brown. The undersides are white or pale tawny and the muzzle is white. The tail is well furred and thick, marked with black rings.
- Scientific Designation: Neofelis nebulosa
- Endangered Status: Vulnerable (VU)
- Lifespan: Up to 17 years (average: 11 years)
- Weight: 16-20 kg
- Length: 75-110cm
- Shoulder Height: 53cm
- Tail Length: 51-61cm
The clouded leopard is secretive, arboreal, and nocturnal. It inhabits dense primary forest and, with its long tail and other physical characteristics, is ideally suited for an arboreal lifestyle. The cat preys on a variety of vertebrates, both off and on the ground. The clouded leopard is skillful enough in trees to catch monkeys, squirrels, and birds. When it comes down from the trees, the cat preys on domestic stock, deer, monkeys, and other small mammals.
The clouded leopard’s distribution lies south of the Himalaya and into peninsular Malaysia. Interestingly, scientists have determined that the “clouded leopard” found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra is an entirely new species of cat. The secretive rainforest animal originally was thought to be the same species as the true clouded leopards found on the mainland.
Distribution map courtesy of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), compiled in 2021.
Threats to the Clouded Leopard
Threats to the clouded leopard include habitat loss and hunting for skins. However, little is known of its status in any part of its geographic range. The clouded leopard currently is classified as Vulnerable (VU) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and protected under appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
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