Clouded Leopard / Clouded Tiger / Mint Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)
Order: Carnivora,Family: Felidae
The clouded leopard is the largest of the small to medium cats. With an average body length of 2 to 3 feet, this cat has a long, bushy tail measuring 2 1/2 to 3 feet and relatively short legs with large, broad paws.
Males weigh approximately 40 to 60 pounds; females are smaller.
The clouded leopard's fur is pale yellow to rich brown. Its underside is pale or white with several spots; the neck and back are streaked with pale, elongated blotches edged with dark brown or black; the head and legs are usually spotted; and the tail is heavily furred and marked with broken black rings. It has yellow eyes.
Kittens are covered with yellowish-gray fur at birth.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
- The clouded leopard is the largest of the small to medium cats. With an average body length of 2 to 3 feet, this cat has a long, bushy tail measuring 2 1/2 to 3 feet and relatively short legs with large, broad paws.
- Males weigh approximately 40 to 60 pounds; females are smaller.
- The clouded leopard's fur is pale yellow to rich brown. Its underside is pale or white with several spots; the neck and back are streaked with pale, elongated blotches edged with dark brown or black; the head and legs are usually spotted; and the tail is heavily furred and marked with broken black rings. It has yellow eyes.
- Kittens are covered with yellowish-gray fur at birth.
- The clouded leopard's range covers southeastern Asia, from Nepal to Taiwan, including southern China, and southward to the island of Java, including Burma, Indochina, Malaysia, and the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
- Clouded leopards live in deep tropical forests, jungles, other wooded regions and swampy areas.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
- Clouded leopards are carnivorous, primarily consuming deer, cattle, goats, wild pigs, young buffalo, porcupines, reptiles, birds and monkeys.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
- Clouded leopards are solitary and shy, except during breeding season. They are most active in the early morning and late afternoon to evening, resting in trees during the remainder of the day and night.
- The clouded leopard usually hunts on the ground at night and during the day, though it preys on monkeys from within trees and will sometimes drop down onto prey from trees. The species requires large tracts of land for hunting.
- It sleeps and builds nest in trees.
- Clouded leopards begin to breed after 2 years of age; gestation lasts between 86 and 95 days, with births occurring from March to August.
- Litters are usually born in hollow trees and consist of one to five kittens, each weighing around 5 to 9 ounces. Kittens open their eyes after 12 days and begin hunting with their mothers at 5 to 6 weeks of age. Young are born with the honing instincts needed to survive. They take solid food at 10 1/2 weeks old, nurse for about five months and become independent at 9 months of age.
- Females raise young alone.
- Clouded leopards live for 11 to 17 years.
VI. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT:
- The clouded leopard's long tail is specially adapted for allowing the cat to balance along tree limbs; the leopard uses its tail and broad paws for climbing and grasping. Specialized ankle bones enable it to climb down trees headfirst.
- Clouded leopards can travel horizontally on branches by dangling from them using only hind legs, a technique they use while hunting.
- Its jaws are adapted to fit its large canines (fangs), which enable the clouded leopard to bite with tremendous power.
- Clouded leopards have good binocular vision and are able to see in light six times darker than humans can.
VII. POPULATION STATUS:
- The clouded leopard helps keep prey-species populations in check, providing an important link in the ecosystem.
VIII. MORE FACTS ABOUT THE CLOUDED LEOPARD:
- Hunting and deforestation have endangered the clouded leopard.
- The species is generally protected under game laws and fully protected in parks and reserves.
- Clouded leopards are hunted for their fur and supposed medicinal properties of certain body parts.
- With human encroachment upon its habitat, the species is known to prey on domesticated livestock.
- Captive breeding programs have been attempted, but so far have proved unsuccessful due to the small gene pool available.
- Its name is derived from the large, irregular-shaped blotches on its side.
- It has the largest canines (fangs) of all cats in proportion to its body size, and is sometimes referred to as the "modern-day sabretooth."
- It is one of the best tree climbers.
- It takes 20 to 30 clouded leopards to make one full-length fur coat.
- The clouded leopard is in no way related to the true leopard.
- Its skull and teeth are similar to big cats, but its body and other traits are similar to smaller cats. Thus, the clouded leopard is placed in its own genus — neofelis, meaning "new cat."
- Clouded leopards can only roar very softly, as they differ physiologically from larger cats, which can roar very loudly.