Photo of the day September 20, 2014
Science Saturday Article #2
The IUCN lists this beautiful and mysterious feline as vulnerable to extinction for both Neofelis nebulosa and Neofelis diardi. The risk for extinction is increased by the demand for pelts leading to increased poaching. The skin of a clouded leopard can be sold for several thousands of U.S. dollars. The population is also fighting a losing battle against deforestation of the loss of habitat as human continue to expand their presence in its natural habitat. This loss of habitat is both stressful for the animal but also puts it in direct conflict with humans. It is listed as an Appendix I animal with CITES, making trading of the animal alive or dead illegal.
In order to keep the species safe from extinction there are several breeding programs set up to maintain a healthy captive population. Breeding in captivity is difficult due to a lack of knowledge on the mating habits of wild clouded leopards. Male aggression is extremely high toward the females, and there is a high mortality rate for the cubs. Nashville Zoo has had success in breeding its mating pair as have a few other zoos.
Clouded leopards weigh on average 28 pound and grow to a length of 36 inches with a tail of an additional 30 inches in length. They receive their name from the cloud pattern in their yellow and brown fur coats. Despite their name they are not closely related to the leopard; however, there are two species of clouded leopard currently recognize: the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and the Bornean or Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi). The species is one of the arboreal of all the big cats and are built for agility and balance in the trees. They have relatively short legs and large paws with long claws. Their tails aid in balance just like in their distant relatives the snow leopard.
The lifespan for wild animals is unknown but captive animals have been recorded to live as long as 17 years. Animals are sexually mature at the age of 2 and have a gestational period of 90 days. Little size can range from 1-5, but the usual size is 3. While mostly active at dusk and dawn, radio-collared animals prove to be active throughout the day with a preference for nighttime hunting and activity.
The clouded leopard prefers tropical forests but may venture out into other habitats such as mangrove swamps, grassland, scrub, and drier forests. Their range extends from Nepal to southern China down to Taiwan (thought to be extinct) and the peninsula of Malaysia. Neofelis diardi occurs on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
The clouded leopard will eat small birds and mammals. It has been reported to take down pigs, deer, goats, and even cattle on occasion. They will also hunt primates such as monkeys.
Poaching, habitat loss taking toll on Bornean clouded leopard
Clouded Leopard ARKive
Clouded Leopard Smithsonian national Zoological Park
Clouded Leopard Project Fact Sheet