This beautiful Asian cat, named for its spotted coat, is seldom seen in the wild, and its habits remain a bit mysterious. Clouded leopards roam the hunting grounds of Asia from the rain forests of Indonesia to the foothills of the Nepali Himalayas. However, this range has shrunk due to habitat destruction and human poaching. Though little information is known about their population sizes, they are considered a vulnerable species.
THERE ARE TWO DISTINCT SPECIES
Until 2006, there was thought to be a single clouded leopard species. However, there are two distinct species. Cats on mainland Asia and Taiwan kept the traditional species name (Neofelis nebulosa) while the cats from Borneo and Sumatra took the name the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi). Wild Sunda clouded leopards were only first caught on video in early 2010. Even though they may look similar, genetically a clouded leopard is more different to its sister species than a lion is to a tiger.
Clouded leopards are one of the best climbers. They are able to climb upside down underneath tree branches, hang from branches with their hind feet, and even descend head first, like a squirrel. They use exceptionally long tail for balancing, which can be as long as the body itself, thick with black ring markings.
Another distinctive feature of the clouded leopard is its long canine teeth and unusual skull. The clouded leopard has the longest upper canine teeth for its skull size of any modern carnivore, being compared with the extinct sabre-toothed cat. Like all wild cats, clouded leopards are carnivores. They hunt a variety of prey including birds, squirrels, monkeys, deer, and wild pigs.
COMMON NAME: Clouded Leopard
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Neofelis nebulosa
SIZE: Body: 2 to 3 feet; tail: up to 3 feet
WEIGHT: Up to 50 pounds
PELT, TEETH, MEAT OR BONE?
The clouded leopard is a WWF priority species. WWF treats priority species as one of the most ecologically, economically and culturally important species on our planet. Among the main threats for clouded leopards is mainly deforestation in the tropical regions of Southeast Asia. The species natural habitat has been fragmented and decreasing at a rate of 10% per year since 1997. The clouded leopard is widely hunted for its teeth and decorative pelt, and for bones for the traditional Asian medicinal trade. They have also been featured on the menu of restaurants in Thailand and China which cater to wealthy Asian tourists.
Source: wwf.panda.org, nationalgeographic.com, cloudedleopard.org
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