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Clouded Leopard - Neofelis nebulosa

By: C.M.Shorter

Clouded Leopards are named for their intriguing coat which is spotted with irregular shaped patterns resembling clouds. This Rainforest cat has a slim line body contour with a long, rather narrow head with cheek and neck striped in black. Their cloud-like marking contrast is striking against the base fur coat color of greyish or yellowish brown and run the full length of their body. Their legs are short with hind legs considerably longer than the front legs with broad paws built for climbing and hunting through the cover of the rainforest canopy. Clouded Leopard's tails are very long, spotted near the base, then ringed towards the end and finally tipped in black or grey.

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This jungle cat is well suited to survive in its territory and shares a unique physical trait with the Margay Cat of Central and South America - they both have flexible ankle joints. These joints allow these forest dwellers to climb down trees head first! They also have upper canines longer that those of any other living cats, an adaptation allowing them to grab and hold onto prey caught in trees, a much more difficult feat than snagging a meal on the ground.
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Due to its forbidding territory range, the Clouded Leopard has rarely been observed in the wild. Much of what scientists have learned about this elusive cat has been taken from interviews with indigenous people and through study of captive animals. Although arboreal, being sighted resting in the branches of the forest trees, the Clouded Leopard is thought to spend just as much time hunting and traveling by ground. Jungle prey includes monkeys, young orangutans, wild boar, small deer, civets, porcupines, squirrels, birds, fish and domestic livestock.

Clouded leopard have been kept in captivity. Breeding success is minimal, less than 20% reproduction rate as they do not have a well defined breeding season. There is a notoriously high incident of males killing females in confined environments. Sexual maturity comes at 2-3 years of age and in the wild the mothers prefer to make nests high in the hollows of tree branches although ground dens have been found. Researchers in the United Kingdom believe the main hope for successful captive breeding husbandry will be artificial insemination and embryo transplants to achieve a healthy captive population. Females are monestrous and to conceive naturally they must be bred only with males they have bonded with over long periods of time.

The Clouded Leopard is sacred to many of the native populations of Southeast Asia. Malaysians have named them the "Tree Tiger" and the Chinese call them the "Mint Leopard" because their unusual spotting pattern reminds them of mint leaves. Widely hunted for their teeth, bones and beautiful coats especially, or actually ending up as a restaurant dinner menu item for wealthy Asian tourists, remains a primary threat to survival of this species. Clouded Leopard skins are the most common wild cat pelt found in the illicit Asian black markets. As is true with so many of our feline species, the main problem they face in survival is destruction of their rainforest habitat for agricultural and to the logging industry.

Clouded Leopard territory ranges throughout Asia - from Nepal through IndoChina, Sumatra with the largest population existing on the Indonesian Island of Borneo due to lack of the competing Tiger & Leopard species. Becoming extremely rare the Clouded Leopard has been placed on CITES Appendix I but are offered no legal protection outside their protected areas of Bhutan.

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Scientific Name: Neofelis nebulosa
Common Name(s): Clouded Leopard, Mint Leopard, Tree Tiger
Range: Southwest Asia, Nepal, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Sumatra and Borneo
Average Weight: 11 - 25 kg (24 - 55 lbs)
Length: 105 - 190 cm (45 - 76")
Diet: Carnivorous. Monkeys, young orangutans, wild boar, small deer, civets, porcupines, squirrels, birds, fish and domestic livestock
Gestation Period: 85 - 92 Days
Cub Maturity: 8 - 9 Months
Cubs Per Litter: 1 - 5 Kittens (Usually 2 kittens)
Lifespan: 10 - 12 years. Recorded to have lived up to 17 years in captivity.
Predators: Man.
Social Structure: Solitary
Territory Size: 34 - 51 km (20-30 miles)
Conservation Status: CITES Appendix I


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