Clouded Leopard Facts

Clouded Leopard Facts

Clouded Leopard

Common Name: Clouded Leopard (a.k.a. Mint Leopard, Tree Tiger)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Pantherinae Neofelis
Species: nebulosa

Discovered in 2007: Borneo Clouded Leopard

Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: neofelis diardi

Misc.: This species, like the snow leopard, is one of those that is somewhere between the small cats and the great cats in that it can’t purr like the small cats and it can’t roar like the true great cats.

The tree climbing talents of the clouded rival that of the Margay, running down trees head-first and climbing branches horizontally with its back towards the ground, and even hangs upside down by its hind legs. They are also quite adept at swimming and readily take to water.

Sub-Species: None

Size and Appearance: The clouded leopard gets its name from the distinctive cloud like markings on its body, head, legs and tail. The inside color of the clouds are darker than the background color, and sometimes they are dotted with small black spots. The pelt ranges from ochre to tawny to silver-gray. Black and pale white individuals have been reported in the wild. The legs and belly are marked with large back ovals and the back of the neck is marked with 2 thick black bars. The tail, which is as long as the head and body length, is thick and plush with black rings. This is a short legged cat with the hind legs being longer than the front. The clouded leopard has the longest canines relatively speaking than any other living cat. They weigh between 22-45 pounds.

In captivity, Clouded leopards have lived up to 17 years, and in the wild average 11 years.

Habitat: The clouded leopard is most associated with primary evergreen tropical rainforests, but sightings have made in secondary and logged forests as well as grassland and scrub and mangrove swamps. It has been recorded at elevations of as high as 3000 meters (9600 feet).

Distribution: Nepal through Indochina, Sumatra and Borneo.

Reproduction and Offspring: Little is known of the breeding habits of clouded leopards in the wild, but in captivity litters of 1-5 (average 3) are born after an average 93 day gestation. Less than 20% of captive Clouded Leopards have been successful at reproducing because the males tend to kill their females during mating.

Social System and Communication: Unknown.

Hunting and Diet: Clouded leopards are equally adept at hunting on the ground as they are in trees, but uses trees primarily as a resting place. Their diet includes birds, primates, small mammals, porcupines, deer and wild boar.

Status: IUCN Vulnerable. Appendix 1 CITES.  Download this 2008 report documenting 1,158 endangered and threatened exotic cats being illegally, yet openly sold in Myanmar markets.  The Wild Cat Trade in Myanmar

2003 Felid TAG recommendation: Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa). Clouded leopards are difficult to manage for breeding in captivity due to the propensity of cloudedcatmap.jpg (128511 bytes)some males to attack and sometimes kill females. Other pairs never breed. Thus, most of the captive population of zoo and privately owned animals is derived from only a few founders (perhaps as few as two to three individuals). The same husbandry problem and low founder size exists in Europe. While striving to achieve a target population of 120 spaces, the SSP is actively engaged in research to determine behavioral or husbandry cues that trigger aggression.  Currently the Clouded Leopard Consortium with Thai zoos are the main hope for the survival of this species.

How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 230 worldwide, with 118 being in the U.S.

Information taken from IUCN Status Survey and Feline Facts (SOS Care)

Update: Thursday 14 December 2006

For many years the clouded leopard was traditionally regarded as a monotypic genus with four subspecies. But recent molecular genetic analyses (mtDNA, nuclear DNA sequences, microsatellite variation, and cytogenetic differences) have revealed that there is however a strong case for reclassification and the defining of two distinct species of clouded leopard – Neofelis nebulosa (mainland Asia) and Neofelis diardi (Indonesian archipelago). This case for two clouded leopard species based on genetic distinction that is equivalent to, or greater than, comparable measures among other Panthera species (lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, and snow leopard) is also strongly supported by the geographical variation revealed by morphometric analyses of the pelage (coat colour and patterns) between clouded leopard in Mainland Asia and in Indonesia (Borneo and Sumatra); again providing a compelling case for reclassification into two distinct species N. nebulosa and N. diardi. Paper abstracts follow:

Valerie A. Buckley-Beason, Warren E. Johnson, Willliam G. Nash, Roscoe Stanyon, Joan C. Menninger, Carlos A. Driscoll, JoGayle Howard, Mitch Bush, John E. Page, Melody E. Roelke et al. 2006. Molecular Evidence for Species-Level Distinctions in Clouded Leopards. Current Biology 16(23): 2371-2376.

Among the 37 living species of Felidae, the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is generally classified as a monotypic genus basal to the Panthera lineage of great cats. This secretive, mid-sized (16–23 kg) carnivore, now severely endangered, is traditionally subdivided into four southeast Asian subspecies (Figure 1A). We used molecular genetic methods to re-evaluate subspecies partitions and to quantify patterns of population genetic variation among 109 clouded leopards of known geographic origin (Figure 1A, Tables S1 and S2 in the Supplemental Data available online). We found strong phylogeographic monophyly and large genetic distances between N. n. nebulosa (mainland) and N. n. diardi (Borneo; n = 3 individuals) with mtDNA (771 bp), nuclear DNA (3100 bp), and 51 microsatellite loci. Thirty- six fixed mitochondrial and nuclear nucleotide differences and 20 microsatellite loci with nonoverlapping allele-size ranges distinguished N. n. nebulosa from N. n. diardi. Along with fixed subspecies-specific chromosomal differences, this degree of differentiation is equivalent to, or greater than, comparable measures among five recognized Panthera species (lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, and snow leopard). These distinctions increase the urgency of clouded leopard conservation efforts, and if affirmed by morphological analysis and wider sampling of N. n. diardi in Borneo and Sumatra, would support reclassification of N. n. diardi as a new species (Neofelis diardi).

Andrew C. Kitchener, Mark A. Beaumont and Douglas Richardson. 2006. Geographical Variation in the Clouded Leopard, Neofelis nebulosa, Reveals Two Species. Current Biology 16(23): 2377-2383.

The clouded leopard, Neofelis nebulosa, is an endangered semiarboreal felid with a wide distribution in tropical forests of southern and southeast Asia, including the islands of Sumatra and Borneo in the Indonesian archipelago. In common with many larger animal species, it displays morphological variation within its wide geographical range and is currently regarded as comprising of up to four subspecies. It is widely recognized that taxonomic designation has a major impact on conservation planning and action. Given that the last taxonomic revision was made over 50 years ago, a more detailed examination of geographical variation is needed. We describe here the results of a morphometric analysis of the pelages of 57 clouded leopards sampled throughout the species’ range. We conclude that there are two distinct morphological groups, which differ primarily in the size of their cloud markings. These results are supported by a recent genetic analysis. On that basis, we give diagnoses for the distinction of two species, one in mainland Asia (N. nebulosa) and the other in Indonesia (N. diardi). The implications for conservation that arise from this new taxonomic arrangement are discussed.


Borneo Clouded Leopard


Found on the islands of Borneo, Sumatra, and Batu, diverged ~1.4 million years ago

Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: neofelis diardi

Stocky build, ~25 kg, largest predator in Borneo, preys mostly on tree dwelling animals, previously found in Java as well, but has not been seen there since Neolithic times.

Usually darker in color than the clouded leopards of the main lands


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Clouded leopard: First film of new Asia big cat species

by Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

The Sundaland clouded leopard, a recently described new species of big cat, has been caught on camera.

The film, the first footage of the cat in the wild to be made public, has been released by scientists working in the Dermakot Forest Reserve in Malaysia.

The Sundaland clouded leopard, only discovered to be a distinct species three years ago, is one of the least known and elusive of all cat species.

Two more rare cats, the flat-headed cat and bay cat, were also photographed.

Details of the discoveries are published in the latest issue of Cat News, the newsletter of the Cat Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“Clouded leopards are one of the most elusive cats. They are very hardly ever encountered and almost no detailed study about their ecology has been conducted,” says Mr Andreas Wilting of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany.

Mr Wilting is leader of a project that evaluates how changes to the forest in the Malaysian part of Borneo impact carnivores living there.

As part of that project, the team places a network of camera traps in the forest, that automatically photograph passing animals.

The team, which includes the Malaysian field scientist Azlan Mohamed, also conducts regular surveys at night, by shining a spotlight from the back of a vehicle driven around the Dermakot Forest Reserve in Sabah.

During one of these surveys, they encountered a Sundaland clouded leopard walking along a road.

“For the first eleven months we had not encountered a single clouded leopard during these night surveys,” says Mr Wilting.

“So every one of our team was very surprised when this clouded leopard was encountered.

“Even more surprising was that this individual was not scared by the light or the noises of the truck.

“For over five minutes this clouded leopard was just roaming around the car, which compared to the encounters with the other animals is very strange, as most species are scared and run away after we have spotted them.”

Film exists of a Sundaland clouded leopard held in an enclosure.

And a tourist is thought to have taken a 30 second video of a wild Sundaland clouded leopard in 2006, but that video has never been made public.

Until 2007, all clouded leopards living in Asia were thought to belong to a single species.

However, genetic studies revealed that there are actually two quite distinct clouded leopard species.

As well as the better known clouded leopard living on the Asian mainland ( Neofelis nebulosa ), scientists determined that a separate clouded leopard species lives on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

The two species are thought to have diverged over one million years ago.

This leopard is now known as the Sunda or Sundaland clouded leopard ( Neofelis diardi ), though it was previously and erroneously called the Bornean clouded leopard.

Since 2008, it has been listed as vulnerable by the IUCN.

The clouded leopard, the largest predator on Borneo, appears to live at very low densities within the reserve, as it has only rarely been photographed by the researchers or camera traps.

During the surveys, the research team also discovered a juvenile samba deer ( Cervus unicolor ) which had been killed by a clouded leopard.

The scientists suspect a large male clouded leopard made the kill, and had removed part of the front right leg.

Despite being a commercial forest that is sustainably logged for wood, the Dermakot Forest Reserve in Sabah, which is an area of approximately 550km square kilometres, holds all five wild Bornean cat species.

As well as capturing images of the clouded leopard, the researchers also recorded four other wild cat species.

One video shows a wild leopard cat scent-marking its territory.

This smaller species is more common in the area, and has been filmed before.

“But due to its mainly nocturnal behaviour, specific behaviours like the scent marking are rarely documented on camera,” says Mr Wilting.

More thrilling are the pictures taken of the other cats: the flat-headed cat ( Prionailurus planiceps ), bay cat ( Catopuma badia ) and marbled cat ( Pardofelis marmorata ).

“All three species are very special,” says Mr Wilting.

“The bay cat was special, as there has never been a confirmed record of this species in our study site.

“Therefore I really did not expect to get a photo of this species and I was amazed when I saw this picture.”

Since 1928, there had been no confirmed record of this cat, before it was rediscovered in 1992 in Sarawak.

It is currently considered to be one of the world’s least known cat species, and is listed as endangered.

“In addition our record is the most northern record of this species, which is endemic to Borneo.”

Specialised climber

“Also the records of the flat-headed cat are very special as well, because just a few camera-trapping pictures of this species exist,” explains Mr Wilting.

“The flat-headed cat is a highly specialised cat, restricted to lowland forests and wetlands, those areas which have the highest destruction rates in Asia.

“This was also the reason why we changed the classification in the red list in 2008 from vulnerable to endangered, which puts this species in the same category as the tiger.

“The marbled cat is presumably mainly arboreal and therefore it is much harder to get this species photographed with the ground-based cameras.”

The marbled cat looks much like a miniature clouded leopard, with a cloud-like spot pattern and long tail.

“We have encountered this species twice during our night surveys in Deramakot and once we even observed it climbing headfirst down the tree-trunk.

“These cats have really amazing climbing skills.”

Mr Wilting says that finding all five Bornean cat species in one area suggests that Dermakot Forest Reserve is home to a particularly high diversity of animals, especially as Borneo is one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world.

It also suggests that even commercially used forests, as long as they are managed sustainably, may harbour threatened cat species and therefore contribute to their conservation, he says.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2010/02/10 09:12:29 GMT


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Bornean clouded leopards have largest teeth of any known living cat

10 Remarkable Monsters Named in the Last Ten Years [Monsters Among Us]

Dec. 24, 2009

We know that real monsters walk, slither, and crawl among us, and each year we learn more about the amazing creatures from Earth’s past and present. We look at ten of the more monstrous names we added this decade.

In the last ten years, researchers have discovered thousands of species, both living and extinct. We got dino-eating crocodiles and killer kangaroos; a fish with a transparent head and a demon duck of doom; a bright pink millipede and giant spiders. And previously named species, such as the tongue-eating isopod and the alien-limbed Magnapinna, made headlines.

A few of these species were observed before 2000, but were only named or recognized as species in the last ten years. And each has some wonderfully monstrous quality, be it their incredible size, arsenal of offensive or defensive weapons, or knack for survival.

A Big Cat With Bite: The Bornean Clouded Leopard, which was found to be a new species in 2007 (though it had been observed long before), may not look like much at first. It may weigh in at a mere 55 pounds, putting it on the small side for a big cat , but it has the largest teeth of any known cat alive. It has even been described as the modern answer to the Sabertooth Tiger.

The Largest Snake to Slither the Earth: If South America’s giant Anacondas make you quiver, be grateful that Titanoboa cerrejonensis has been dead for two million years. This prehistoric constrictor grew up to 50 feet in length and weighed in at a whopping 2500, the largest snake ever found. And its favorite food? Crocodiles. I can only imagine the digestive system on that thing.

Incidentally, this decade also saw the discovery of the smallest known snake, the Barbados Threadsnake.

Fanged Frogs: 2009 was a big year for frogs with teeth. Fanged frogs turned up in the Mount Bosavi crater in Papua New Guinea, where strange and wondrous new species are being discovered all the time. But even more monstrous are the Limnonectes megastomias, recently discovered in Thailand. This amphibian has been known to use its fangs in deadly combat, dismembering its froggy opponents. On top of that, when a bird swoops near, L. megastomias will snap and turn it into a tasty feast.

Sea Monsters of the Ancient Deep: Paleontologists digging in the Arctic Svalbard islands uncovered what they believe to be a new species of pliosaur, one with a skull twice as large as a Tyrannosaurus rex’s. Its teeth were 12 inches long (with a bite four times as strong as T. Rex’s), and is 15-meter-long body weighed an estimated 45 tons. That would make this Jurassic beast considerably larger than any pliosaur previously discovered.

Beware the Box: Giant jellyfish are a sight to behold, but it’s the diminutive Malo kingi that you’ll really want to avoid. The jelly gets its name, tragically, from its first known victim, Robert King, an American tourist swimming off the Queensland coast in 2002. Some researchers believe kingi venom is among the most toxic in the world.

A Rat as Big as a Cow: They just don’t make rodents like they used to. Josephoartigasia monesi weighed around a ton – dwarfing the modern capybara – and had enormous incisors that rival a beaver’s wood shredding teeth. Those incisors came in hand when fending off predatory birds and Sabertooth Tigers, though this largest of the rodents snacked on fruits and vegetables.

Mammal-Eating Plants: Pitcher plants are nothing new, but these large, rat-eating veggies added a few species in the last ten years. Naturalist David Attenborough was immortalized in Nepenthes attenboroughii, a new species found in the Philippines. Rodents are attracted to the liquid in the pitchers, then drown when they tumble inside.

A Bug Bigger Than You: In 2007, diggers found giant spiked claw belonging to Jaekelopterus rhenaniae in Prum, Germany. This sea scorpion, which lived 390 million years ago, was an estimated 8.2 meters long and ate anything it could get its claws on – including other scorpions.

Extreme Living, in Your Hairspray: Extremophiles can exist in environments that would kill lesser species – in extreme heat or cold, inside nuclear reactors, or in the void of space. Microbacterium hatanonis, discovered in 2008, chooses an odd environment as its home: in hairspray. It’s not clear how the bacterium affects humans, but the discovery adds more information on where and how they can survive.

Bomber Worms: This year, a researcher at Scripps Institute of Oceanography discovered seven new species of sea worms that secrete small globs of fluid that act as biological flash bombs. These bombs glow, distracting predators while the worm slips away. It’s only a shame that their defensive bombs can’t be weaponized for bonus monster action.

Send an email to Lauren Davis, the author of this post, at


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Singapore Zoo got clouded leopards, fishing cats in 2009

Confining wild animals

Straits Times, The (Singapore) – Friday, December 25, 2009

THE Jurong BirdPark, Night Safari and Singapore Zoo have designated quarantine areas for animals given to them as part of exchange programmes with other wildlife institutions.

Every year, about 20 wild animal exchanges take place. The animals are kept in designated areas within the compound for quarantine purposes.

This year, the Singapore Zoo received a pair of clouded leopards from Thailand, a pair of fishing cats and two pairs of spot-billed pelicans from Sri Lanka, and a female Indian rhino from the Oklahoma Zoo in the United States.

The Night Safari was given three Asiatic lions from India and a female Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo from the San Diego Zoo in the US.

The public will not be able to view them yet as quarantine areas are off-exhibit and accessible only to authorised staff members.

Mr Biswajit Guha, the zoo ‘s assistant director of zoology, said the quarantine period ranges from one to three months depending on the legal and Wildlife Reserves Singapore requirements. These, in turn, vary based on the species and the country from which the animal originated as well as the health of the animal.

Animals donated by members of the public or confiscated by the authorities are also placed in quarantine if they show signs of injury or illness.

‘The team of vets and quarantine keepers will check for signs of injury and illness, and collect samples for laboratory tests and health screening, as well as provide the animals with an appropriate diet, nutritional supplements and medication, if necessary,’ Mr Guha added.



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Clouded leopard cubs debut at Nashville Zoo

September 4, 2009

Leopard cubs frolic only until November

By Nancy DeVille

Three clouded leopard cubs will make their public debut Friday at the Nashville Zoo.

The genetically valuable cubs, two male and a female, were born in May and were kept in a secluded area while being hand-raised by zookeepers. Visitors can now spot the trio at the zoo’s Critter Encounters area until around November, when the weather gets cool.

Mother Jing Jai and her mate, Arun, were imported from Thailand to the Nashville Zoo in 2008 as part of a worldwide conservation effort to save the species from extinction.

At 3 months old, the cubs are full of energy and play rough with each other, with lots of biting and climbing, zoo officials said.

“This is a very important stage for the cubs, as they are beginning to become clouded leopards,” said Karen Rice, mammal curator at Nashville Zoo. “This behavior will continue for several months, and Critter Encounters will be a great place for guests to see this interaction.”

Because of deforestation, clouded leopards are endangered. Since 2002, Nashville Zoo has been a partner in the Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium, working other organizations to develop a multi-faceted conservation program.

The cubs’ parents, Arun and Jing Jai, were one of two pairs of clouded leopards that came to the U.S. in 2008 as part of the Consortium’s effort to create genetic diversity among the species. Earlier this year, a female gave birth to two males at the National Zoo National Zoo’s Conservation & Research Center in Front Royal, Va. Their birth, along with the three cubs’ birth at Nashville Zoo, introduced new genes into the American population for the first time in 20 years.

“The birth of these cubs is important because they represent renewed success of their species’ survival,” said Jim Bartoo, spokesman for the Nashville Zoo.

“Clouded leopards have been difficult to breed in captivity, and they are disappearing at an alarming rate in the wild.”

Around the first of the year, the female cub will be sent to National Zoo to meet and it is hoped mate with one of the male cubs born there, Bartoo said.

“Folks should come see our cubs soon because they will only be here until about November,” he said


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