Common Name: Clouded Leopard (a.k.a. Mint Leopard, Tree Tiger)
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Genus: Pantherinae Neofelis
Discovered in 2007: Borneo Clouded Leopard
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.
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 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
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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