This is one of the least-known of the larger cats, occurring in forested areas. In spite of its size, it is a very agile climber.
The clouded leopard is not a close relation of the true leopard. This shy and retiring creature has short legs, but a long tail and teeth. It has distinctive cloud-shaped markings on its pelt, which tends to be pale yellow to grey. It also has two large black bars on the back of its neck.
Not much study has been done on clouded leopards due to their shyness of humans. They are carnivorous, eating mainly deer, cattle and monkeys. It is a good climber and hunts by pouncing from trees, as well as by stalking prey on the ground. It is thought that most of their hunting is done on the ground. It kills with a single bite from its exceptionally long canine teeth.
Like most of the big cats, clouded leopards have no real predators, and their biggest threat comes from human activities.
Loss of habitat and pressure of hunting for their beautiful pelts is driving them deeper into the forest. It takes around 25 animals to make a single fur coat. Their bones are also used in traditional medicine.
Elusive and agile, these handsome cats are little known and highly endangered.
These wild cats appear to have no close relatives. The canine tooth in the upper jaws is proportionately bigger than those of all other members of the family.
In clouded leopards, the hyoid near the voicebox in the throat is made of bone rather than cartilage. This means that they communicate by roaring but are unable to purr like smaller cats. Young clouded leopards will have more pronounced patterning than adults until they are about six months old. Occasional melanistic individuals have also been reported — recognizable by their black fur, which obscures their markings. The status of the clouded leopard is vulnerable because of forest clearance and hunting.
Distribution: Occurs in Southeast Asia, from Nepal and southeastern China across the Malay Peninsula to islands.
Habitat: Deep tropical forest and jungle.
Weight: 16 – 23 kg (35 – 51 lb).
Length: 115 – 200 cm (46 – 79 in), including tail.
Maturity: 2 – 3 years.
Gestation Period: 86-93 days.
Breeding: 1 – 5 kittens born in summer.
Food: Hunts monkeys and birds in trees, as well as deer, buffalo and even porcupines on the ground.
Lifespan: Probably 7 – 10 years; has lived up to 18 in captivity.
The clouded leopard’s long tail is important in providing balance when leaping from one branch to another.
The common name of these cats comes from the black labels on their coat, said to resemble clouds.
Legs and paws
The legs are very stocky, with broad paws. The tough pads protect the underside of the feet from injury.
Young clouded leopards will start taking solid food at 10 weeks.