Scientific Name–              Neofelis nebulosa

Conservation Status–     Vulnerable

Appearance

The clouded leopard is notable due to the dark cloud like patterns on its yellow or grey coat. The top of the head and the legs feature large numbers of spots. From the eyes to the nape of the neck there are black stripes. Along the back runs another stripe. The fur on the underside is a light cream colour with no stripes. The legs are a similar colour the entire way round. Their nose is pink. Around the edges of the ear is a black stripe.

Clouded leopards have greyish-green or brownish-yellow irises. Their eyes are odd when compared to other cats eyes as they are always oblong in shape. This is unlike the big round eyes of big cats or the vertical slits clouded leopardpossessed by small cats.

Their tail is the longest in relation to body size of any cat. This is used for balance when climbing on branches. It can measure from 61 to 85cm (24-33in).

Male clouded leopards are larger than the females. Males measure 81-108cm (32-43in) from the head to the tip of the tail. Females measure 68.6-94cm (27-27in) long. Both sexes weigh between 11.5 and 23kg (25-51lb). At the shoulder they stand 50-55cm (20-22in) tall.

Lifespan                                                                                  

Clouded leopards live for an average of 13 years but one individual did make it to 17 years old.

Diet

This species is carnivorous. Their diet varies by region. In Thailand most of their diet is rodents, ground squirrels and porcupines. While in other regions they eat pig tailed macaques, gibbons and proboscis monkeys. They also consume cattle, deer, birds and wild boars along with livestock such as chickens and goats from farms.

When hunting they have a number of advantages. One of these is that they can hang upside from their back feet to grab prey. They can also jump out of trees onto the back of a prey item to catch prey.

After eating clouded leopards retire to a tree where they rest which aids the digestion of their food.

Habitat

Clouded leopards are found in South East Asia. They live throughout Nepal, India, Myanmar, Bhutan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indochina and China. In the past they were found throughout Taiwan but they are now extinct in this area.

They are found throughout tropical and subtropical forests, tall grasslands and mangrove swamps. One of the largest threats facing this species is deforestation.

Their home range is between 129.5 and 310.8 square kilometres ( 50 and 120miles square) in size. During their day they may travel clouded leoparda mile through this. This is marked with urine and scratch marks on trees.

Reproduction

Mating occurs between December and March. When courting the female males can be very aggressive. It is not uncommon for them to bite the back of the females neck which severs their vertebrae. A compatible pair meets many times over several days to mate. This involves the male grasping the female’s neck which causes her to vocalise if she is happy to mate with the male.

The gestation period lasts for between 86 and 95 days. After this an average of 3 cubs are born though five is possible. Cubs are born with their eyes closed, no teeth and unable to walk. Their spots begin out solid instead of the rings which adults have.

At two weeks of age the eyes open. A week later their first teeth emerge and they begin to walk though they are still wobbly. By 7-10 weeks old they are beginning to eat. Weaning off of milk occurs between 11 and 14 weeks of age.

At six months old they look like adults and their mother begins to take them out for hunting lessons. By 2-2 ½ years old they can go off on their own and are sexually mature.

Behaviour

Clouded leopards are nocturnal an arboreal. This allows them to avoid competition for food with the tigers and leopards which live in the same area. During the day they rest in a tree. They are solitary and only interact for mating.

Vocalisations used by the clouded leopard include mewing, hissing, growling, snorting and moaning.

Quick facts

They have the largest gender size difference of any cat.

Throughout China they are referred to as mint leopards as their spots look like mint leaves. While in Malaysia they are called tree tigers.

Their teeth are the longest relative to body size of any cat.

Photo Credits:

Top        – By Ltshears (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom – By Nancy Vandermey (Own work) [GNU FDL (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:GNU_Free_Documentation_License,_version_1.2)] via Wikimedia Commons