Animal Info - Clouded Leopard

(Other Names: Engkuli, Gecho Bagh, Gui Ke Bao, Harimau Dahan, He Ye Bao, Hso Awn, In Kya, Lamchita, Lamchitia, Macan Dahan, Nebelparder, Pantera del Himalaya, Pantera Longibanda, Pantera Nebulosa, Panthère Longibande, Panthère Nébuleuse, Rikulau, Sena Laay Mek, Shagraw Kai, Sua One, Thit Kyaung, Thit-tet Kya, Wu Yun Bao, Yun Bao)

Neofelis nebulosa

Status: Vulnerable


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Taxonomy, Population Estimates, Distribution, Threats)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Size and Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Early Development, Dispersal, Maximum Reproductive Age, Maximum Age, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization, Range)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Clouded Leopard #1 (25 Kb JPEG) (Fauves du Monde); Clouded Leopard #2 (29 Kb JPEG) (IUCN Cat Spec. Gr.); Clouded Leopard #3 (37 Kb JPEG) (AZA Felid TAG); Clouded Leopard #4 (79 Kb) (Terrambiente) 

The clouded leopard looks like one of the "big cats" in miniature, having the powerful, robust build of a large cat. It has a head and body length of 82 - 99 cm (32 - 39") and weighs 11 - 19 kg (24 - 42 lb). Its coat is grayish or yellowish, with dark markings ("clouds") in shapes such as circles, ovals, and rosettes. The forehead, legs, and base of the tail are spotted, and the remainder of the tail is banded. The tail is long, the legs are stout, and the paws are broad. The clouded leopard is most closely associated with primary evergreen tropical rainforest, but it also makes use of other types of habitat, such as relatively open, dry tropical forest, mangrove forest, secondary and logged forest, grassland and scrub. 

The diet of the clouded leopard is thought to include a variety of arboreal and terrestrial vertebrates, such as orangutan, young sambar deer, barking deer, mouse deer, bearded pig, palm civet, gray leaf monkey, and porcupine. Fish, birds and poultry are sometimes taken.  The clouded leopard is highly adapted for an arboreal life, but it has also been observed exhibiting terrestrial behavior. Similarly, although it is generally considered to be primarily nocturnal, it is sometimes also active during the daytime. The clouded leopard swims well and has been found on small offshore islands. Clouded leopards are believed to be solitary animals except during the breeding season.

The clouded leopard is found from central Nepal in the eastern foothills of the Himalayas through southern China and most of southeast Asia to the islands of Sumatra (Indonesia) and Borneo (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia). Little is known about its status in any part of its geographic range, but recent records suggest a thin but widespread distribution. 

Deforestation, resulting from commercial logging and the growth of human settlements, is thought to be the foremost threat to the clouded leopard. Not only does deforestation remove the clouded leopard's own habitat, but it reduces the number of prey animals. Hunting of this cat for its fur and teeth as well as its bones, which are prized in the traditional Asian medicinal trade, is another major threat. The clouded leopard has also been featured on the menu of restaurants in China and Thailand which cater to wealthy Asian tourists, and it is sometimes persecuted for killing livestock.


Tidbits

*** Cat Tidbit #5: Cats have the most highly developed binocular vision of all the carnivores. Their eyes are set well forward and relatively high on the skull, allowing them to accurately judge distances while leaping from branch to branch or pouncing on prey. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002) (See Cat Tidbit #6.)

*** For its size, the clouded leopard has the longest canine teeth of any living cat (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002). Some call it the world’s only living saber-toothed cat (Humphrey & Bain 1990).

*** In Malaysia, the clouded leopard's local name means ‘branch-of-a-tree tiger' (Arkive 2005).

*** Clouded leopards are remarkably secretive creatures for their size (Nowell & Jackson 1996).


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

[The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature; also called the World Conservation Union) is the world’s largest conservation organization. Its members include countries, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations.  The IUCN determines the worldwide status of threatened animals and publishes the status in its Red List.]

Countries Where the Clouded Leopard Is Currently Found:

2005: Occurs in Bhutan, Brunei, China, India, Indonesia (Kalimantan, Sumatra), Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, and Viet Nam. May be extinct in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Taiwan. (IUCN 2005)

Taxonomy:

Recent genetic analyses have lead to the proposal that all modern cats can be placed into eight lineages which originated between 6.2 - 10.8 million years ago. The clouded leopard is placed in the "Panthera lineage," which diverged from its ancestors as a separate lineage 10.8 million years ago. The Panthera lineage also includes the lion, the jaguar, the leopard, the tiger, and the snow leopard. (Johnson et al. 2006)

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

Distribution:

The clouded leopard is found in tropical and sub-tropical forests from central Nepal in the eastern foothills of the Himalayas through southern China and most of southeast Asia to the islands of Sumatra (Indonesia) and Borneo (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia). Little is known about its status in any part of its geographic range, but recent records suggest a thin but widespread distribution almost everywhere. Camera trapping surveys conducted in several southeast Asian countries find the clouded leopard to be relatively rare compared to other cat species. (Austin & Tewes 1999, Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, Choudhury 2003, Arkive 2005, IUCN 2005)

Distribution Map #1 (2 Kb GIF) (Big Cats Online)
Distribution Map #2 (135 Kb JPEG) (AZA Felid TAG)

Threats:

Deforestation, resulting from commercial logging and the growth of human settlements, is thought to be the foremost threat to the clouded leopard. Not only does deforestation remove the clouded leopard's own shelter and habitat, but it reduces the number of prey animals. As humans have increasingly encroached on their habitats, these leopards have been known to prey on livestock, which puts them at risk of being killed by the owners. Another major threat is the hunting of this cat for its fur and teeth as well as its bones, which are prized in the traditional Asian medicinal trade. Clouded leopards have also featured on the menu of restaurants in China and Thailand which cater to wealthy Asian tourists. (Arkive 2005, IUCN 2005)


Data on Biology and Ecology

Size and Weight:

The head and body length of female clouded leopards is 69 - 94 cm (27 - 37") (avg 82 cm (32")) (n = 4), while for males it is 81 - 108 cm (32 - 43") (avg 99 cm (39")) (n = 5). Females weigh about 11 kg (24 lb) (n = 2), while males weigh 18 - 20 kg (40 - 44 lb) (avg 19 kg (42 lb)) (n = 4). (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

Habitat:

The clouded leopard is usually characterized as being most closely associated with primary evergreen tropical rainforest, but it also makes use of other types of habitat. Sightings have also been made in secondary and logged forest, as well as grassland and scrub. In Myanmar and Thailand, its presence has been reported from relatively open, dry tropical forest. The clouded leopard has also been recorded from mangrove forest in Borneo. In China, it apparently occurs in a variety of forest types, but there is no information on habitat preference or ecology across this large portion of its geographic range. It has been recorded in the Himalayan foothills up to 1450 m (4800'), and possibly as high as 3000 m (9800'). (IUCN 2005)

The clouded leopard is found in the Himalaya, Indo-Burma, and Sundaland Biodiversity Hotspots (Cons. Intl. 2005).  

Age to Maturity:

Clouded leopards reach sexual maturity by 20 - 30 months of age (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

Gestation Period:

The gestation period ranges from 85 - 109 days, but 88 - 95 days seems more typical (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

Birth Season:

There is no evidence of a confined breeding season in the wild for the clouded leopard (Humphrey & Bain 1990).

Birth Rate:

Litter size in captivity is 1 - 5 kittens, most often 3 (7 of 9 litters) (Nowell & Jackson 1996). There is little information on the interbirth interval of the clouded leopards because in captivity it is sometimes necessary to remove kittens from the den shortly after birth for hand rearing, and this may cause breeding to occur sooner than it would otherwise. Of four examples in captivity, on two occasions the interbirth interval was about one year, once it was about 16 months, and once 10 months (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002).

Early Development:

Young captive clouded leopards begin to climb and show an interest in solid food by 6 weeks and begin killing their own prey at 11 weeks. Weaning occurs by about 80 - 100 days and adult pelage appears by 6 months. (Tan 1996, Humphrey & Bain 1990)

Dispersal:

Clouded leopard cubs achieve independence at nine months (Arkive 2005).

Maximum Reproductive Age:

12 - 15 years (captivity) (Nowell & Jackson 1996).

Maximum Age:

A captive clouded leopard was still living at 19 years and 6 months (Nowak 1999).

Diet:

What little is known of the feeding ecology of the clouded leopard suggests that it preys on a variety of arboreal and terrestrial vertebrates. In India it feeds on small deer and other animals of similar size, including domestic stock such as goats and pigs. Birds and poultry are sometimes taken. In Borneo it is reported to prey on orangutans, young sambar deer, barking deer, mouse deer, bearded pig, palm civet, gray leaf monkey, fish and porcupine. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

Behavior:

It used to be thought that the clouded leopard was primarily arboreal. On the one hand, there seems to be no question that its arboreal abilities and adaptations are highly developed: the structure of its wrist bones allows the clouded leopard to grip a tree trunk or branch in much the same way as a squirrel does, it has been seen to run down tree trunks head-first as few other cats can, it can move along horizontal branches while hanging beneath them like a sloth, and it can hang upside down from branches by its hind feet. (Nowell & Jackson 1996, Seidensticker & Lumpkin 1996, Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, Arkive 2005)  However, reports from various studies provide different indications as to how arboreal the clouded leopard really is:

  • A study was conducted in Taiwan by interviewing eyewitness who had seen a clouded leopard. In the 24 instances people remembered where it had been seen, 13 were in trees and 11 on the ground. (Rabinowitz 1988)
  • Monitoring of a radio-collared subadult male clouded leopard in Nepal for 8 successive days indicated only terrestrial behavior. It was frequently found resting in grasslands among dense patches of the 4 - 6 m (13 - 20') tall grasses. (Dinerstein & Mehta 1989)
  • In a study in Sumatra, Indonesia using photo-trapping, all but one of the pictures of the clouded leopard were obtained with a camera set to capture arboreal species (Holden 2001).
  • A 1986 survey of villagers, timber workers, and forestry officials in Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia, resulted in 161 first-hand reports of clouded leopard sightings. Of all the sightings, 82 % were of clouded leopards traveling on the ground, usually on roads and trails in either primary or selectively logged secondary forest. The survey team concluded that [in this area] clouded leopards were not truly arboreal, but used trees in primary forest as daytime rest sites. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

Literature is not conclusive concerning the daily activity patterns of clouded leopards. Both older as well as some recent literature suggests that the clouded leopard is strictly nocturnal (Austin & Tewes 1999). However, there are also reports that daytime activity has been observed in the wild and in captive animals, indicating that they are not strictly nocturnal (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002):

A study of two clouded leopards in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand found that the female moved an average of 960 m/day (3100'/day) while the male moved a slightly greater daily distance of 1080 m (3500') (Austin & Tewes 1999). In the study in Thailand’s Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary mentioned above, where 4 clouded leopards were radio-tracked, the distances between consecutive-day locations for all four cats averaged 1900 m (6300') (range 120 - 7700 m/day (400 - 25,000'/day) (Grassman et al. 2005)

Clouded leopards swim well and have been found on small islands off of Borneo (Sabah, Malaysia)  and Viet Nam (Nowell & Jackson 1996).

Clouded leopard young are reported to den in tree hollows, but nothing else is known about rearing habits in the wild (Grassman et al. 2005).

Social Organization:

Clouded leopards are believed to be solitary animals except during the breeding season, when the males seek out the females (Arkive 2005).

In the Grassman et al. 2005 study mentioned above, each clouded leopard home range overlapped a conspecific's home range. The amount of overlap occurring between males and females was 31% ± 28 SD (11 - 83%).  Overlap among male home ranges was 31% and 47 %. (Grassman et al. 2005)

Range:

Khao Yai National Park, Thailand: For one female clouded leopard, the home range was 33.3 sq km (12.8 sq mi), while a male used a home range of 36.7 sq km (14.2 sq mi) (Austin & Tewes 1999).

Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand: Home ranges for two male clouded leopards were 45.1 sq km (17.4 sq mi) and 29.7 sq km (11.5 sq mi); for two females they were 25.7 sq km (9.9 sq mi) and 22.9 sq km (8.8 sq mi). (Grassman 2003)


References

Arkive 2005, Austin & Tewes 1999, AZA Felid TAG, Choudhury 2003, Cons. Intl. 2005, Dinerstein & Mehta 1989, Fauves du Monde, Grassman 2003, Grassman et al. 2005, Holden 2001, Humphrey & Bain 1990, IUCN 2005, IUCN Cat Spec. Gr., Johnson et al. 2006, Nowak 1999, Nowell & Jackson 1996, Rabinowitz 1988, Santiapillai 1989, Seidensticker & Lumpkin 1996, Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, Tan, 1996, Terrambiente


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Last modified: March 21, 2006;

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