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Basic Facts About Clouded Leopards
Named for the large cloud-like spots on its body, the clouded leopard is a medium-sized cat that sports a grayish or yellowish coat. The spots, which are generally dark brown with a black outline, provide excellent camouflage in the leopard’s forest habitat. Clouded leopards have long, strong tails and powerful, stout legs. They are also known to be one of the best climbers in the cat family.
Clouded leopards eat varied prey, from birds to monkeys to wild pigs.
The clouded leopard’s reclusive nature has made it hard to determine population size. However, there is evidence of declining populations and one of the four subspecies is thought to be extinct.
Historically clouded leopards were found in much of Southeast Asia from Nepal to southern China. Today, four subspecies are found in the following regions: Nepal to Burma; southern China to eastern Burma; Sumatra, Borneo and Java; Taiwan (thought to be extinct in the wild). The Bornean clouded leopard has been identified as a new cat species.
Clouded leopards live in forests at elevations of up to 8,000 feet and spend much of their lives in trees. Their bodies are well adapted to this arboreal lifestyle. While their strong tails help them to balance while perched on tree branches, their specially adapted ankle bones and large paws allow them to both climb while hanging upside down under branches and climb down trees head first! When a clouded leopard spots its prey on the forest floor, it leaps down on it from above.
The social behavior of clouded leopards is virtually unknown. They are, however, thought to be solitary animals. And though they are mostly nocturnal, evidence has shown them to be active during some periods of the day.
Mating Season: Can occur during any month but in captivity between December and March.
Gestation: 85-93 days.
Litter size: 1-5 cubs
At birth, kittens weigh five to six ounces, and do not open their eyes until they are 12 days old. Clouded leopard kittens nurse until they are five months old and do not develop adult coloration until they are six months old.
Rapid habitat loss due to deforestation, illegal hunting for traditional Chinese medicines and demand for its beautiful pelt may be driving the decline of clouded leopard populations.
Reasons For Hope
Defenders of Wildlife is working to pass legislation that would help conserve 15 species of great cats and rare canines that exist outside the U.S. In April 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act (HR 411) aimed at conserving 15 of the world’s rarest wild cats and canids, including lions. The bill now needs approval by the Senate before being made law.
More on Clouded Leopard: What You Can Do to Help Clouded Leopards »
Endangered Species Act: Endangered »
IUCN Red List: Vulnerable »
CITES: Appendix I »
Height: 10-16 inches at shoulders.
Height: 10-16 inches at shoulders.
Length: 2-3 feet (tail also measure at 2-3 feet).
Weight: 35-50 lbs (males); females significantly smaller.
Lifespan: While little is known about their lifespan in the wild, clouded leopards have been known to live up to 17 years in captivity.
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