Clouded Leopard

Neofelis nebulosa

Photo - Feline Conservation Center

Body Length(mm) -750-1100

Weight (kg) - 16-20

Litter Size - 2-4 average

Life Span - 11-17 years

Status - Vulnerable

N.n.brachyurus - Taiwan

N.n.diardi - Borneo, Malay Peninsular

N.n.macrosceloides - Nepal, Burma

N.n.nebulosa - S.China, Indochina

The clouded leopard is sufficiently distinct from other members of the Felidae family, due mainly to the unique shape of its skull, to be placed in a separate genus - Neofelis. Outwardly the cat is immediately recognisable by its distinctive coat patterning. The base colour of the fur is pale yellow/brown and is marked on the body by large irregular shaped markings, each dark brown/black around the edge and lighter in the middle and it is this ‘cloud’ pattern that give the cat its name. The undersides and short, stout legs are usually spotted and the head and neck streaked with black/dark brown. In overall size the clouded leopard is similar to that of a small leopard, reaching up to 38 inches in body length, whilst having an extremely long tail, measuring up to nearly 3 feet on the largest of the species. The clouded leopard also has the largest canine teeth in proportion to its body size of any of the cat family.

Native to South Eastern Asia, the habitat of the clouded leopard is generally that of dense tropical forest up to a height of 7,000 feet, however recent reports indicate that the cat may also inhabit more open forested terrain and swamp margins. A distinct sub-species known as the Formosan clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa brachyurus) is reported to be found only on Taiwan - however lack of recent sightings suggest that the loss of natural habitat and decline of its prey base may indicate that this sub-species may now be extinct in the wild.

It is an extremely good climber, aided by the balancing effect of its long tail and supple ankle joints - in captivity the clouded leopard has been observed hanging from overhanging branches by its rear legs. Although in part arboreal, the clouded leopard hunts mainly on the ground at night. Its prey includes deer, goats, wild pig, reptiles, and birds. Monkeys are also on the prey list and it may be that these are hunted off the ground.

Throughout its range the animal has been heavily hunted for its distinctive fur and for its teeth and bones which, as with the tiger, are commonly used in Oriental medicine preparations. This coupled with the loss of habitat, mainly due to deforestation, has led to the animal being endangered. It is listed in CITES Appendix 1.

1997 Andrew Garman