The clouded leopard is a wild feline living in Southeast Asia. It is thought to be an evolutionary link between the “big cats” such as the lion, leopard, jaguar, and tiger; and the “small cats”, which include the lynx, serval, puma, and cheetah, among others.
Scientific & Common Names
Species: N. nebulosa
Common Names: Clouded Leopard, Mainland Clouded Leopard
Clouded leopards are not as large as their big cat relatives, growing to 43 inches long, minus the tail which by itself can be up to three feet long. They can reach nearly two feet in height at the shoulder.
The clouded leopards’ fur ranges from gray to yellow-brown, with large blotchy markings on its body that become smaller spots on the legs, and stripes on the tail.
Its sharp canine teeth are very large in proportion to its body, the largest of any cat relative to body size.
Clouded leopards reach maturity just after two years of age. They mate between December and March, and the gestation period lasts nearly 100 days, after which a litter of one to five cubs is born.
The young are born blind, and do not open their eyes until around 10 days after birth. They are cared for by their mother until around 10 months of age, at which point they become independent and go off on their own.
Clouded leopards are solitary creatures, preferring to stay secretive and out of site in dense forests. They are active at night, hunting prey such as monkeys, deer, pheasants and even pangolins.
They are some of the best climbers of all cats, and have even been observed climbing on branches completely upside down.
Clouded leopards have a long history of being kept in zoos. Captive breeding programs have grown in success, and the species can now be found in 64 zoos around the world. It is very popular in captivity in India, where it can be found in six different zoos.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the clouded leopard as Vulnerable. It is believed there are less than 10,000 individuals left in the wild, and the number is declining.
Though banned in many countries, illegal hunting of the leopard is a cause for concern. Its unique fur pattern makes it desirable for fur coats.