The clouded leopard is often mistaken as a type of leopard. In fact, they are wild cats. They are members of the genus Neofelis in the sub family Pantherinae of the cat family Felidae. Along with clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) with three subspecies; the genus Neofelis has another species called the Bornean clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi).
The name clouded leopard is derived from the cloud-shaped markings on their coat, which are often found to be tawny. These markings are large and irregular, with dark edges. When compared to the domestic cats, these felines are larger; but are smaller than the big cats.
Distribution and Habitat
They are medium-sized wild cats found in some regions of the South-East Asia, like China, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Vietnam. The genus Neofelis has two species, clouded leopards and Bornean clouded leopards. It was in 2006, that Bornean clouded leopards were classified as a separate species. They are found in Sumatra, Batu and Borneo islands.
Clouded leopards are mostly found on trees. They lead an arboreal life, as they are considered as the most excellent climbers among the members of the cat family Felidae. The arboreal skills are also used for hunting prey. Clouded leopard habitat includes the evergreen tropical forests of South-East Asia.
They are rarely seen, as they spend most of the time on trees. So, very little is known about these wild cats, that lead solitary lives. However, during mating season, clouded leopards hunt together, and the cubs are also seen with the mother. These animals are said to be very secretive.
Clouded leopards are medium-sized, and they grow to a height of around 25 to 40 inches (at the shoulder). An average adult has a body weight, that can range between 15 to 24 kilograms. They have a distinct skull structure, as compared to other felines. Their jaw structure enables them to open their mouth wider than any other cat species.
An interesting fact about clouded leopards is that, these wild animals have the longest canine teeth (in proportion to skull size), as compared to other living felines. The length of their canine teeth is around two inches, and is similar to that of tigers. However, tigers are almost ten times larger than clouded leopards.
They have short and strong legs, that are very flexible. The large paws and sharp claws help them in climbing, and hanging upside down on trees. Even the long and strong tail helps them in balancing, during their movements among trees.
One of the unique features of the clouded leopard is the long tail, which can be as long as the body length of the animal. In fact, it is said to be the longest among all felines (in proportion to the body size).
Clouded leopards hunt a wide range of animals and birds, especially the arboreal and terrestrial mammals. Captive clouded leopards are also fed with eggs and some types of vegetables. Their gestation period is around 85 to 93 days.
The litter size can range between one to five cubs, that are dependent on their mother for around ten months. However, clouded leopards are classified as vulnerable species, as their population is dwindling, due to habitat loss, illegal hunting and other human interventions.