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Clouded Leopard

Clouded Leopard
Scientific Classification
Binomial name
Neofelis nebulosa

The Clouded Leopard, Neofelis nebulosa, (雲豹) is a medium-sized cat, 60 to 110 cm long and weighing between 11 and 20 kilos. It has a tan or tawny coat, distinctively marked with large, irregularly-shaped, dark-edged ellipses which are said to be shaped like clouds: hence both its common and scientific names.

It ranges through southern China, the eastern Himalayas, through south-east Asia, and the Indonesian archipelago. It is thought to be extict in Taiwan. Prefered habitat is tropical and subtropical forest at altitudes up to about 2000 metres (6,500 ft), however it is sometimes found in mangrove swamps and grassland.

The Clouded Leopard has a stocky build and, proportionately, the longest canine teeth of any living feline. This led early researchers to speculate that it preyed on large land-dwelling mammals. However, while remarkably little is known about the habits of this species in the wild, it is now thought that its primary prey is aboreal mammals, particularly Gibbons, Pig-tailed Macaques, and Proboscis Monkeys, supplemented by small mammals, deer, birds, porcupines, and domestic livestock.

It is a tree dweller, and like the Margay of South America, has a squirrel-like agility. In captivity, Clouded Leopards routinely hang by their hind legs with their long tails swinging for balance, and run head-first down tree trunks. Little is known about their behaviour in the wild, but it is assumed that they are highly aboreal and that a favoured hunting tactic is to drop on prey from the trees.

Females give birth to a litter of 1 to 4 cubs after a gestation period of about 90 to 100 days. The young are blind and helpless to begin with, and unlike adults, their spots are "solid"—completely dark rather than dark rings. The young can see within about 10 days of birth, are active within 5 weeks, and probably become independent at about 9 months of age. Adults in captivity have lived as long as 17 years: in the wild, it is reasonable to assume a considerably shorter life.

The secretive habits of the Clouded Leopard make it difficult to estimate its population. It is protected by law in most of the countries that it inhabits, but it is threatened by widesprad deforestation, and by hunting for fur and Chinese chinese medicinal products. It is classified as vulnerable.

Captive breeding programs met with little success to begin with, largely because the females were very often killed by the males. However, experience has taught breeders that pairs introduced and given the opportunity to bond at an early age breed successfully.