Clouded Leopard - smallest of the Big Cats
Clouded leopards are a unique specie of
feline. Everything about them sets them apart from other cats, and
is why they are in their own genus. Their markings are reminiscent
of clouds on their body, legs, and tails, hence their name. They
have the body size and shape of a small cat, yet their teeth and
skull structure is clearly that of larger cat. They are larger than
the small felines and smaller than the larger ones. With ankles that
can rotate 90 degrees, they are able to scale down a tree head first,
a trait shared with the margay and Geoffroy cats of South America.
The pupils of the their eyes are different from any other cat's
also. They never get fully round like the larger felines, nor do
they ever shrink to vertical slits like the smaller felines.
Instead, they stay in an oblong shape. They purr like the small
cats, but they also have a low, moaning roar, a soft chuff, a growl,
a hiss, and meows as part of their calls. And then there’s that
amazing tail—the longest, in relation to body size of any cat's tail. Lets not
forget about those teeth. They also have the longest canine teeth in
relation to body size of any feline and are thought to be decedents
of the "Saber Toothed Cat". They are very long, stocky cats with
short legs, and their head is rounded, with a long muzzle. Their
paws are very large.
Small deer, civets, monkeys, birds,
fish, young orangutans, wild boar,
porcupines, squirrels, and sometime domestic animals make up their
Breeding Clouded Leopards in captivity
has proven to be a very ominous task with a high mortality in the
females. The canines are so large, that many female
end up with punctured jugulars or a severed spinal cord from the
males canine teeth.
Leopards are the only exotic cat that is a spontaneous ovulater. All
other exotic cats are induced ovulators, meaning they have to be
bred for the eggs to drop down from the ovaries. The main hope for
maintaining a captive population that is healthy, is artificial
insemination and possibly embryo transfers. There are a few breeders
in the UK with a theory that females will only breed with one male,
therefore being mon-estrous. Believing that a female needs to live
with an bond to the male from a young age.
They are adapted for an arboreal
lifestyle, but spend most of the time on the ground except in areas
where they share their habitat with tigers and leopards. Considering
its size, they are still very secretive and it has been difficult to
study in the wild.
Unfortunately, population numbers are
dropping outside of protected areas. The rain forest in which they
live, is often divided into small, unconnected sections. The main
threat to survival is continued habitat loss from a growing number
of farms, and the lumber industry, as is true of all rain forest dwellers. Though they are protected by law, they are still hunted
for their beautiful fur coats, and some native cultures believe clouded
leopard bones and teeth have healing powers.
There is no legal protection for clouded
leopards outside protected areas in Bhutan. They are thought to be
extinct in Taiwan, and there is no information from Cambodia. The
actual status of the population is unknown, and they are classed as
vulnerable by the World Conservation Union, and have been put on
Appendix 1 by CITES.