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Clouded Leopard - smallest of the Big Cats

 

ClouRaja, A Clouded Leopard owned by www.classroomsafari.comded 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 diet.

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.

 

Clouded 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 protecClouded Leopard on a logted 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.