Clouded Leopard

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Southeastern part of the Asian continent from Nepal, Bangladesh and Assam (eastern India) through Indochina to Sumatra and Borneo and northeastward to southern China and formerly Taiwan. Although population numbers are thought to be lower outside protected areas, their populations are probably healthiest in Borneo because of the absence of tigers and leopards.

Forests, jungles, grasslands, scrub and swampy areas

Distinguishing Characteristics
The clouded leopard is frequently described as bridging the gap between big and small cats. It has proportionately short legs, large broad paws and a long bushy tail.

Base color of fur ranges from pale yellow to a rich brown with large irregular shaped blotches (“clouds”) on its side giving it its name. The edges of these blotches are dark brown or black and paler in the middle. The underside is white or pale with few spots. The neck and back have streaked, elongated black or dark-brown spots. The head and legs are usually spotted, and the tail is heavily furred and marked with broken, black rings. The clouded leopard has yellow eyes.

A distinctive feature of the clouded leopard is its long canine teeth. These canines are longer in proportion to body size than those of any other species of wild cat.

Dietary Classification
Diet in the Zoo: Commercially-prepared feline diet, mutton, beef knuckle bone, chicken, horsemeat, chicks, quail, ground turkey, trout and mice

Diet in the Wild: Like all wild cats, clouded leopards are carnivores. They hunt a variety of prey, including birds, squirrels, monkeys, deer and wild pigs. It was once thought that clouded leopards hunted while climbing. Current thought, however, is that while some hunting may occur in the trees, the bulk most likely takes place on the ground. Trees are thought to provide resting habitat during the day.

Life Span
Wild: 10-15 years. Captivity: 15-20 yrs

Because the clouded leopard is such a secretive animal, with most sightings made at night, most of the knowledge of its social behavior comes from observations in zoological facilities. Tend to be solitary except during breeding season.

Like all cats, clouded leopards have the tapetum lucidum, a layer of tissue on the eye, which reflects back all external light thus helping them to see at night. Their night vision is six times that of a human.
They have sensitive whiskers used for touch, to feel objects and movement around its head

Clouded leopards are one of the best climbers in the cat family. Only one of two cats able to run down a tree head first due to very flexible ankle joints (the other is the Margay of South America). They are also able to climb along horizontal branches with their backs to the ground and hang upside down from branches by hind feet. Several adaptations allow clouded leopards to achieve these amazing arboreal skills.
* Their legs are short and stout, providing excellent leverage and a low center of gravity while climbing.
* Large paws with sharp claws allow them to gain a good grip on tree branches.
* A clouded leopard’s tail can be up to 3 feet long (the same length as its body) and is extremely important as a balancing aid.
* The hind feet possess flexible ankle joints that allow the foot to rotate greatly. This adaptation allows clouded leopards to descend, squirrel-like, head first from a tree.

Clouded leopards do not roar like the larger cats, and they do not purr like small cats. They do, however, “chuff” like tigers as a greeting. Clouds also make many other noises, such as growls, whines and a high-pitched, meow-like call.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Endangered
CITES: Appendix I Species
IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
Although officially protected in most range countries, enforcement in many areas is weak. Precise data on its population numbers in the wild is not known, but the reduced number of pelts encountered at fur markets and sightings of live clouded leopards by resident peoples within its range suggest the species is thought to be in decline.

Zoo Specifics
Species Survival Plan (SSP):
Clouded leopards are considered one of the most difficult large cats to breed in zoological facilities. Priorities for this SSP include increasing the number of animals of founders of known origin, identifying the relationship of clouded leopard subspecies and developing a protocol for the introduction of new breeding pairs. The target population of the Regional Collection Plan is 120 specimens.

Nashville Zoo is a member of the Clouded Leopard Consortium - a collaborative effort composed of the Thailand Zoological Parks Organization, Khao Kheow Open Zoo (KKOZ), Nashville Zoo, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Asian Wildlife Consultancy and Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan. The program is based at KKOZ in Chonburi, Thailand.

This coalition of international partners is working together to develop a multi-disciplinary conservation project for the clouded leopard in Thailand. This is a unique and ambitious project. Considerable progress has been made to develop a viable breeding program, to create a long-term conservation program and to build capacity for husbandry, research, education and wildlife monitoring in this critical clouded leopard range country.