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Clouded Leopards (Neofelis nebulosa and Neofelis diardi)

Bornean Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi)
Bornean Clouded Leopard
Neofelis diardi
Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)
Clouded Leopard
Neofelis nebulosa

It has been recently discovered that there are now two species of clouded leopard, the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), which lives on the mainland of Southeast Asia and the Bornean clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), which lives on the Borneo and Sumatra islands off Southeast Asia. For a long time, the Bornean clouded leopard was thought to be identical to the clouded leopards living on mainland Southeast Asia because they look similar, both have oblong pupils and neither cat roars. But, recent genetic analysis has shown them to a completely separate species. Scientists have counted at least 40 key differences in the DNA of the two species of clouded leopard - making them almost as different as a lion is to a tiger. Bornean clouded leopards are the biggest predators on Borneo.

Distribution and Description

The clouded leopard is about the size of a small Labrador retriever. Average body length is 2-3 feet in length. The exceptionally long tail usually measures between two and a half to three feet. The legs are relatively short with large broad paws. It has yellow eyes, but unlike other big cats, it doesn't have round pupils--they're oblong, and they don't shrink to slits like small cats' pupils.

The clouded leopard has a large build and proportionately the longest canine teeth (2 in) of any living feline, which is why these cats are also considered the modern-day sabre tooth. However, they are classified as big cats because they have a shortened face and elongated lower canines like the true big cats. Thus, their genus is considered to be closer to Panthera than Felis. ale clouded leopards can be more than twice the size of females. This is the largest gender size difference in the cat family.

The clouded leopard is found in the southeastern part of the Asian continent, from Nepal eastward to Taiwan, including southern China, and southward to the island of Java, including Burma (Myanmar), Indochina and Malaysia. The Bornean clouded leopard lives on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. The clouded leopard prefers the deep tropical forests, jungles and swampy areas far away from humans.

The clouded leopard is a highly arboreal cat, meaning that they mainly live in trees. Unlike most cats, clouded leopards build sleeping nests by breaking up branches. It is an adept climber and, because its flexible ankle joints can rotate backward, the snow leapord can run down trees head-first. The only other cat besides the two clouded leopard species that can do this is the Margay (Leopardus wiedi). The clouded leopard can also climb while hanging upside-down under branches and hang down from trees by its hind legs using its long tail for balance. This frees their front paws for snagging unwary prey. On islands and other areas where there are no larger cats, clouded leopards are more active during the day and spends more time on the ground.

Hunting and Eating

Clouded leopards are solitary except during the breeding season. Little else is know about their social habits. They are opportunistic, ambush predators that hunt by day or night, either by stalking its prey on the ground or by ambushing it from the trees. They eat deer, cattle, goats, wild pigs, reptiles, birds, and monkeys.

Vocal Communication

Although clouded leopards are considered big cats, they can't roar. They have a rigid hyoid bone (U-shaped bone located near the base of the skull and suspended above the larynx), so they can purr the same way small cats do. They also lack the special morphology of the larynx necessary for roaring. Instead, the sounds they make include a low moaning roar-like sound, a soft chuffle, a growl, a hiss and meows.