The clouded leopard is a cool carnivore living in south-eastern Asia. These animals are rarely seen in the wild, and most of the known information about them comes from captive individuals. They live in jungles and rain-forests where they spend a lot of their time in the trees. There are two thoughts on how this animal got its name. This first is that their markings resemble clouds, and the second is the fact that they live high in the trees, close to the clouds. There are conflicting statements about which one is true. Although it was once thought to be one species, the clouded leopard has now been split up into two different species: the clouded leopard and the Diard’s clouded leopard. The latter species has darker colored fur and smaller markings. Both species are mostly nocturnal. Clouded leopards also have a larger range.
Clouded leopards were definitely made for hunting. Since a large part of their diet includes highly agile monkeys and birds, these big cats must be precise in their jumps. If they miss, their potential prey could swing or fly away, and since clouded leopards can’t fly or swing from the trees, they must find another animal to eat. Most mature individuals hunt in a range of up to 15 square miles (40 sq. km). Sometimes clouded leopards eat animals on the ground such as deer, wild boar, cattle, and even porcupines. If their are no other large cats in the area, these animals will hunt during the day time and eat animals mostly on the ground. Clouded leopards have an extremely rough tongue that they use to scrape of feathers and fur of their prey before they eat it. Although all big cats have large canine teeth, clouded leopard hold the record for the largest cat canines compared to body size. They are about 2 inches long, close to the size of the canines of a tiger even though the tiger is ten times the size of the clouded leopard! The Diard’s clouded leopard normally has larger canines than the clouded leopard.
Clouded leopards have retractable claws that they can use to climb trees easily. Their hind feet can swivel around so they can grip when coming down trees. Some clouded leopards have been observed hanging upside-down by their feet in a tree! These cats are also good swimmers.
These cats, although they are in the “big cats” group, only stand about 2 feet (60 cm) tall at the shoulders. They only weigh 50 pounds (23 kg) which is about as much as a five year old human weighs. They can grow up to 42 inches (106 cm) long with a tail of up to 36 inches (91 cm).
Mating and young
Clouded leopards are thought to be solitary except during breeding. These animals can mate at any time of the year and normally first mate at age two. After an up to 93 day pregnancy, the females give birth to a litter of normally two but up to five young. These babies are usually born at night or in early morning. When first born, clouded leopard young weigh around 6 ounces (170 g) and have no teeth, and their eyes are closed. At two weeks old, the young open their eyes for the first time. One week later, their teeth start to show, and they start moving their legs more. In as little as six weeks, they can climb trees. At the age of three months, young clouded leopards are weaned, and after as little as a year, they are completely independent. Clouded leopards can live for up to 20 years in captivity. While their lifespan is not known in the wild, it is thought to be much less.
Click here to see a video about clouded leopards. Don’t forget to scroll down and leave your guess about what the nest animal is!
- Animals of the world. Tom Jackson, ISBN: 978-1780191089
- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. David Burnie and Don E. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6002-4
- Clouded leopard: Charles Barilleaux
- Mystery animal: Creative commons