Clouded Leopard

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Felis macrocelis
Felis marmota

The Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is a cat found from the Himalayan foothills through mainland Southeast Asia into China, and has been classified as vulnerable in 2008 by IUCN. Its total population size is suspected to be fewer than 10,000 mature individuals, with a decreasing population trend and no single population numbering more than 1,000 adults.[2]

Contents

Characteristics

Clouded leopards have a tan or tawny coat, and are distinctively marked with large, irregularly-shaped, dark-edged ellipses which are said to be shaped like clouds. This unique appearance gave the cat both its common and scientific species name — nebulosus is Latin for "cloudy". The clouded leopard was confusing to scientists for a long time because of its appearance and skeleton. It seemed to be a cross between a big cat and a small cat.

The average clouded leopard typically weighs between 15 and 23 kilograms (33 and 51 lb), and has a shoulder height of 25 to 40 centimetres (9.8 to 16 in).[3] Females have a head-body length varying from 68 to 94 centimetres (27 to 37 in), with a 61 to 82 centimetres (24 to 32 in) tail, while the males are larger at 81 to 108 centimetres (32 to 43 in) with a 74 to 91 centimetres (29 to 36 in) tail.[4] Clouded leopards have a heavy build and, proportionately, the longest canine teeth of any living felid — of 2 inches (5.1 cm), about the same as a tiger's.[5] These characteristics led early researchers to speculate that they preyed on large land-dwelling mammals.

The background color of clouded leopard fur ranges from yellow-brown to dark grey, with paler underparts. The sides and back of the animal are marked with numerous dark cloud-like blotches, which may be partly outlined in black. There are black spots on the head, underparts, and legs, and short black stripes on the neck; the backs of the ears are also black, and there are black rings on the tail. A few melanistic clouded leopards have been reported from Borneo, but this color phase is uncommon.[4]

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