Photo: Clouded leopard

Somewhere between the small cats, which can purr, and the big cats, which can roar, are the clouded leopards that make their home in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia.

Photograph by Peter Weimann/Animals Animals—Earth Scenes

Map

Map: Leopard range

Clouded Leopard Range

Audio

Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Carnivore
Size:
Body, 2 to 3 ft (.6 to .9 m); Tail, up to 3 ft (.9 m)
Weight:
Up to 50 lbs (22.7 kg)
Group name:
Leap
Protection status:
Vulnerable
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Leopard compared with adult man

This beautiful Asian cat, named for its spotted coat, is seldom seen in the wild, and its habits remain a bit mysterious. Clouded leopards roam the hunting grounds of Asia from the rain forests of Indonesia to the foothills of the Nepali Himalayas. Though little information is known about their population sizes, they are considered a vulnerable species.

Most cats are good climbers, but the clouded leopard is near the top of its class. These big cats can even hang upside down beneath large branches, using their large paws and sharp claws to secure a good grip. Clouded leopards have short, powerful legs equipped with rotating rear ankles that allow them to safely downclimb in a headfirst posture—much like a common squirrel. Sharp eyesight helps them judge distances well, and the cats use their long tails to maintain balance.

Though clouded leopards are great climbers, scientists believe that they do most of their hunting on the ground, feasting on deer, pigs, monkeys, and smaller fare such as squirrels or birds. They are aided in their hunting by the largest canine teeth (proportionate to body size) of any wild cat.

Scientists are not sure exactly how clouded leopards act in the wild. They are probably solitary animals, like most cats. Females give birth to a litter of one to five cubs every year, and the young leopards remain dependent upon their mother for about ten months.

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