5. Physical Description
Clouded leopards are a species of large cats, mainly to be found in the Southeast Asian mainland as well the Himalayan foothills. With a current population of less than 10,000 mature individuals, they have been declared as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's most recent "Red List of Endangered Species". The clouded leopard is identifiable by its dark grey fur, black ears, and back spotted head. Stripes can be found at the corners of each eye, just over the cheek, and at the corners of their mouths wrapping and running down their necks as well. Their eyes are typically brownish yellow or greyish green in color, and their legs are relatively short, ending in wide paws. It is among the smallest of the large cats, with females of the species being a little bit smaller than the males.
Clouded leopards are carnivores, a common characteristic that is shared by all wild cats. They are expert hunters who list among their prey smaller and larger animals alike across their ranges, including wild boars and pigs, deer, squirrels, monkeys, and birds. Experts once thought that these cats hunted while climbing. Recent discoveries, however, have shown that they do so while on the ground, only using trees as their resting places between bursts of effort while hunting during the day.
3. Habitat and Range
The clouded leopards are found in closed and open forest and woodland habitats of such South and East Asian countries as India, Malaysia, Bhutan, Myanmar, the Himalayan foothills of Nepal, Vietnam, southern China, and Thailand. In Taiwan they have become extinct. Meanwhile, it remains unclear as to whether they are also be living in Bangladesh, despite sporadic reports of seeing them by locals in the country's southeast. In 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared spotted leopards to be a “Vulnerable” species. Their numbers had dwindled as a result of large scale destruction of their natural habitats through deforestation, as well as humans poaching them. The primary drive for this poaching is the prospect of selling Clouded Leopards’ teeth, bones, meat, skin, and claws on the black market. They can fetch hefty prices for very poor locals struggling to feed their families across their diaspora. This is especially bad news for the spotted leopards, as their current population stands at around a mere 10,000 adult cats today.
Clouded leopards are believed to prefer a solitary existence unless they have a mate, in which case they will sometimes be living with them and their cubs. Scientists used to believe they were nocturnal animals. However, recent discoveries have shown them to have exhibited vigorous activities during the daytime hours. As with most other cats, clouded leopards closely guard their territories, and are quite the magnificent hunters, preying on animals both smaller and larger than themselves. Any information recorded about these cats is based on observations conducted on animals held in captivity, and only very little has actually been seen of those living in the wild.
Sexual maturation of clouded leopards starts at 26 months, for both the male and female members of the species. Mating season runs from December through March. Males have been known to display aggressiveness during mating rituals, sometimes strongly biting the females to the point of severing their vertebrae. Once they have found a compatible partner, mating will occur many times over a period of several days. During copulation, the female will signify her approval and encouragement of the male through vocal sounds. After breeding, the male leaves the female right away, and is typically minimally to not all involved in raising their cubs.