Wikijunior:Big Cats/Clouded leopard
Clouded leopards are not truly leopards at all but they spend a great deal of time in trees, just as the true leopards of Africa do.
Where do clouded leopards live?
Clouded leopards live throughout southern China, the eastern Himalayan Mountains, south-east Asia, and some parts of Indonesia. They prefer to live in tropical or subtropical forests, yet they can also be found living in mangrove swamps and grasslands.
The clouded leopard is a medium-sized wild cat found in the forests of Asia. Little is known about the wild behavior of clouded leopards due to their extremely secretive nature. Much of our understanding of this cat’s natural history and behavior is a result of observations of them in captivity.
What do clouded leopards look like?
At adult age a clouded leopard will range from somewhere between two and a half feet, nose to rump, to three and a half feet. The clouded leopard has short legs for its size. It also has the longest canine teeth (2-inch fangs) for any similarly sized cat species that lives today. Only the extinct sabretooth cats had longer canine teeth for their body size.
Clouded leopards are excellent climbers and their major prey animals live in trees. Short flexible legs, large paws, and keen claws combine to make them very sure-footed in this environment. The clouded leopard's tail can be as long as the rest of its body and helps to maintain the cat's balance while moving through the trees. Amazingly, these cats can hang upside-down under branches, and can even climb down tree trunks head-first. Other cats cannot do this because their claws are not shaped in the same way.
The beautiful pattern of the clouded leopard's fur is its most interesting feature. The large square rosettes look like clouds to some people, and that is how they got the name "clouded leopard." Other people think the blotches look more like mint leaves, so they are also called "mint leopards."
What do clouded leopards eat, and how do they catch their prey?
While not much is known about their behaviour in the wild, their prey is thought to be mostly mammals that live in trees, particularly monkeys, along with small mammals, deer, birds, porcupines, goats, wild boar, young buffalo, and domestic livestock. Clouded leopards will stalk their prey in the trees, then jump down from their perch and attack from behind, but clouded leopards are also skilled at hunting on the ground.
See how much you know about the clouded leopard:
- They can climb down tree trunks head first.
- Like marbled cats and margays, they will sometimes hang head-down from branches using their hind legs.
- Young clouded leopards are born with spots that become open squares as they grow older.
- Clouded leopards have extremely flexible ankles in their hind legs, which aids them in climbing.
- Clouded leopards have the longest canine teeth in proportion to its skull and body size, in similarity to the extinct saber-toothed tiger.