What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another. – Mahatma Gandhi

Son: “Hey mom can we get a pet?”

Mom: “Sure son what do you have in mind?

“Dog or Cat?”

Son: “A cat.”

Mom: “Ok good shall we go to the adoption center and get a cat?”

Son: “No mom I want a Mainland clouded leopard.”

Mom: “A leopard! Are you insane?”

Son: “No mom not a leopard, a clouded leopard; look how cute he is, and all my friends have exotic pets. Sam has a peacock, Frodo has a tarantula and Gandalf has a Loris.”

“Can’t we get it please? It is available in the exotic pet market.”

Mom: Hmmm

“Ok, but first you must learn all about this animal and brief me as well.”

Son: “Sounds easy.”

credit: pixabay

One of the cutest predators these cat monkeys are the smallest of the big cats.

The topic of big cats is highly debated and since this is not a formal scientific term the definition of big cats can mean different things to different people.

There are a total of seven big cats in the world based on the subfamily Pantherinae definition (Cats belong to the family Felidae and are further split into two subfamily Felinae and Pantherinae)with India being home to five.*

If we go by the definition of the big cat’s ability to roar then we are left with only 4 big cats in the world.**

Humans generally tend to be fascinated and intimidated by a big massive presence, hence ignoring these tags let’s move on to the topic of concern.

 

Biology

The name Mainland clouded leopard comes from the cloud like pattern on the coat.

Split in 2006, there are now two species the Neofelis nebulosa (clouded leopard) and Neofelis diardi (Sunda clouded leopard)

The clouded leopard is found in Asia from the foothills of the Himalayas to Southeast Asia.

While the Sunda clouded leopard inhabits the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

 

Adaptations

At home in the tropical rainforest the clouded leopard is often seen treading on a thin branch akin to an artist walking on a tight rope (absolute daredevil at heart).

The pattern of its coat successfully camouflages them in the dark dapple lighted forest.

But wait! What? It slipped?

Hanging upside down with the help of its hind legs it completes the remaining journey with its back facing towards the forest floor.

With a rumbling stomach, it spots a hog deer feeding. It approaches its prey head first from the tree allowing me to use the famous metaphor ‘death from above’, quite literally.

Its unique adaptation of rotating ankles helps it maintain the perfect stability. There is a pause, a silence.

And then follows the leap, using their long tail they  balance their body and then pierce their long canine teeth (they have the largest set  in proportion to body size compared to any wild cat) into the unfortunate hog deer (other prey include monkeys, squirrel , porcupine, pigs, etc.).

Little is known about their social behavior however they are most likely to be solitary.

They reach sexual maturity at the age of two and have a litter of 1-4 cubs every year.

Their lifespan as observed in captivity is around 17 years.

credit: pixabay

 

India

The clouded leopard calls the north eastern part of India its home.

The Clouded leopard national park in Tripura is part of the larger Saphijala wildlife sanctuary. It is the first area that is dedicated to preserve the habitat for this mini sabre-tooth.

Dampa tiger reserve in Mizoram is said to have the highest density of clouded leopards in South-East Asia as indicated by camera trap surveys and the forest department.

Manas National park in Assam and Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh are also good places to sight these shy cats.

 

Threats

The population of clouded leopards is on the decline and they are vulnerable as per the IUCN status.

Loss of habitat and poaching is the prime threats that these arboreal cats face.

They serve as a substitute to tiger related ingredients in the traditional medicine, a major cause of poaching in much of South-Asia. Also their fur is in much demand as a fashion accessory for the neo rich in developing countries.

Additionally, they have been reported to be captured and sold as exotic pets in many households in the west.

 

Mom: “So do you still want a clouded leopard?”

Son: “I am going to call off that plan. Thanks mom! For making me realize the consequence of my choice.”

“Can I take you up, on the adopt a cat from the animal shelter bit?”

 

Mom: “Sure! When would you want to go?”

*Tiger, Lion, Jaguar, Leopard, Snow leopard, Clouded leopard and Sunda Clouded leopard.

Indian wildlife tours – (Tiger, Lion, Leopard, Snow leopard and Clouded leopard)

** Tiger, Lion, Jaguar, Leopard

Enjoy a wildlife safari by touring tigers, leopards in the famous national parks in India by choosing our Tigers, Lions, and Leopard tour package.

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Sharad Vats

Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered. Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park. Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here's a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger. Buy now on Amazon

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