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south east asia
traditional medicines
extinction
The Clouded Leopard – Vulnerable, Mysterious, Beautiful
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The Clouded Leopard – Vulnerable, Mysterious, Beautiful

The Clouded Leopard is the smallest of the big cats, named for its glorious ‘cloud-marked’ pelt and lives in South-East Asia. The Clouded Leopard has a shy and reclusive nature, preferring to be alone and hunt at night, like most cats. It is rarely seen these days as its numbers have dwindled along with its habitat. As a result, very little is known about the Clouded Leopard’s habits in the wild.

The Clouded Leopard is on the International Union for Conservations of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. It is classified as Vulnerable to extinction. This means that the Clouded Leopard is likely to become endangered in the wild if the circumstances threatening its survival do not improve.

Sadly, scientists believe that there may be less than 10, 000 Clouded Leopards remaining in the total wild population. The Clouded Leopards are now a WWF priority species which means they are treated by the WWF as ‘”...one of the most ecologically, economically and/or culturally important species on our planet.” The WWF is striving to ensure that the Clouded Leopard is able to continue living and thrive once more in the native habitat.

It is due to the rapid disappearance of their habitat that is so badly affecting the population of the Clouded Leopard species. “The species natural habitat has been fragmented and decreasing at a rate of 10% per year since 1997.” Deforestation is the biggest threat to the survival of the Clouded Leopard. Other issues the WWF is working on included strengthening anti-poaching laws and enforcement. The Clouded Leopard is often hunted for its pelt and carcass which is used in traditional medicines.

To try to ensure the survival of the Clouded Leopard, many have been taken in to captivity to start breeding programs. Unfortunately, little was known or understood about Clouded Leopard breeding habits when the first attempts at controlled breeding were made. It is still unknown exactly how Clouded Leopard breeding arrangements are made in the wild, but in captivity it is essential for the pair to form a bond first. The first breeding attempts ended in tragedy, with the male becoming aggressive and killing the female.

Recently there has been some success breeding Clouded Leopards. Prospective pairs are now introduced as young as possible so that they can form a bond which will allow successful breeding later in life. There has also been success in releasing young cubs back into the wild in India, which does give hope for the continuing survival of the species.


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