Clouded leopards are two species of wild cat that live throughout the forests of Southeast Asia. The smallest of the big cats, they are secretive and rare in the wild, preferring to remain alone and hidden from view. Because of this, studying them is a unique challenge, and while we know much from watching cats in captivity, these two species of cat remain elusive and poorly understood.
Clouded leopards are a medium-sized cat named for the cloud-like spots on its coat. These provide camouflage in the dappled light of its forest habitat.
In captivity, clouded leopards present a reproductive challenge. Unfortunately, there is a high incidence of aggression between males and females, sometimes resulting in the death of the female. This has made clouded leopards one of the most difficult cats to breed in captivity.
Clouded leopards face many significant threats in their Southeast Asian homeland. Their forest habitat is experiencing rampant degradation due to industrial logging and the development of agricultural areas, including vast palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. These degraded areas cannot support prey species nor provide habitat for clouded leopards.
Clouded leopards are listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under the United States Endangered Species Act. They are also classified as an Appendix I endangered species by CITES, which means that international trade is prohibited. The IUCN classifies clouded leopards as vulnerable. They are protected from hunting in range countries, although wildlife laws are rarely enforced in most areas.