Sundaland clouded leopards occur on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in the Malay Archipelago. It is currently unknown if Sundaland clouded leopards are on Batu, a smaller island close to Sumatra. Fossils of clouded leopards have been found on the island of Java. Sundaland clouded leopards are believed to have diverged from mainland clouded leopards approximately 1.5 million years ago due to geographic barriers. The presence of Sundaland clouded leopards on the Malay Peninsula has not been confirmed.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
The map shows range within forest cover (European Commission, Joint Research Centre, 2003) to reflect patchiness caused by deforestation upon recommendation of the assessors (IUCN Cats Red List workshop 2007).
Sundaland clouded leopards are medium-sized and have large spots along its entire body which resemble clouds. Their spots are darker and larger than the mainland clouded leopard, and the coat is darker than that of their mainland counterpart. The spots on their coat are outlined in black and the inside is darker than their primary coat color. They have two distinct black bars on the back of their necks, as well as large black ovals on the venter. The exceptionally long tail, which helps with balance while traveling in the canopy, is covered in thick fur and has a number of dark black rings along its length. They have short legs and broad paws, which make it exceptional at climbing trees, as well as moving silently through dense forests. The hind feet have very flexible joints, which allow them to descend from the canopy head first. Their flexible joints also enables them to hang from a branch using only their hind feet while using their forefeet to capture prey. Sundaland clouded leopards have exceptionally large canine teeth, which can be up to 5 cm long. In porportion to their body size, they have the largest canines of any felid. The morphology of their jaws and teeth are similar to those of extinct saber-toothed cats. Head and body length ranges from 60 to 110cm, tail length ranges from 55 to 91cm long and weight ranges from 15 to 30 kg. Males are generally larger than females.
Range mass: 15 to 30 kg.
Range length: 115 to 201 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Sundaland clouded leopards are primarily forest-dwellers, however, they have been observed in other habitats as well. They are most abundant in hilly areas on the island of Sumatra, and have been observed in the lowland rain forests of Borneo as well, below 1500 m. Evidence suggests that they occupy low-elevation habitats due to the absence of large predators such as tigers. They are often sighted on the periphery of logged forests and close to human civilizations, likely due to extensive habitat loss occurring throughout its geographic range. Sundaland clouded leopards are about six times more abundant on Borneo than on Sumatra. They are highly arboreal and are particularly fond of trees overhanging ridges or cliffs. In areas containing tigers, a known predator of Sundaland clouded leopards, they rarely descend to the ground and are thought to travel through the canopy. They appear to be more arboreal on the island of Sumatra than in other areas of their geographic range, possibly due to sympatry with tigers. Despite their highly arboreal nature, they occasionally travel alongside logging roads as well.
Range elevation: < 1500 (low) m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest
Habitat and Ecology
Habitat and Ecology
On Sumatra the Sunda clouded leopard occurs most probably in much lower densities (1.29/100 km²: Hutajulu et al. 2007) than on Borneo (6.4/100 km²: A. Hearn and J. Ross pers. comm. 2007 - 9/100 km²: Wilting et al. 2006). One explanation for this lower density might be that on Sumatra the clouded leopard co-occurs sympatric with the tiger, whereas on Borneo the clouded leopard is the largest carnivore
From local hunters, Rabinowitz et al. (1987) collected reports of clouded leopards with kills of a wide variety of prey, including young sambar deer, barking deer, mouse deer, bearded pig, palm civet, gray leaf monkey, fish and porcupine.
It is strongly arboreal. Holden (2001) found that the encounter rate for clouded leopards increased significantly when camera traps were set along narrow ridges or in places where animals would have difficulty moving arboreally. In level or undulating terrain clouded leopards were seldom if ever photographed, suggesting that the species does move about in trees, although from tracks they are known to travel along logging roads and trails (Holden 2001, Gordon and Stewart 2007). Clouded leopards may be less arboreal on Borneo (Rabinowitz et al. 1987) than in other areas where tigers and leopards are sympatric.
Sundaland clouded leopards are carnivorous and feed on a wide variety terrestrial and arboreal prey. They regularly feed on sambar deer, barking deer, mouse deer, bearded pig, Palm civet, gray leaf monkey, fish, birds and porcupines. They have been observed preying upon proboscis monkeys as well; specifically, they target infant proboscis monkeys or juvenile females. They are ambush predators and attack prey from the canopy. They have been known to remove the limbs of their prey and bring them into trees for protection against leeches and to relax while feeding.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; fish
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)
There is no information available regarding the potential impact that Neofelis diardi has on its local environment.
The Sundaland clouded leopard is a large predator and has very few predators of its own. They are illegally hunted by humans for their coats as well certain body parts that are used in traditional medicine. On Sumatra, tigers are thought to be important predators, however, this has not been confirmed. During the day, Sundaland clouded leopards remain in the canopy more than during the night, presumably to avoid tigers. They are very well camouflaged, which likely helps reduce risk of predation.
- Humans (Homo sapiens)
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Life History and Behavior
There is little information available regarding communication and perception in Sundaland clouded leopards. With the exception of breeding season and when females are with cubs, they are highly solitary. They are territorial and appear to use logging roads as boundaries, which are openly and frequently crossed. They are thought to demarcate territorial bounderies with urine. There is no information available regarding intraspecific communication with mates and young.
Communication Channels: chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
There is no information available regarding the development of Neofelis diardi.
There is no information available regarding the average lifespan of Neofelis diardi.
Neofelis diardi is thought to be seasonally monogamous. There is no further information available regarding the mating system of this species.
Mating System: monogamous
There is little information available regarding breeding behavior in Sundaland clouded leopards, and all available information was gathered by observing captive individuals. Captive breeding has been mostly unsuccessful due to aggression between mates, which occasionally results in the death of the female. If introduced at a young age, aggression is not as pronounced and has allowed for more successful breeding. They are believed to exhibit similar breeding behaviors as mainland clouded leopards. Most Sundaland clouded leopards become sexually mature around 2 years of age. Mating can occur during any month of the year, but peaks between December and March. Gestation ranges from 85 to 95 days and results in 1 to 5 cubs, with an average of 2 cubs per litter. Cubs are usually independent once they reach 10 months old and become reproductively mature by 2 years of age. The females are able to produce a litter every year.
Breeding interval: Sundaland clouded leopards breed once yearly
Breeding season: Breeding activity in Sundaland clouded leopards occurs year-round but peaks from December through March.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 5.
Average number of offspring: 2.
Range gestation period: 85 to 95 days.
Average time to independence: 10 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
There is little information available regarding parental care in Sundaland clouded leopards. Mothers nurse cubs until about 10 months of age, at which time they become independent.
Parental Investment: precocial ; female parental care ; pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female)
Sundaland clouded leopards are classified as vulnerable on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. Major threats include rapid and extensive deforestation for agricultural expansion (e.g., oil palm) and settlements. Rapid deforestation to establish oil-palm plantations is a major road block to the longterm persistence of this species. Deforestation laws are rarely enforced and even wildlife sanctuaries and national forests have been somewhat deforested since 1970. Deforestation not only decreases the amount of available habitat for this species, but reduces available habitat for potential prey as well. Additional threats include illegal hunting and accidental trapping. Two subspecies have been recognized, Neofelis diardi borneensis and Neofelis diardi diardi, both of which are classified as endangered on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. Sundaland clouded leopards occur in a number of protected areas throughout its geographic range and is listed under Appendix 1 by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
CITES: appendix i
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Based on a different methodology (camera traps), Andrew Hearn and Joanna Ross (unpubl. 2007) obtained a lower density in a different area of Sabah of 6.4 adults per 100 km². This suggests the Sabah population could be at the low end or even below the above population estimates.
There are no population estimates for the remainder of its range in Borneo and Sumatra, but in lowland forest in Sumatra Hutujulu et al. (2007) estimated a low density of 29 adults per 100 km², from camera traps. This suggests the population of Sumatra could be considerably lower than on Borneo.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Sundaland clouded leopards occasionally prey on livestock from villages surrounded by vast forest in Sumatra and Borneo. There are no records of Sundaland clouded leopards attacking humans.
Sundaland clouded leopards are illegally hunted for their coats and various body parts are used in traditional medicine. Tissue samples from carcasses have been used in phylogenetic research, which has helped establish the relationship of this species to other felids.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; source of medicine or drug
Sunda clouded leopard
The Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), also known as the Sundaland clouded leopard, is a medium-sized wild cat found in Borneo and Sumatra. In 2006, it was classified as a separate species, distinct from its continental relative Neofelis nebulosa.
Previously, the species was known as the Bornean clouded leopard — a name publicised by the WWF in March 2007, quoting Dr. Stephen O'Brien of the U.S. National Cancer Institute as saying, "Genetic research results clearly indicate that the clouded leopard of Borneo should be considered a separate species".
The Sunda clouded leopard is the largest cat in Borneo, and has a stocky build, weighing around 12 to 25 kg (26 to 55 lb). The canine teeth are 2 in (5.1 cm) long, which, in proportion to the skull length, are longer than those of any other extant cat. Its tail can grow to be as long as its body, aiding balance.
Its coat is marked with irregularly-shaped, dark-edged ovals which are said to be shaped like clouds, hence its common name. Though scientists have known of its existence since the early 19th century, it was positively identified as being a distinct species in its own right in 2006, having long been believed to be a subspecies of the mainland clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa).
Distribution and habitat
Sunda clouded leopards are probably restricted to the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. In Borneo, they occur in lowland rainforest, and at lower density, in logged forest. Records in Borneo are below 1,500 m (4,900 ft). In Sumatra, they appear to be more abundant in hilly, montane areas. It is unknown if there are still Sunda clouded leopards on the small Batu Islands close to Sumatra.
Between March and August 2005, tracks of clouded leopards were recorded during field research in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah. The population size in the 56 km2 (22 sq mi) research area was estimated to be five individuals, based on a capture-recapture analysis of four confirmed animals differentiated by their tracks. The density was estimated at eight to 17 individuals per 100 km2 (39 sq mi). The population in Sabah is roughly estimated at 1,500–3,200 individuals, with only 275–585 of them living in totally protected reserves that are large enough to hold a long-term viable population of more than 50 individuals.
On Sumatra, Sunda clouded leopards occur most probably in much lower densities than on Borneo. One explanation for this lower density of about 1.29 individuals per 100 km2 (39 sq mi) might be that on Sumatra clouded leopards co-occur sympatrically with the tiger, whereas on Borneo clouded leopards are the largest carnivores.
Ecology and behaviour
The habits of the Sunda clouded leopard are largely unknown because of the animal's secretive nature. It is assumed that it is generally solitary. It hunts mainly on the ground and uses its climbing skills to hide from dangers.
Evolutionary and taxonomic history
The species was named Felis diardi in honor of the French naturalist and explorer Pierre-Médard Diard by Georges Cuvier in 1823, based on a drawing and skin allegedly from Java. In the 19th century Felis diardii designated both clouded and Sunda clouded leopards, colloquially "Diard's Cat".
The Sunda clouded leopard was long regarded as a subspecies of the clouded leopard, and named Neofelis nebulosa diardi. The genetic analysis of hair samples of Neofelis nebulosa and Neofelis diardi implies that they diverged 1.4 million years ago, after having used a now submerged land bridge to reach Borneo and Sumatra from mainland Asia.
Results of a morphometric analysis of the pelages of fifty-seven clouded leopards sampled throughout the genus' wide geographical range indicated that there are two distinct morphological groups, differing primarily in the size of their cloud markings. DNA samples from the Bornean and mainland Asia populations were used in molecular genetic analyses, revealing differences in mtDNA, nuclear DNA sequences, microsatellite and cytogenetic variation. Thirty-six fixed mitochondrial and nuclear nucleotide differences, and 20 microsatellite loci with nonoverlapping allele-size ranges distinguished the populations — a degree of differentiation equivalent to, or greater than, comparable measures among the panthera species — and strongly support a species-level distinction between Neofelis nebulosa and Neofelis diardi.
- Neofelis nebulosa from mainland Asia and
- Neofelis diardi from the Malay archipelago, except Peninsular Malaysia.
Molecular, craniomandibular and dental analysis indicates subspecifical distinction of Bornean and Sumatran clouded leopards into two populations with separate evolutionary histories — a Bornean subspecies Neofelis diardi borneensis and a Sumatran subspecies Neofelis diardi diardi. Both populations are estimated to have diverged from each other during the Middle to Late Pleistocene. The split of Neofelis diardi subspecies corresponds roughly with the catastrophic super-eruption of the Toba Volcano in Sumatra 69,000–77,000 years ago. A probable scenario is that Sunda clouded leopards from Borneo recolonized Sumatra during periods of low sea levels in the Pleistocene, and were later separated from their source population by rising sea levels.
Sunda clouded leopards being strongly arboreal are forest-dependent, and are increasingly threatened by habitat destruction following deforestation in Indonesia as well as in Malaysia. Since the early 1970s, much of the forest cover has been cleared in southern Sumatra, in particular lowland tropical evergreen forest. Fragmentation of forest stands and agricultural encroachments have rendered wildlife particularly vulnerable to human pressure. Borneo has one of the world's highest deforestation rates. While in the mid-1980s forests still covered nearly three quarters of the island, by 2005 only 52% of Borneo was still forested. Both forests and land make way for human settlement. Illegal trade in wildlife is a widely spread practice.
The population status of Sunda clouded leopards in Sumatra and Borneo has been estimated to decrease due to forest loss, forest conversion, illegal logging, encroachment, and possibly hunting. In Borneo, forest fires pose an additional threat, particularly in Kaltim and in the Sebangau National Park.
Neofelis diardi is listed on CITES Appendix I, and is fully protected in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei. Sunda clouded leopards occur in most protected areas along the Sumatran mountain spine, and in most protected areas on Borneo.
Since November 2006, the Bornean Wild Cat and Clouded Leopard Project based in the Danum Valley Conservation Area and the Tabin Wildlife Reserve aims to study the behaviour and ecology of the five species of Bornean wild cat — bay cat, flat-headed cat, marbled cat, leopard cat, and Sunda clouded leopard — and their prey, with a focus on the clouded leopard; investigate the effects of habitat alteration; increase awareness of the Bornean wild cats and their conservation needs, using the clouded leopard as a flagship species; and investigate threats to the Bornean wild cats from hunting and trade in Sabah.
The Sundaland clouded leopard is one of the focal cats of the project Conservation of Carnivores in Sabah based in northeastern Borneo since July 2008. The project team evaluates the consequences of different forms of forest exploitation for the abundance and density of felids in three commercially used forest reserves. They intend to assess the conservation needs of these felids and develop species specific conservation action plans together with other researchers and all local stakeholders.
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