Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Like the mainland clouded leopard, Diard's clouded leopard has impressive tree climbing abilities, and is capable of running head-first down tree trunks, climbing about on the underside of branches, and hanging upside down by its hind feet with the tail providing balance. The ability to climb trees allows it to forage for food in the canopy although it mainly uses the tree branches for resting (5). Interestingly, it appears to spend less time in the trees in regions where tigers and leopards are absent (1). It was originally thought that the long canines were for preying on large ungulates (7), though recent studies show that this species feeds on a variety of terrestrial and arboreal prey including proboscis monkeys, grey leaf monkeys, young sambar deer, barking deer, mouse deer, bearded pigs, palm civets, fish and porcupines (1). Prey is either stalked on the ground or ambushed from above (6) (9). Clouded leopards are believed to be solitary, except when breeding or accompanied by cubs (10). Most information about clouded leopard reproduction comes from captive individuals (6), but as these generally comprise the mainland species, very little is known about the reproductive biology of Diard's clouded leopard (3).
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Description

Previously considered to be a subspecies of the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Diard's clouded leopard has recently been recognised as a distinct species. Aside from genetic and anatomical differences (3) (4), Diard's clouded leopard can be recognised by its darker, grey or greyish-yellow fur and smaller cloud-like markings (3). These markings, from which the common name is derived, comprise ellipses partially edged in black, with the insides a darker colour than the background colour of the pelt (5). The limbs and underbelly are marked with large black ovals, and the back of the neck is conspicuously marked with two black bars (6). The thickly-furred tail is exceptionally long, often equivalent to the body length, and is boldly marked with black rings (5). Well adapted to forest life, Diard's clouded leopard has stout legs and broad paws, which make it excellent at climbing trees and creeping through thick forest (2). Perhaps the most remarkable feature of clouded leopards is that, in proportion to their body size, they possess the largest canines of all the cats (7) and Diard's clouded leopard has, on average, even larger and more knife-like canines than Neofelis nebulosa (4). Indeed, although they are considered to be of an unrelated evolutionary lineage, clouded leopards have independently evolved teeth and jaws that are remarkably similar to the primitive members of the extinct group of sabretoothed cats, such as the 8-10 million year-old, puma-sized Paramachairodus from Europe and Asia (8).
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Distribution

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 )

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Range Description

The Sunda clouded leopard is probably restricted to the islands of Sumatra and Borneo (Buckley-Beason et al. 2006, Kitchener et al. 2007, Wilting et al. 2007a,b, Eizirik et al. submitted). It is unknown if there are still Sunda clouded leopards on the small Batu Islands close to Sumatra. There are clouded leopard fossils from Java (Meijaard 2004), but none in modern times. Although the Sunda region includes the Malay peninsula , Kitchener et al. (2007), on the basis of a small sample of skins, ascribed clouded leopards from the Malay peninsula to the mainland species, Neofelis nebulosa.

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).

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Range

Diard's clouded leopard is believed to be restricted to the islands of Sumatra and Borneo (1).
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Physical Description

Morphology

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

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Ecology

Habitat

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

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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
On Sumatra it appears to be more abundant in hilly, montane areas, whereas on Borneo it also occurs in lowland rainforest (perhaps because there are no tigers on Borneo). It is forest-dependent, and does not go deep into plantations (oil palm, etc), although it can be found, perhaps at lower density, in logged forest. Records on Borneo are below 1,500 m. Occurs higher in Sumatra (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007).

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.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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A forest-dwelling species, Diard's clouded leopard is most abundant in hilly, montane areas of rainforest on Sumatra, but may also be found in lowland rainforest on Borneo. Small numbers may occur in areas of logged forest and around the outskirts of oil-palm plantations (1).
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Trophic Strategy

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)

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Associations

There is no information available regarding the potential impact that Neofelis diardi has on its local environment.

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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.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Life History and Behavior

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

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Life Cycle

There is no information available regarding the development of Neofelis diardi.

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Life Expectancy

There is no information available regarding the average lifespan of Neofelis diardi.

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Reproduction

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)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

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

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
C2a(i)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Sunarto, Sanderson, J. & Wilting, A.

Reviewer/s
Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Santiapillai and Ashby (1988) found confirmed evidence for clouded leopards in six areas comprising just 3% of Sumatra's land area. Density in one of these areas (the Tesso Nilo - Bukit Tigapuluh Conservation Landscape) was estimated at 1.6 adults per 100 km² by camera trapping (Hutujulu et al. 2007), much lower than densities found on Borneo, probably in part due to its sympatry with the larger Sumatran tiger, whereas on Borneo there are no larger felid competitors. Clouded leopards are forest-dependent, and a continuing decline is suspected due to high deforestation rates, occurring outside protected areas (3.2-5.9%/yr: Achard et al. 2002, FWI/GFW 2001, Uryu et al. 2007), but also, to a lesser extent, inside protected areas (Gaveau et al. 2007, Kinnaird et al. 2003, Linkie et al. 2004). With a fragmented, low density population, the effective population size of the Sumatran clouded leopard is probably less than 2,500 mature individuals, with no subpopulation having an effective population size greater than 250 mature individuals (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007).
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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
C1

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Hearn, A., Sanderson, J., Ross, J., Wilting, A. & Sunarto, S.

Reviewer/s
Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
The Sunda clouded leopard is forest-dependent, and its habitat on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra is undergoing the world's highest deforestation rates (over 10% of lowland forest was lost in the past ten years) (Rautner et al. 2005, FAO 2007). Expansion of oil palm plantations is the most urgent threat: Malaysia and Indonesia have risen to become the world's largest producers of palm oil (Koh and Wilcove 2007). The species occurs at low densities (Wilting et al. 2006; A. Hearn and J. Ross pers. comm. 2007), particularly on the island of Sumatra (Hutujulu et al. 2007) and its total effective population size is suspected to be fewer than 10,000 mature individuals (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007).
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Status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and is listed on Appendix I of CITES (1). Subspecies: Neofelis diardi borneensis and Neofelis diardi diardi are both listed as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Population

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Population

Population
Wilting et al. (2006) estimated a rough clouded leopard density of about 9 individuals per 100 km², derived from classification of individual tracks in a study area of Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Their preliminary landscape analysis confirmed the presence of clouded leopards in 25% of Sabah's surface, but only a small fraction of these areas are classified as totally protected forest reserves. As a first working hypothesis Wilting et al. (2006) extrapolated, based on their densities from Tabin Wildlife Reserve, the potential number of clouded leopards in Sabah to be 1,500-3,200 individuals. However, they pointed out that this number most likely overestimates the true number.

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.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Sumatra and Borneo are undergoing high rates of deforestation, with oil palm plantations expanding rapidly, as well as logging and clearance for agriculture and settlement (Rautner et al. 2005, FAO 2007). There is substantial illegal trade in clouded leopard skins, partially fuelled by indiscriminate use of snare traps (TRAFFIC Southeast Asia pers. comm. 2007). Holden (2001) reported that in Sumatra, clouded leopards are snared accidentally in traps set for other species, but their parts have commercial value, and seven were killed in Kerinci Seblat's National Park from 2000-2001. Reports of clouded leopard attacking livestock are rare, but do occur, with one cat known to have been shot after reportedly taking goats from an enclave village surrounded by forest.
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The principal threat to Diard's clouded leopard is the catastrophic level of deforestation that is occurring on Sumatra and Borneo as a result of logging and clearance for oil palm plantations. In addition, accidental capture in snare traps used to catch other animals, as well as deliberate poaching of this species' commercially valuable pelt are having a significant impact on its population (1).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
CITES Appendix I (as Neofelis nebulosa), fully protected in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Indonesia), Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysia) and Brunei. It occurs in most protected areas along the Sumatran mountain spine, and in most protected areas on Borneo. More research is needed on population size and basic ecology (IUCN Cats Red List workshop, 2007).
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Conservation

Diard's clouded leopard receives national protection in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei, as well as international protection through its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (1). It also occurs in most protected areas along the Sumatran mountain spine, and in the majority of protected areas on Borneo. Nevertheless, given the severity of habitat loss within this species' range, as well as the illegal hunting that is occurring, increased protective measures are urgently required (1). The recognition of Diard's clouded leopard as a distinct species has important conservation implications, as unlike the mainland clouded leopard, there is not currently a captive breeding program in place (3). Hopefully, given its new status, efforts will be made to establish a healthy captive population.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

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.

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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

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