- HB Length: 70-105 cm (27-41″)
- Tail Length: 60-85 cm (23-33″)
- Height: Approx. 50 cm (20″)
- Weight: 10-25 kg (22-55 lbs)
- Pop. Trend: Decreasing
The Sunda or Diardi’s Clouded Leopard Neofelis diardi was only identified to science in 2006, when genetic research indicated they were a separate species from the mainland Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa. They have been separated from the mainland population for 2.8 million years.
Clouded Leopards are so named because of the large, blotchy, cloud-like markings on their body, head, legs and tail. There may also be some smaller, solid spots on the head and legs. Sunda Clouded Leopards are generally darker with smaller cloud markings each enclosing small spots.
The rather long, slim body is usually greyish brown to yellowish brown in colour, and the cheeks and necks are striped with black. The underparts and inner sides of the legs are white or pale tawny in colour. The long and rather narrow head has a broad muzzle; irises of brownish yellow to greyish green; and ears that are short, round, and dark on the backs with white central spots. The legs are rather stout, with the hind legs noticeably longer than the front, and broad paws. The long, well furred tail is marked with rings, is tipped with black or grey and can reach 1 metre in length.
Flexible ankle joints enable these cats to climb down trees head first, a trait shared with the Margay Leopardus wiedi, of Central and South America. Their upper canines are relatively longer than those of any other living cat, and may be an adaptation to holding onto prey caught in the trees, a more difficult feat than catching it on the ground.
The Sunda Clouded Leopard is restricted to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. In Borneo, they occur in lowland rainforest below 1,500 m, and at lower densities in logged forest. In Sumatra, they appear to be more abundant in hilly, montane areas
In 2005, tracks of Sunda Clouded Leopards were recorded during field research in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah, Borneo. The population in the 56 km2 research area was estimated to be 9 animals per 100 km2. A camera trap study in a different area of Sabah found lower densities of 6.4 cats / 100 km2. The population in Sabah is roughly estimated at 1,500–3,200 individuals, with only 275–585 cats living in totally protected reserves large enough to hold a long-term viable population.
On Sumatra, Sunda Clouded Leopards occur in much lower densities. One explanation for this low density of about 1.29 individuals per 100 km2 might be that on Sumatra the clouded leopards share their range with the Tiger Panthera tigris but on Borneo they are the largest carnivores.
The Sunda Clouded Leopard is strongly arboreal. A camera trap study found that the encounter rate for clouded leopards increased significantly when cameras were set along narrow ridges or in places where animals would have difficulty moving through the trees. In level or undulating terrain clouded leopards were seldom if ever photographed, suggesting that the species moves about in trees, although from tracks they are known to travel along logging roads and trails.
Clouded leopards may be less arboreal on Borneo than in other areas where tigers and leopards share their range. Of 161 sightings made by villagers in Borneo, 82% reported the leopards walking along roads or trails. Adults as well as young used logging roads to travel between different parts of their range and for hunting.
The Bornean Clouded Leopard Project is studying the behaviour and ecology of five species of wild cats on Borneo. Camera-trap photos have shown most terrestrial activity of the Sunda Clouded Leopards was nocturnal, with some crepuscular and diurnal activity.
Sunda Clouded Leopards are forest-dependent, and increasingly threatened by deforestation of their habitat. Borneo and Sumatra are undergoing the world’s fastest deforestation rates with over 10% of lowland forest lost in the last ten years.
Since the early 1970s, much of the Sumatran southern lowland tropical evergreen forest has been cleared. While in the mid-1980s forests still covered nearly three quarters of Borneo, by 2005 only 52% was still forested. If this pace of deforestation continues, Borneo could lose all of its lowland forests by 2018.
Fragmentation of forest and agricultural encroachments has rendered wildlife particularly vulnerable to human pressure. There is substantial illegal trade in clouded leopard skins, partially fuelled by indiscriminate use of snare traps. 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 leopards 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.
The population of Sunda Clouded Leopards in Sumatra and Borneo is estimated to decrease due to the high number of threats.
See also the mainland Clouded Leopard fact sheet.
Range Map IUCN Red List (2008)