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Neofelis nebulosa 

Scope:Global
Status_ne_offStatus_dd_offStatus_lc_offStatus_nt_offStatus_vu_onStatus_en_offStatus_cr_offStatus_ew_offStatus_ex_off

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Felidae

Scientific Name: Neofelis nebulosa
Species Authority: (Griffith, 1821)
Common Name(s):
English Clouded Leopard
French Panthère longibande, Panthère Nébuleuse
Spanish Pantera del Himalaya, Pantera Longibanda, Pantera Nebulosa
Taxonomic Notes: Classically considered a single species, the Clouded Leopard has recently been split into two species. Based on analysis of mitochondrial DNA, microsatellites and morphology, Neofelis nebulosa is restricted to mainland Southeast Asia, and N. diardi is found on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo (Buckley-Beason et al. 2006, Kitchener et al. 2006, Wilting et al. 2007).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cd+3cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-01-20
Assessor(s): Grassman, L., Lynam, A., Mohamad, S., Duckworth, J.W., Bora, J., Wilcox, D., Ghimirey, Y., Reza, A. & Rahman, H.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Hunter, L., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Lanz, T. & Breitenmoser, U.
Contributor(s): Crouthers, R., Brook, S.M., Hendrie, D., Riordan, P., Rasphone, A., Wang, S.W., Dhakal, M., Sanderson, J. & Mallon, D.
Justification:
Clouded Leopard are less abundant range wide than when last accessed in 2007. Some range countries have maintained status quo Clouded Leopard abundance, however, the majority of range countries have experienced moderate declines, with serious declines noted for Myanmar, Viet Nam and China. The causes of Clouded Leopard declines are attributed primarily to (1) direct exploitation, (2) range fragmentation, and (3) reduction in habitat quality. Clouded Leopard exploitation for pelts is well documented in several countries, including the infamous Tachilek market along the Thai–Myanmar border. The frequency of Clouded Leopard parts available at market indicates increased pressure from hunting (Oswell 2010). Ongoing deforestation in countries such as Myanmar and Cambodia is also leading to increased fragmentation and reduction of optimal habitat for Clouded Leopard.

A reduction of at least 30% in the number of mature individuals over the last three generations (GL of 7 years [Pacifici et al. 2013] x 3 = 21 years, 1993–2014) is suspected due to direct exploitation and habitat loss. The pattern of decline is not well understood given a lack of data on sub-population sizes and trend, and the rate of decline has probably varied. In a small part of the range we assume Clouded Leopard numbers to be roughly stable: Bhutan, Malaysia and Thailand, comprising roughly 12% of 2007 EOO and an assumed 12% of the 1993 population). We find it plausible that numbers in the remainder of its range declined at a mean annual rate of at least 1.63%, resulting in a minimum population reduction of 30% (a zero % decline in 12% of the population and a nearly 35% decline in the remaining 88%). As these threats are viewed as unlikely to cease and in some cases may not be reversible, an equivalent future decline is also suspected (a minimum future reduction in the number of mature individuals of 30% from 2015–2036).

We take a precautionary attitude toward uncertainty in this assessment. We are certain of relatively steep declines due to habitat loss and direct exploitation, however, the rate is not known and we assume a threshold rate that meets the A criterion for Vulnerable. Generation length could be lower: for example Yamada and Durrant (1989) reported that few Clouded Leopards in captivity were reproductively successful after five (F) or six (M) years of age, but we suspect these are dated observations given improvements in captive breeding. Also, generation length may be shortened in declining wild populations if mortality results in reduced longevity. If a shorter GL is used, and if we did not change our assumptions about the rate of decline, the suspected reduction would be less than 30% thus qualifying the species as Near Threatened. However, because we are even more uncertain about the total number of mature individuals than we are about the likelihood of decline, it is possible that they could number less than 10,000, and the species could also qualify as Vulnerable under C1.
Previously published Red List assessments:
  • 2015 – Vulnerable (VU)
  • 2008 – Vulnerable (VU)
  • 2002 – Vulnerable (VU)
  • 1996 – Vulnerable (VU)
  • 1994 – Vulnerable (V)
  • 1990 – Vulnerable (V)
  • 1988 – Vulnerable (V)
  • 1986 – Vulnerable (V)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Clouded Leopard is found from the Himalayan foothills in Nepal through mainland Southeast Asia into China (Nowell and Jackson 1996). The Clouded Leopard historically had a wide distribution in China, south of the Yangtze, but recent records are few, habitat is fast disappearing, illegal hunting of this species has been prolific and its current distribution in China is poorly known (Wozencraft et al. 2008, P. Riordan pers. comm.) Clouded leopard occurs in parts of southeast Bangladesh (or Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT)) in suitable mountainous habitat. The Clouded Leopard is extinct on the island of Taiwan (Anon. 1996).

The Clouded Leopards of Sumatra and Borneo are considered a separate species Neofelis diardi (Buckley-Beason et al. 2006, Kitchener et al. 2006, Eizirik et al. submitted), the Sundaland Clouded Leopard. Clouded Leopards do not occur on Java.
Countries occurrence:
Native:
Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; China; India; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia); Myanmar; Nepal; Thailand; Viet Nam
Regionally extinct:
Taiwan, Province of China
Additional data:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):Yes
Upper elevation limit (metres):3000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The Clouded Leopard is most strongly associated with primary tropical forest which is rapidly disappearing across its range (Hunter 2011, Nowell and Jackson 1996), and Clouded Leopard skins have been observed in large numbers in illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia (Nowell 2007). Increasing use of camera traps has helped to better document its distribution and recent research efforts should help improve understanding of its population status (Grassman et al. 2005, Austin et al. 2007).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The Clouded Leopard is intermediate in size between large and small cats, with wild females from Thailand weighing 11.5 (Austin and Tewes 1999) to 13.5 kg (Grassman et al. 2005), and males 16 (Grassman et al. 2005) to 18 kg (Austin and Tewes 1999). Its coat is patterned with distinctive large cloud shaped markings, its canines are exceptionally elongated, as is its tail - for a large cat, the Clouded Leopard is highly arboreal (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). They are strongly associated with forest habitat, particularly primary evergreen tropical rainforest, but there are also records from dry and deciduous forest, as well as secondary and logged forests. They have been recorded in the Himalayas up to 2,500 m and possibly as high as 3,000 m. Less frequently, they have been found in grassland and scrub, dry tropical forests and mangrove swamps (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Radio-tracking studies in Thailand have showed a preference for forest over more open habitats (Austin et al. 2007, Grassman et al. 2005).

A study in Thailand's Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary found that Clouded Leopards preyed upon a variety of arboreal and terrestrial prey, including Hog Deer, Slow Loris, Bush-tailed Porcupine, Malayan Pangolin and Indochinese Ground Squirrel (Grassman et al. 2005). Other observations include mainly primate prey, but also Muntjac and Argus Pheasant (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Clouded Leopards are primarily nocturnal, with crepuscular activity peaks (Grassman et al. 2005, Austin et al. 2007).

Two radio-telemetry studies in different parks in Thailand found that adult male and female Clouded Leopards had similar home range sizes between 30-40 km² in size (95% fixed kernel estimators), with smaller intensively used core areas of 3-5 km² (Grassman et al. 2005, Austin et al. 2007). While both studies found substantial home range overlap between males and females, as is typical of most felids, Grassman et al. (2005) also found that the ranges of their two radio-collared males overlapped by a significant amount (39%). Although both studies found similar home ranges, clouded leopards in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary travelled approximately twice the average daily distance (average 2 km) than Clouded Leopards in Khao Yai National Park (Grassman et al. 2005, Austin et al. 2007).

Clouded Leopards may occur at higher densities when densities of the larger cats, Tigers and Leopards, are lower (Lynam et al. 2001, Grassman et al. 2005, Rao et al. 2005).
Systems:Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):7
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

Clouded Leopard exploitation for pelts are well documented in several countries, including the infamous Tachilek market along the Thai–Myanmar border. The frequency of Clouded Leopard parts available at market indicates increased pressure from hunting (Oswell 2010). Data from Tachilek on the Myanmar–Thailand border (19 surveys, 1991–2013) and Mong La on the Myanmar–China border (7 surveys, 2001–2014) show that the most common species in trade was the Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa (482 individuals; observed in 22/24 surveys. However, the trade of cat parts from Myanmar into Thailand has diminished and reaffirms the role of China in the trade of cats out of Myanmar (Nijman and Shepherd 2015).



Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Clouded Leopards prefer closed forest (Grassman et al. 2005, Austin et al. 2007), and their habitat in Southeast Asia is undergoing the world's fastest deforestation rate (1.2-1.3% a year since 1990: FAO 2007).

The Clouded Leopard is hunted for the illegal wildlife trade – large numbers of skins have been seen in market surveys, and there is also trade in bones for medicines, meat for exotic dishes and live animals for the pet trade (Hunter 2011). Wild animals are likely to be the primary source, but there is also some illegal trade from captive animals (Nowell 2007). Clouded Leopard exploitation for pelts are well documented in several countries, including the infamous Tachilek market along the Thai–Myanmar border. The frequency of Clouded Leopard parts available at market indicates increased pressure from hunting (Oswell 2010). Data from Tachilek on the Myanmar–Thailand border (19 surveys, 1991–2013) and Mong La on the Myanmar–China border (seven surveys, 2001–2014) show that the most common species in trade was the Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa (482 individuals, observed in 22/24 surveys. However, the trade of cat parts from Myanmar into Thailand has diminished and reaffirms the role of China in the trade of cats out of Myanmar (Nijman and Shepherd 2015).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Included on CITES Appendix I and protected by national legislation over most of its range (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Hunting is banned in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, and Viet Nam; hunting regulations apply in Lao PDR, and there is no legal protection outside of protected areas in Bhutan (Nowell and Jackson 1996). It occurs in many protected areas, although direct exploitation, range fragmentation, and reduction in habitat quality have caused Clouded Leopard declines in some countries such as Myanmar, Viet Nam, China and Bangladesh.

Citation: Grassman, L., Lynam, A., Mohamad, S., Duckworth, J.W., Bora, J., Wilcox, D., Ghimirey, Y., Reza, A. & Rahman, H. 2016. Neofelis nebulosa. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T14519A97215090. . Downloaded on 27 July 2016.
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