Neofelis nebulosa


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

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, Eizirik et al. submitted).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable C1+2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Sanderson, J., Khan, J.A., Grassman, L. & Mallon, D.P.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
The clouded leopard is forest-dependent, and its habitat is undergoing the world's fastest regional deforestation rates (over 10% in the past ten years: FAO 2007). There are high levels of illegal trade in its skin and bones (Nowell 2007). Its total effective population size is suspected to be fewer than 10,000 mature individuals, with no single population numbering more than 1,000 (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007).
2002 Vulnerable
1996 Vulnerable

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 distribtution in China is poorly known (Wozencraft et al. 2008). The clouded leopard is extinct on the island of Taiwan (Anon. 1996). It still occurs marginally in Bangladesh: Khan (2004) reported that local people still see clouded leopards in the mixed-evergreen forests of the northeastern and southeastern parts of the country.

The clouded leopards of Sumatra and Borneo were recently diagnosed as a separate species Neofelis diardi (Buckley-Beason et al. 2006, Kitchener et al. 2006, Eizirik et al. submitted), the Sundaland clouded leopard. Sundaland refers to the Malay peninsula and the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Java. Clouded leopards do not occur on Java. Because of limited samples from Peninsular Malaysia, it is unclear which species of clouded leopard occur here - on the basis of a single skin, Kitchener et al. (2006) ascribed Peninsular Malayasia to the mainland clouded leopard, but indicated that more samples were needed for confirmation.

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).
Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; China; India; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia); Myanmar; Nepal; Thailand; Viet Nam
Regionally extinct:
Taiwan, Province of China
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 (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).
Population Trend: Decreasing

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).

A study in Thailand's Phu Khieu National Park 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 have 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 Khieu National Park 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 where densities of the larger cats, tigers and leopards, are lower (Lynam et al. 2001, Grassman et al. 2005, Rao et al. 2005).
Systems: Terrestrial

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. Wild animals are likely the primary source, but there is also some illegal trade from captive animals (Nowell 2007).

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, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand, and Viet Nam, and hunting regulations apply in Lao PDR (Nowell and Jackson 1996). It occurs in many protected areas.

Bibliography [top]

Anonymous. 1996. The mystery of the Formosan clouded leopard. Cat News 24: 16.

Austin, S. C. and Tewes, M. E. 1999. Ecology of the clouded leopard in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand. Cat News/IUCN SSC 31.

Buckley-Beason, V. 2004. Reclassification and genetic variation of the clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa. Biosciences, Hood College.

Buckley-Beason, V. A., Johnson, W. E., Nash, W. G., Stanyon, R., Menninger, J. C., Driscoll, C. A., Howard, J., Bush, M., Page, J. E., Roelke, M. E., Stone, G., Martelli, P. P., Wen, C., Ling, L., Duraisingam, R. K., Lam, P. V. and O'Brien, S. J. 2006. Molecular Evidence for Species-Level Distinctions in Clouded Leopards. Current Biology 16: 2371-2376.

Eizirik, E., Johnson, W.E. and O'Brien, S.J. Submitted. Molecular systematics and revised classification of the family Felidae (Mammalia, Carnivora). Journal of Mammalogy. [see]

European Commission, Joint Research Centre. 2003. Global Land Cover 2000 database.

Grassman Jr., L. I.,Tewes, M. E., Silvy, N. J. and Kreetiyutanont, K. 2005. Ecology of three sympatric felids in a mixed evergreen forest in North-central Thailand. Journal of Mammalogy 86: 29-38.

Gustin, S. C., Tewes, M. E., Grassman Jr., L. I., Silvy, N. J. 2007. Ecology and conservation of the leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis and clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand. Acta Zoologica Sinica 53(1): 1-14.

IUCN. 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Kitchener, A. C., Beaumont, M. A. and Richardson, D. 2006. Geographical Variation in the Clouded Leopard, Neofelis nebulosa, Reveals Two Species. Current Biology 16: 2377-2383.

Lynam, A.J., Kreetiyutanont, K. and Mather, R. 2001. Conservation status and distribution of the Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) and other large mammals in a forest complex in northeastern Thailand. Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society 49: 61-75.

Nowell,K. 2007. Asian big cat conservation and trade control in selected range States: evaluating implementation and effectiveness of CITES Recommendations. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK.

Nowell, K. and Jackson, P. 1996. Wild Cats. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Rao, M., Myint, T., Zaw, T. and Htun, S. 2005. Hunting patterns in tropical forests adjoining the Hkakaborazi National Park, north Myanmar. Oryx 39(3): 292.

Sunquist, M. and Sunquist, F. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. University of Chicago Press.

Wilting A., Buckley-Beason, V. A., Feldhaar, H., Gadau, J., O'Brien, S. J. and Linsenmair, S. E. 2007. Clouded leopard phylogeny revisited: support for species and subspecies recognition. Frontiers in Zoology 4: 15.

Wozencraft, W.C. 2008. Order Carnivora. In: A.T. Smith and Y. Xie (eds), A Guide to the Mammals of China, pp. 576. Princeton University Press.

Citation: Sanderson, J., Khan, J.A., Grassman, L. & Mallon, D.P. 2008. Neofelis nebulosa. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 31 August 2015.
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