Did you know that there is a cat that looks like Tigger in real life? It is not a tiger though. Meet the clouded leopard. It bounces through the trees of its home in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. It can also climb up trees very fast, hang on branches from one paw, and hang upside down. Imagine that!
Clouded leopards use their lightning-fast bounciness to catch birds, monkeys, porcupines, squirrels, deer, and other small and medium-sized animals. They hunt arboreal (tree-living) prey and also prey on the ground.
Meet the clouded leopard:
Clouded leopards generally trigger the “adorable” response in humans. Here is a healthy trio in captivity: male and female parents, plus their female cub. They were all were reared at a private facility in France. Photo by Thierry Plaud
Max, a captive clouded leopard, goes upside down. These cats are renowned for their amazing canopy acrobatics. Photo by Bill Wood. Courtesy of the Clouded Leopard Consortium in Thailand
Clouded leopards are very elusive – this means that they are rarely seen by people. Scientists only discovered that there is more than one species of clouded leopard in the 21st century. One species lives on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, while the other type of clouded leopard lives on mainland Asia, in rainforests from India through to China.
Clouded leopards need more fans like you and me!
Their forest habitat is endangered in many areas, and they have disappeared from Taiwan and Singapore. The good news is that people are learning more about clouded leopards now than they ever have before. And the more that people know and care, the more attention will be paid to how to conserve clouded leopards and their habitats. If protected, clouded leopards will bounce and climb long into the future.
Lon Grassman was one of the first researchers to trap and radio collar a wild clouded leopard. The animals are notoriously difficult to find in the wild and track. Photo by L. Grassman courtesy of CKWRI
For a more-detailed description of the clouded leopard, check out this article by Linda Lombardi on Mongabay.com
Research project time!
Hey kids, interested in learning more about the clouded leopard? Why not do a research project on this awesome, acrobatic cat! You can use this story and this link from Mongabay.com as resources. For further research, visit a library or search online with the help of a grown-up.
Here are a few questions to help guide your research:
- What is a clouded leopard?
- What does a clouded leopard look like? Name some of its physical features, such as a long, fluffy tail.
- How big is a clouded leopard relative to other cats like domestic cats, tigers, and lions?
- Which part of the world does the clouded leopard live in?
- What is the clouded leopard’s habitat?
- What do clouded leopards eat and how do they hunt their prey?
- Why is the clouded leopard endangered?
- If clouded leopards are so elusive (hard to spot), how do scientists study them in the wild? What special tools do researchers use to help them track and study clouded leopards?
- How are conservationists working to protect the clouded leopard and its habitat?
- What is your favorite thing you’ve learned about the clouded leopard?
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