Neofelis – Clouded leo’

Named in 1867, "New cats" are two rare cats of Southeast Asia's rainforests

This genus comprises two species: the Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and the Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi). Distinguished by their strikingly beautiful coat, marked with large, cloud-like patterns over a background of yellowish-grey to dark grey, these cats possess an almost mystical appearance that belies their precarious status in the wild.

Neofelis species are characterized by several distinctive morphological features that set them apart from other felines. Their elongated skulls, relatively flat foreheads, large nasal cavities, and notably long lower canines, which boast a sharp cutting edge, are adaptations that make them proficient hunters. These physical traits, coupled with their large, expressive eyes, contribute to their unique appearance and functional prowess within their natural habitats.

Clouded leopards are exceptional climbers, exhibiting a level of arboreal agility that is unparalleled among big cats. They possess a remarkable ability to climb down vertical tree trunks headfirst, a feat made possible by their strong and flexible ankle joints, which can rotate to grip the trunk from an inverted position. Additionally, their large, powerful paws are adept at gripping branches, allowing them to hang upside down and navigate the canopy with ease. This arboreal lifestyle is crucial for hunting and evading potential threats on the ground.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified both species within the Neofelis genus as vulnerable, highlighting the urgent need for conservation action. The primary threat facing these species is deforestation, which results in the loss of their natural habitat and fragmentation of their populations.

In addition to habitat destruction, clouded leopards are threatened by poaching and illegal wildlife trade. Their distinctive pelts, along with body parts such as bones, teeth, and claws, are highly sought after for use in decoration, traditional medicine, and clothing, fueling a black market that places immense pressure on their dwindling populations.