by Lyn Lomasi, Write W.A.V.E. Media Staff
The Clouded Leopard is a species of wildcat that is unknown to many. It is believed that there are only 230 of these creatures worldwide, with 118 of them living in the United States, one living on Easy Street at Big Cat Rescue. The clouded leopard is also known as the Tree Tiger and the Mint Leopard.
The Clouded Leopard has cloud-like rings on its coat, which are darker on the inside than they are on the out. Sometimes the insides of the clouds or rings contain dots with small black spots on them. The main color (the non-clouded area) is usually gray, golden, or tan. In the wild, there have also been reports of black or white Clouded Leopards. The largest markings are on the legs and stomach. The back of the neck will have two large black stripes. The tail has black rings, instead of the clouded pelt.
These wild cats range in weight from 22 - 45 pounds and have short legs. The hind legs are longer than the front legs. The tail is just as long as the body and is very thick and smooth. The Clouded Leopard is actually a separate species of cat than the traditional leopard, but is still in the feline family, along with the lion, jaguar, tiger, and leopard.
When raised in captivity, the Clouded Leopard has been known to live up to 17 years. However, when they grow up in the wild, their life span is roughly 11 years.
The breeding habits of Clouded Leopards are not known very well, due to their secretive nature. It is very rare to spot one in the wild. However, when giving birth in captivity, a Clouded Leopard generally gives birth to one to five kittens per litter, with the average number being three. They are generally pregnant for about 93 days. While the litter size is fair, less than twenty percent of captive Clouded Leopards will be successful at reproduction because the males often kill the female they are paired with during the mating process.
With canine teeth as large as those of a tiger (the largest teeth of all felines), you'd think these cats would be just as big as a tiger. That's where you'd be wrong. Clouded Leopards are bigger than house cats, but they are not as big as the other wild cats. They are about in the middle between a house cat and a wild cat, in size.
Clouded Leopards are tree climbers. They have thick paws that are specially designed to help them keep balance in the trees. They can also use their tails to hang from the trees. They will even hang upside down to sleep in a tree, with their paws and tail grasping the branches for support.
While the Clouded Leopard is small, it still hunts after big prey, bearing down on it with those large canine teeth, for a quick and swift kill. Its diet includes wild boar, small mammals, monkeys, birds, deer, and porcupine.
The Clouded Leopard is classified as an endangered species.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network