Sunda Clouded Leopard

SUNDA CLOUDED LEOPARD (Neofelis diardi)

The Sunda clouded leopard was only recognized as its own species in 2007, when it was split from its mainland cousin. It is found only in Borneo and Sumatra. Sunda clouded leopards are much darker than the mainland clouded leopard and has a broader face. They are incredibly elusive animals, hiding in the dense jungles of south-east Asia.

Difficulty: Difficult

Sunda Clouded Leopard Description

Sunda clouded leopards have a long body with short powerful legs and a long tail. All of these adaptions make them perfect cats for climbing the trees of southeast Asia. Their canine teeth measure up to 4 cm (1.57 in), which are the longest teeth relative to their head size of any wild cat. This gives them a similar appearance as the extinct saber-tooted cats, but clouded leopards are not closely related to them. Sunda clouded leopards are quite dark in coloration with irregular blotches (”clouds”) that are bordered by thick black margins. The tail is thick and is ringed, but some of those rings may be broken.

Sunda clouded leopards in Borneo shows off his beautiful cloud markings and that gorgeous long tail

Sunda Clouded Leopard Distribution and Habitat

Sunda clouded leopards are endemic to Borneo and Sumatra in southeast Asia. They are considered forest dependent, preferring moist tropical rainforest, peat swamp forest, as well as mangrove forests. It can inhabit secondary, previously logged forest, but does not use oil palm plantations. During our Cats of Borneo photo tours, we look for them in a selectively logged forest, which has shown to support higher densities to the cats than even primary forest, along a river where they are seen as well, and a previously logged and primary forest.

Dense undergrowth in tropical rainforest is perfect habitat for Sunda clouded leopards

Sunda Clouded Leopard Feeding Biology

The feeding ecology of Sunda clouded leopards is not well known, but it is believed that they predate on a variety of small and medium sized animals living both in the trees and on the ground. Hunting activity seems to happen both during the day and at night (cathemeral). Small ungulates like Bornean yellow muntjac and primates like red leaf monkeys may constitute the primary prey for Sunda clouded leopards. There are even some reports that the cats predate fish, though this is unconfirmed.

The red leaf monkeys of Borneo are probably a prey item for Sunda clouded leopards

Sunda Clouded Leopard Social Organization

Sunda clouded leopards are solitary and territorial. They are believed to have exclusive core areas within their territories with a lot of overlap on the edges. It is still unclear but both males and females may have similar sized ranges. Density estimates are quite low, which is interesting considering they are the largest predator on Borneo, being similar to those of snow leopards, which live in much less productive environments. Interestingly enough, mostly female Sunda clouded leopards are seen during tours.

Female Sunda clouded leopards are more likely to be spotted on our tour, but this guy is definitely a male

Sunda Clouded Leopard Reproduction

We almost know nothing about Sunda Clouded Leopard's reproduction. What we do know comes from captive animals of the mainland clouded leopard. Breeding probably occurs year around for Sunda Clouded Leopards since there is no seasonality in the tropical rainforests of southeast Asia. Litters average two to three kittens and may reach as many as five young. The cubs feed on their mother’s milk until they are around seven to ten weeks old. They probably disperse from their natal range at around two years old. Their lifespan in the wild is unknown. In captivity they can live up to 17 years.

This young adult clouded leopard probably dispersed from its mother’s range not too long ago.