THE TREE TIGER
(C) Nancy Vandermy
This exceptional animal is so different then any other species of the big cats, that they have been given their own genus "neofelis." They are small only weighing 35 to 55 pounds and only a few individuals may exceed the smallest leopards in size. These are extremely beautiful animals! They are one of the most unusually marked and its coat is patterned with large dark cloud-shaped markings. Since the markings on the shoulders and back are darker towards the rear, this may suggest that this may be the way stripes evolved from spots. The lower parts of the legs, the head, shoulders and belly are covered with large dark spots. I have never seen a picture, but there have been pure black specimens reported. In 1982, six reports of black clouded leopards in Sabah. In 1986 there were three reported in Sarawak and one more from Sabah. There have been no live captures or recent skins to prove this beyond doubt. They have short powerful legs, an extremely long tail, and its canines are proportionally the longest of any wild feline. It is said that their bite has great penetrating power. They have been called the world's only living saber-toothed cat.
This is a rarely seen cat and very little is known about its behavior. It is believed that it hunts both in the trees and on the ground. They feed on rodents, monkeys, deer, orangutans, wild boar, civets, squirrels, birds, fish, and domestic stock. They live in the Himalayas, southern China, and Taiwan to peninsula Malaysia, Sumatra, and the island of Borneo. Very little is known about reproduction and nothing is known about the social system in the wild. It's believed that the females give birth from 2 to 5 young and are concealed in nest like structures. These structures are built above ground in hollow trees as well as in ground-level dens covered by thick vegetation.
Clouded leopards are endangered due to poaching for food and for pelts. Destruction of tropical rain forests for timber and agriculture has greatly destroyed much of their remaining habitat. To make matters worse, they are difficult to breed in captivity. Hard to believe, but the males may frequently kill their mates or show aggression towards them unless they are introduced to each other at a very young age. The safest way for breeding captive Clouded Leopards is through artificial insemination.
These beautiful animals are held sacred to several native populations in Southeast Asia. They are called the "tree tiger" by Malaysians and "mint leopard" by the Chinese. These animals best describe our intrigue with the big cats. Seemingly invisible and with spots and stripes that blend in with the shadows, they are everywhere and nowhere at once...........
References I have used and all Rights Reserved and Acknowledged. This is a nonprofit educational site only. Text is Copyright Material:
Sleeper, Barbara. 1995. Wild Cats of the World. Crown Publishers, Inc. New York. Pg. 109
Lumpkin, Susan and Seidensticker, John. 1991. Great Cats Majestic Creatures of the Wild. Rodale Press, Pa. Pg 36
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