International Clouded Leopard Day, observed annually on Aug. 4, aims to raise awareness about the vulnerable felines. They are rather mysterious creatures, but are still facing significant threats.
Clouded leopards are named after their distinctive cloud-like patterns. Although they were first recorded as a species in 1821, they still remain “just as mysterious today” as they were then, according to the San Diego Zoo.
This may be partly because they are rather “secretive.” Even though they aren’t exactly small creatures that are hard to spot, it still hasn’t been easy for scientists to really observe them in their natural habitat.
But that doesn’t mean that clouded leopards’ secrecy has protected them from threats. Just like many other creatures, they are facing problems that threaten their populations. In the case of clouded leopards, this includes habitat loss and poaching.
Today, clouded leopards are considered “vulnerable” under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
The International Clouded Leopard Day was created in 2018. Apart from celebrating and raising awareness about these rather mysterious animals, the day also aims to inspire people to conserve clouded leopards and their habitats.
“On August 4th we celebrate Clouded leopards with the rest of you, wherever you are,” the organization noted.
On this day, let’s look at some interesting facts about clouded leopards that may inspire you to help protect the species. (Courtesy: Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, San Diego Zoo and the National Geographic)
- Clouded leopards aren’t considered “true great cats.” However, they aren’t true small cats either.
- Relative to their body size, clouded leopards have the longest tail among all cats. Their canine teeth are also longer “in proportion to skull size” than that of any other wild cat species.
- Although most cats are good at climbing, clouded leopards are exceptionally good. They can even hang upside down on large branches.
- Much of their true behaviors in the wild remain a mystery, but scientists believe they’re solitary animals except when they are still caring for their cubs.
- Clouded leopards can open their mouths really wide, up to a 100-degree angle.
- Despite their name, they are actually not a type of leopard, but a separate species of wild cat. They are said to be most closely related to snow leopards.
- Unlike big cats’ eyes that can go fully round and small cats’ eyes that can turn to slits, clouded leopards have oblong eyes.
- Male clouded leopards are about twice the size of females.
- It is believed they branched out from the Pantherinae family six million years ago. This means they are “the most ancient feline species in the modern cat world.”
- In 2006, a “new,” separate clouded leopard species was identified. They are the Sunda or Diardi’s clouded leopards that live in Borneo and Sumatra. They are rather darker in color and have longer upper canines. Unfortunately, these cats are also considered “vulnerable” under the IUCN’s Red List because of their decreasing population.