The name of this cat comes from exceptional rosettes that decorate its body, resembling clouds in shape. Another name, less attractive, is a grey panther.
The colour of these cats is usually grey, but there are also rusty and yellowish individuals. Spots, stripes and rosettes decorating their body are always black. Each panther has black ears and characteristic stripes that run horizontally from the corners of the eyes that adorn its face.
Paws are short and wide, with clearly longer rear limbs. Clouded leopards are record holders among cats when it comes to the proportional length of the upper canines – it reaches up to 5 cm (1,97 in). The uniqueness of their jaws lies also in the largest opening angle. This span is 100 degrees – for comparison, the lion can open its mouth to create an angle of 65 degrees.
A very long tail helps a grey panther balance its body on the trees. These cats even use it to hold on to branches for greater stability, like monkeys do. Another adaptive feature for arboreal life is the lack of connection between the ulna and radial forearms, which ensures greater joint mobility. Descending head down from the tree and hanging on the hind legs from the branches is not a problem for them.
Clouded leopards are Asian cats living in forests and mountainous areas. They move very well on trees and are great swimmers. They rest and eat sitting on branches, but they can also travel long distances on the ground. It is the smallest and the most primitive species of all the big felids. This means that all large cats come from clouded leopards.
They are active both during the day and at night. They hunt for birds, monkeys and squirrels, but also for deer and wild pigs. These cats can hunt, both on the ground and in the crowns of trees.
Grey panthers reproduce mainly from December to March, but they do not have a strictly defined mating season. Due to the specific body structure, the pregnancy is very poorly visible. As a rule, two kittens are born, but there can be up to five of them. Kitties become independent at the age of 10 months.
It is difficult, however, to breed them in captivity, because they behave very aggressively among unknown representatives of their own species. Letting kittens to know each other before they reach the age of maturity, gives the result in the reduction of the level of aggression during mating. Thanks to this technique, females are more likely to survive this period.
Clouded leopards can create a bond with a man who raised them since they were kitties. They greet them friendlily, but no other person can gain their trust.
It is not known how many grey panthers live in the wild. However, it is known that their population is decreasing and vulnerable because natives see them more and more rarely. Although they are legally protected, the authorities do not bring poachers to justice. The biggest threat to clouded leopards is cutting down forests and trade in meat, skin and bones.
Author: Małgorzata Banaszkiewicz
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