The Clouded Leopard is so named because of its spotted fur that resembles the various shapes of clouds. This animal is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Moreover, it is the State animal of Meghalaya.
Lately, a lot of animal species that had been untraceable in the past have been spotted in various parts of the country and gathered the attention of conservationists. Such important Species in News are a key part of the syllabus for the IAS prelims examination.
India is a country rich in biodiversity and various animal species are found across the Indian states and union territories. These represent the symbols of a state/UT. Candidates can get the List of Indian State Animals at the linked article.
Keep reading to know more about this animal for your IAS Exam preparation.
General Overview of the Clouded Leopard
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Detailed Characteristics of the Clouded Leopard
Below are some crucial characteristics of the clouded leopard in India.
- It is the most ancient cat species having a hyoid bone that helps in purring.
- Clouded leopards live in the rainforests of South-East Asia and drier forests as well.
- They exist in 2 species, Neofelis Nebulosa (South-East Asia) and Neofelis diardi (Borneo).
- Ankle joints for these felines are flexible and can rotate. This helps them descend trees head-first, like squirrels.
- They are the most arboreal of cats, and leap from tree to tree with their tail providing them balance.
- Their lifespan is around 13 to 17 years.
- They have the longest tails among cats at 65 cm, and the largest canine teeth measuring up to 4 cm.
Range of Clouded Leopards
Clouded leopards live in Nepal, Bangladesh, Eastern India, right up to Sumatra, Borneo, Southern China and Taiwan. Their population is pretty low. However, the natives of Borneo are among the healthiest owing to little competition from other wild cats.
Food and Behaviour
The diet of a clouded leopard consists of prey such as deer, monkeys, squirrels, pigs, and small birds. These animals do not go out on a hunt but eat what they find around them.
These felines are secretive and mysterious. However, they are known to be very adaptable.
Where to Spot a Clouded Leopard in India?
You can spot the clouded leopard in the following national parks.
- Balphakram National Park, Meghalaya
- Buxa National Park, West Bengal
- Clouded Leopard National Park, Tripura
- Dibrusaikhowa National Park, Arunachal Pradesh
- Kanchanjunga National Park, Sikkim
- Manas National Park, Assam
- Phawngpui National Park, Mizoram
What Are Some Threats to the Clouded Leopard?
Some threats to the clouded leopard include:
- Loss of habitat
- Fragmentation of habitat
- Illegal wildlife trade
- Human-leopard conflict
Also, read Biodiversity: Warning Bells RSTV – In Depth
Other related links for IAS preparation are as follows:
Dampa and the Clouded Leopard
The highest concentration of the clouded leopard is found in Dampa, Mizoram. The region is conducive to the leopard’s growth as it has an inaccessible terrain and minimum human cover. In 2018, India had added the clouded leopard to its list of Recovery Programme for Critically Endangered Species.
Moreover, there is a strong correlation between available forest cover, high rainfall and the presence of clouded leopards, indicating that the species needs those prerequisites for survival.
The density of clouded leopards in Mizoram’s Dampa Tiger Reserve is 5.14 per 100 sq. km.
The Indian Olympic Association is looking to host the 39th National Games in Meghalaya. This event will be held in 2023, and the clouded leopard, which is the state animal of Meghalaya, will be chosen as the mascot.
Clouded Leopard and Human-Wildlife Conflict
There is a lot of human-wildlife conflict in the North-Eastern states. Maligaon is one such location in Assam where there are a lot of cases of the clouded leopard attacking people. In addition, there are 7 forest reserves in and around Guwahati city, where these incidents take place due to human encroachment on forest land.
Due to an expanding human population, it is almost inevitable that humans will encroach into the natural habitats of the animal kingdom. This leads to the Human-Wildlife Conflict, which affects the habitat and livelihood of animals.
Clouded Leopard in Current Affairs
As of 2021, the global estimated population is around 3,700 to 5,580 mature cats. If the lower end is held as the accurate estimate, it will make the clouded leopard rarer than the tiger.
We know the clouded leopard as the world’s smallest big cat. It is close to extinction in Vietnam, Bangladesh, and China. For more information on this species and other UPSC topics, check out the links below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do poachers hunt for clouded leopards?
Poachers hunt clouded leopards for their skulls, skins and canines.
What does a kinked tail indicate in a clouded leopard?
A kinked tail indicates inbreeding in a clouded leopard.