Sunda Clouded Leopard, Neofelis diardi

The Sunda clouded leopard or the Sundaland clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi) is wildcat that can be found in Sumatra and Borneo. Its preferred habitat in Borneo occurs in lowland rainforests and possibly logged forests at an elevation below 4,900 feet. In Sumatra, it occurs in montane forests with abundant hills. There is not much information recorded about the Sunda leopard, because it is too elusive to study, but it is thought to be a solitary creature that hunts on the ground and uses trees for safety.

The Sunda clouded leopard is the largest member of the Felidae family in Borneo, reaching an average weight between twenty-six to fifty-five pounds. The tail can grow as long as the body, aiding in balance. Its fur is spotted with many cloud shaped markings, from which it derives its common name. The Sunda clouded leopard was first discovered in the 1900’s, but it was thought to be a subspecies of the mainland-clouded leopard. In 2006, it was classified as a distinct species. This species was once a subspecies named Neofelis nebulosa diardi, but was reclassified along with Neofelis nebulosa in 2006, after genetic studies showed it to be a distinct species.

The main threat to the Sunda clouded leopard is habitat loss due to deforestation, because it is heavily dependent upon forested areas for survival. Much of the viable habitat for this species in southern Sumatra has been destroyed or fragmented since the 1970’s. Another threat to this leopard is illegal trade and hunting. All of these are extreme threats to the species because it occurs in low numbers throughout a small range.

The Sunda clouded leopard is protected by law in Sabah, Sarawak, Kalimantan, and Brunei and it appears on CITES Appendix I. It resides in many protected areas along the mountains in Sumatra and in Borneo. In 2006, a conservation project called the Bornean Wild Cat and Clouded Leopard Project was created for this species, as well as other wildcats. It is based in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve and the Danum Valley Conservation Area and focuses on the behaviors and ecology of the Sunda clouded leopard and the five species of the Bornean wildcat. By using it as a flagship species, these studies will help researchers and conservationists understand the habitat preferences of the Sunda clouded leopard, as well as its tolerance to threats, which will help other wildcat species survive. In 2008, a similar project called Conservation of Carnivores in Sabah was created to study wildcats in Borneo. The Sunda clouded leopard appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of Vulnerable.

Image Caption: Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis Diardi), Santago. Credit: Spencer Wright/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)