Big cats at Big White
"One of them was bigger than the rest," said Kevin.
"You're never gonna see that again."
The Clouded Leopard, Neofelis nebulosa is a medium-sized cat, 60 to 110 cm long and weighing between 11 and 20 kg. It has a tan or tawny coat, distinctively marked with large, irregularly-shaped, dark-edged ellipses which are said to be shaped like clouds: hence both its common and scientific names. Because of its distinct skull structure it is considered sufficiently different to be the only member of its genus. Physical Characteristics The Clouded Leopard has a stocky build and, proportionately, the longest canine teeth of any living feline. This led early researchers to speculate that it preyed on large land-dwelling mammals. However, while remarkably little is known about the habits of this species in the wild, it is now thought that its primary prey is aboreal mammals, particularly gibbons, Pig-tailed macaques, and Proboscis Monkeys, supplemented by small mammals, deer, birds, porcupines, and domestic livestock. Because their major prey animals live in trees, Clouded Leopards have become excellent climbers. Short, flexible legs, large paws, and keen claws combine to make them very sure-footed. Clouded leopards can possess tails as long as their bodies, further aiding in balance. Surprisingly, the cats can climb while hanging upside-down under brances and descend tree trunks head-first. Range and Habitat It ranges through southern China, the eastern Himalayas, through south-east Asia, and the Indonesian archipelago. It is thought to be extinct in Taiwan. Preferred habitat is tropical and subtropical forest at altitudes up to about 2,000 metres (6,500 ft), however it is sometimes found in mangrove swamps and grassland. Four different subspecies are noted in the various parts of its range: * Neofelis nebulosa brachyurus: Taiwan (extinct) * Neofelis nebulosa diardi: Indonesia * Neofelis nebulosa macrosceloides: Nepal to Burma * Neofelis nebulosa nebulosa: Southern China Behavior The Clouded Leopard is a tree dweller, and has a squirrel-like agility like the margay of South America. In captivity, Clouded Leopards routinely hang by their hind legs with their long tails swinging for balance, and run head-first down tree trunks. Little is known about their behaviour in the wild, but it is assumed that they are highly arboreal and that a favoured hunting tactic is to drop on prey from the trees. The habits of the Clouded Leopard are largely unknown because of the animal's secretive nature. Due to the lack of evidence for a pack- or pride-society like that of lions, it is assumed that they are generally solitary creatures. Certainly they interact with other Clouded Leopards while engaged in activities relating to mating and rearing young. While it was once assumed that the Clouded Leopard was active only at night, the cats have now been observed during the day. Breeding Females give birth to a litter of 1 to 5 cubs after a gestation period of about 85 to 93 days. The young are blind and helpless to begin with, much like the young of many other cats. Unlike adults, the kittens' spots are "solid"—completely dark rather than dark rings. The young can see within about 10 days of birth, are active within 5 weeks, and probably become independent at about 10 months of age. Clouded Leopards reach sexual maturity at two years of age and females are able to bear one litter each year. Adults in captivity have lived as long as 17 years: in the wild, it is reasonable to assume a considerably shorter life. These figures give one hope that the Clouded Leopard will be able to increase its' numbers with careful management. Despite these facts, captive breeding programs have met with little success in their early stages, largely because the females were frequently killed by aggressive males. However, experience has taught keepers that pairs introduced and given opportunities to bond at an early age often breed successfully. Conservation and Threats Because the Clouded Leopard's habits make it difficult to study, reliable estimates of its population do not exist. Habitat loss due to widespread deforestation and hunting for use in Chinese medicinal preparations are thought to be causing populations of Clouded Leopards to decline. CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, lists the Clouded Leopard as an Appendix I species. This means that the Clouded Leopard is among the most endangered of all species. The Convention prohibits international trade of Appendix I species except for singularly important reasons such as scientific research. The United States also lists the Clouded Leopard under the Endangered Species Act, further prohibiting trade in the animals or any parts or products made from them. In the countries of their native range hunting of Clouded Leopards is prohibited, however these bans are rarely enforced.
The ocelot (Leopardus pardalis, or Felis pardalis) is a wild cat distributed over South and Central America. Its northernmost occurrence is Texas. It is up to 100 cm (3'2") in length, plus 45 cm (1'6") tail length. It is similar in appearance to the oncilla and the margay, who inhabit the same region, but the ocelot is larger. The name of the animal derives from Náhuatl ocelotl (IPA /É”.θÉ›.É¬É”tÉ¬/). The ocelot is very nocturnal and territorial. Like most felines, they are solitary, usually meeting only to mate. However, during the day they rest in trees or other dense foliage, and will occasionally share their spot with another ocelot of the same gender. While they are well equipped to an arboreal lifestyle, and will sometimes take to the trees, they are mostly terrestrial. Its prey includes monkeys, snakes, rodents and birds. Almost all of the prey that the ocelot hunts is far smaller than it is. Studies suggest that they follow and find prey via odor trails, but ocelots also have very keen vision. The ocelot's fur resembles that of a jaguar; it was once regarded as particularly valuable, and because it was so popular the ocelot remains one of the most well known of the small wildcats. Several hundreds of thousands of ocelots were killed for their fur; therefore this cat is now an endangered species in many countries.
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