New Clouded Leopard

Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 15th, 2007

Bornean Clouded Leopard

Talk about exciting! The World Wildlife Fund and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have annouced the discovery of the new animal pictured above, a clouded leopard found by a WWF member inside the Borneo rainforest, East of Malaysia. The clouded leopard of Borneo, discovered to be an entirely new species, is the latest in a growing list of animals and plants unique to the Southeast Asian country’s rainforest and underscores the need to preserve the area, conservationists said Thursday, March 15, 2007. (AP Photo/WWF, Alain Compost, HO)

For fifty years the Clouded Leopard was regarded as a monotypic genus with four subspecies:
* Neofelis nebulosa brachyurus: Taiwan (presumed extinct in the wild)
* Neofelis nebulosa diardi: Borneo, Sumatra, (Java – absent since Neolithic times)
* Neofelis nebulosa macrosceloides: Nepal to Myanmar (Burma)
* Neofelis nebulosa nebulosa: Southern China to eastern Myanmar

New molecular genetic analyses (mtDNA, nuclear DNA sequences, microsatellite variation, and cytogenetic differences) revealed the strong case for reclassification and the defining of two distinct species of clouded leopard – Neofelis nebulosa (mainland Asia) and Neofelis diardi (Indonesian archipelago).

The results of the genetic study are supported by separate research on geographical variation in the clouded leopard, based mainly on fur patterns and coloration of skins held in museums and collections. The Borneo clouded leopard is darker than the mainland species and has many distinct spots within its small cloud markings. It also has a grayer fur, and a double dorsal stripe. Clouded leopards from the mainland have fewer and fainter markings within large clouds on their skin. They are also lighter in color.

“It’s incredible that no one has ever noticed these differences.” said Andrew Kitchener from the Department of Natural Sciences, National Museums, Scotland.

A total of 5,000 to 11,000 Bornean clouded leopards are estimated to live in the jungles of Borneo. The total number in Sumatra could be in the range of 3,000 to 7,000 individuals. The cats’ biggest threat is destruction of their habitat.WWF Study release

See the full press release here: New Species Declared: Clouded Leopard On Borneo And Sumatra.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

22 Responses to “New Clouded Leopard”

  1. joppa responds:

    Stunning and beautiful cat.

  2. springheeledjack responds:

    That is cool.

    Perhaps it is expeditions like this that will help protect the rainforests and natural settings where our more exotic crypto-critters thrive.

    And in the case of our more exotic crypto-critters, maybe it will be a group out looking for birds or more mundane things that will actually and incidentally get the better footage of BF and USO’s.

    I can only hope:)

  3. DWA responds:

    You know, all the discussion seems to be just about coat and DNA sequencing.

    I don’t know if it’s just me. But doesn’t this animal look to you like Panthera pardus with a paint job? The mainland clouded leopard has a much longer, narrower skull, I thought, and a less muscular build.

    Different species indeed. When I first saw this I thought: sheesh, and here’s another “DNA species.”

    Maybe not so much.

  4. Rillo777 responds:

    Okay, I have question and I’m not trying to be cynical here it’s a serious question for those who have a much better understanding than I do.

    Why is it that everytime a creature is found that has slightly different coloring and slightly different DNA it is hailed as a new species? It seems that mankind has similar differences between races, including even slight skeletal differences, yet we are considered all the same species. So why does it seem we apply this only to animals? It seems a little egocentric to me and, perhaps, much ado about nothing. Please, someone, clue me in on this.

  5. sschaper responds:

    If you go by interbreeding potential, all cats are one species.

    This particular animal is as far, genetically, from the other clouded leopards, as the tiger is from the lion. Of course, you can get ligers and tions.

    The article I read gave two rather different sizes for the animal, one was 35 inches for body length, the other one foot. The former gives you a big cat, the latter a nice pet. Does anyone know which it is?

    Beautiful animal! A chocolate leopard 🙂

  6. Bob Michaels responds:

    Beautiful Cat on par with the Amur Leopard. DNA analysis should be done on the Snow leopard perhaps another new species will be added.

  7. UKCryptid responds:

    There are always those that feel they’re not different to an already recognised species etc etc, just the way it is. The same way that some people believe we have different species/sub species of human for various races, and other people do not believe it. Despite the fact that these cats have been known for some time, I personally think it’s fantastic news that they’ve found their own slot in the species listings. I actually hope that the scientists don’t find many of these, so that good protection is put in place. Unfortunately for anything from chupa, the ivory billed woodpecker or bigfoot to these cats today, as soon as somebody knows for sure they’re there, its bang bang shoot shoot time by the people with less of a brain.

  8. kittenz responds:

    This is a continuation of the story that Loren posted here on Cryptomundo on December 15.

    I think it’s wonderful news. I also think that biologists migh be in for a surprise when they do DNA testing of the island black leopards of Indonesia. I would not be a bit surprised if they turn out to be genetically distinct enough from other leopards to warrant species status.

    I have been poring over all the photos I can find of the clouded leopards, and there are a LOT of physical differences between the two as well. Not JUST the coat patterns, although those differences are striking. But also the shape and proportions of the head and body are different, and the shape of the tails is much different.

    Sshaper, I think that was a typo; I think that was supposed to say 1 meter.

  9. kittenz responds:


    I agree. This cat is much different. I noticed the difference in the head right away, and also look at the tails. One long, rounded and fluffy like a puma’s or a marbled cat’s, the other long and tapered, like a tiger’s tail.

    BTW, there are some taxonomists who feel that the tiger should be placed in the genus Neofelis along with the clouded leopards. There are some features of the tiger’s skull, and of the structure of their vocal calls, that resemble the clouded leopards’ more than they do lions, leopards, and other Panthera cats.

  10. kittenz responds:

    Here is one of the links I found that compares the two species side by side:

    Here is another link, with more photos of both the mainland and the island species:

  11. MBFH responds:

    It’s a great find and gives us hope that there can still be new large mammal species. The estimate is that they have been separated from the mainland for about 1.4 MY ( so I guess that would account for the differences kittenz and DWA refer to, in an evolutionary timeframe.

  12. MBFH responds:

    There’s also some great video on that site. What a marvellous cat.

  13. DWA responds:

    kittenz: and I don’t know why I didn’t mention the tail, because that looked kind of funny to me too.

    This is indeed a whole ‘nuther cat. In fact, it’s funny that while the articles mention the coat differences, I’m now thinking about how, wow, the coats are so SIMILAR for two such different animals.

    Evolution is a real funny thing. (And I’m saying “funny” a lot.) And our ability to avoid seeing what we aren’t predisposed to see – so amply demonstrated here – has some applicability to another cryptid that pops up occasionally on this site. 😉

  14. skeptik responds:

    Beautiful animal.

  15. kittenz responds:

    lol DWA,
    I was a cat in a former life ;).

  16. kittenz responds:

    I used to look at clouded leopards and at tigers and say no way are they of the same genus. But the clouded leopards to which I was comparing the tigers were of the mainland species. This island species actually looks like it could be a close tiger relative. Food for thought.

    Now, like Loren said before, what about the Taiwanese clouded leopard? Will they (if indeed they still exist, which is uncertain) turn out to be Neofelis nebulosa, Neofelis diardi, or another species entirely?

  17. mystery_man responds:

    This is a very strikingly beautiful cat. I wish I knew more about cats to join into the discussion about its genus and whatnot. More of a canid person myself. 🙂

  18. heinselman responds:

    The actual reclassification was presented in December 2006 in the journal Current Biology (volume 16, issue 23, December 2006).

    In the paper Molecular Evidence for Species – Level Distinctions in Clouded Leopards, the researchers identified genetic differences splitting the previous Neofelis nebulosa diardi into Neofelis diardi. The distinctions being significant enough to compare to the differences exhibited between the known Panthera species (which include lions, tigers and leopards).

    This entire scenario is also supported, and vice-versa, within the same journal in the paper Geographical Variation in the Clouded Leopard, Neofelis nebulosa, reveals Two Species”. Here the researchers here looked at the morphological differences on the pelages .

    These two papers support the basis for a species reclassification on a genetic and morphological basis.

    The question therefore is raised, why now is the story being heralded as a new discovery?

    The association over to conservation on mainland Borneo is one strong suggestive reason. The more attention the area receives, the more pressure is acclimated to a protection basis. While all this is great, we still must keep our attention to the details behind what is reported.

    See the December 18, 2006 post for more details on the reclassification.

  19. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    So… not really so much a new “discovery” as a new “classification”. I started to get all excited thinking that these big cats had totally eluded science until now (and yes, I was ready to add it to my ammo pouch of “big animals can elude science”). Now I guess I have to be content with the possibility that the reclassification will raise awareness and help protect more of the habitat that supports these beautiful big cats.

  20. Lesley responds:

    That is a beautiful cat!

  21. kittenz responds:

    It’s still exciting, Jeremy_Wells, even if it only points out that we don’t always know as much about the other inhabitants of planet Earth as we think we do :D.

  22. mystery_man responds:

    I still think it is amazing in that the cats went so long without anyone ever noticing the differences between the two. That the two could be known for so long, yet not be recognized as two seperate species is very interesting to me. I think it is a good example of how things can be hiding right under our noses and be overlooked even by people within the field.

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