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About Clouded Leopards
Clouded Leopard Status paw
Clouded Leopard Conservation Issues

Clouded leopards face many significant threats in their Southeast Asian homeland. Their forest habitat is experiencing rampant degradation due to industrial logging and the development of agricultural areas, including vast palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. These degraded areas cannot support prey species nor provide habitat for clouded leopards.

Even protected forest areas suffer. Rare woods such as ironwood or aloe are collected illegally and their products and oils are sold to international markets. Furthermore, wood collectors live off the land as they work, hunting for meat and displacing wildlife. This trade is so lucrative that these wood poachers often employ armed guards to accompany them.

In addition to habitat disturbance, the clouded leopard and its prey are targeted by both commercial and subsistence hunters. Because larger wild cat species such as tigers and leopards have mostly been hunted out of their range, clouded leopards are increasingly becoming the targets of commercial poachers seeking their skins, bones, and meat. In one Myanmar market monitored by the conservation group Wildlife Alliance, the number of clouded leopard pelts has increased by 200% in just two years. Many of these products end up being purchased by consumers seeking traditional medicines and exotic fashions in the booming economy of China. Live clouded leopards are also sought by wildlife traders, destined to become pets or join the exotic zoos of wealthy collectors.

Stemming the flow of this wildlife trade is proving difficult. The participation of organized crime, corruption in the ranks of law enforcement, and a strong cultural tradition of consuming wildlife are significant obstacles to eliminating the activity. In addition, for local people with few alternative sources of income, the temptation to poach animals and harvest trees is often too great to resist.

However, a new initiative by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations aims to develop a cooperative strategy to strengthen enforcement of wildlife laws and reduce market forces throughout the region in a serious bid to eliminate poaching. Furthermore, international efforts have raised local awareness of the ecological value of rainforests and the prospect of developing ecotourism destinations has created greater local support for rainforest conservation.

Clouded Leopard Status

Clouded leopards are listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under the United States Endangered Species Act. They are also classified as an Appendix I endangered species by CITES, which means that international trade is prohibited. The IUCN classifies clouded leopards as vulnerable. They are protected from hunting in range countries, although wildlife laws are rarely enforced in most areas.

Wild clouded leopard numbers are thought to be in decline, however scientists have no accurate estimate of true population numbers since they are so difficult to study and research efforts have so far been fairly limited. Further study is crucial for determining the extent of their populations. The new classification schema of the Sunda clouded leopard as a separate species has resulted in greater research efforts, especially in Borneo and Sumatra. These islands face some of the highest deforestation rates in the world, making field research and conservation efforts all the more valuable and timely.

To ensure the long-term survival of clouded leopards it is essential that there are enough protected areas in which they and their prey can live. Equally important is the development and enforcement of strict wildlife protection laws to eliminate poaching of clouded leopards and their prey.