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Is a Sunda clouded leopard a leopard? Candid Animal Cam heads to Southeast Asia

  • Every Tuesday, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This week we’re meeting the modern-day saber-toothed cats: the Sunda clouded leopard.

The Sunda clouded leopard is a medium-sized wild cat that only lives on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. It was not until 2006 that it was classified as a unique species, distinct from the clouded leopard in mainland Southeast Asia. Compared to its cousin, the Sunda clouded leopard has darker fur and smaller cloud-shaped markings. Despite their name, clouded leopards are not a kind of leopard, but are completely separate from the genus Panthera that includes lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars.

As they are forest-dependent animals, their main threat is habitat loss in the form of illegal logging, encroachment and forest conversion mainly for palm oil and mining. Approximately 30% of the Sunda clouded leopard’s forest range has been lost over the past 10 years. With a declining population and less than 10,000 individuals remaining in the wild, these felines are listed as Vulnerable since 2015.

Special thanks to Dr Matthew Luskin and Mr Jonathan Moore for sharing their camera trap footage. Dr Luskin conducts wildlife sampling in Southeast Asia to study the impacts of oil palm on wildlife communities and Mr Moore’s research focuses primarily on animal-plant interactions.


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Romi Castagnino is Mongabay’s bilingual writer. Find her on Twitter and Instagram: @romi_castagnino