10 Interesting Sunda Clouded Leopard Facts

Did you know that this medium-sized wild cat can only be found on 2 islands?

Here are some interesting and fun Sunda clouded leopard facts.

1. Sunda clouded leopards live on the Sunda Islands

The reason these animals are called Sunda clouded leopards is fairly simple as they live on the Sunda Islands Borneo and Sumatra, which are both a part of Indonesia.

As far as we know, these are the only two islands in the world that these big cats exist. They may exist in other smaller islands as well such as the Batu Islands but this is unknown.

Sunda clouded leopard distribution
Sunda clouded leopard distribution / BhagyaMani / Wiki Commons / Source

2. They have multiple other names as well

While they are generally referred to as Sunda clouded leopards, these cats go by many other names as well, including the Indonesian clouded leopard, Sundaland clouded leopard, Enkuli clouded leopard, Diard’s clouded leopard, and Diard’s cat.

The scientific name of this cat is “Neofelis diardi,” which refers to the Greek “Neo” or “New” and the Latin “Feles” which means “Cat,” so basically “New Cat.”

Locals in Indonesia refer to this cat as rimau-Dahan which means “tree tiger” or “branch tiger”. In the Sarawak language, it is known as “entulu.”

3. It wasn’t considered to be a species before 2006

One of the most interesting Sunda clouded leopard facts is that it was considered to be a subspecies of its brother, the clouded leopard, which lives in mainland Asia.

Back in 2006, extensive DNA research has shown that they are indeed a separate species and they diverged between 2 and 0.9 million years ago. The most logical reason is that they crossed the water to Borneo and Sumatra when there was a landbridge that eventually submerged.

Fun sunda clouded leopard facts
The Indonesian leopard / Source

4. There are 2 subspecies of the Sunda clouded leopard

With this very limited range of just 2 islands, there are only 2 recognized subspecies of the Sunda clouded leopards. These are determined by where they live, so we have the:

Bornean clouded leopard – N. d. borneensis
Sumatran clouded leopard – N. d. diardi

These subspecies are believed to have diverged after a large volcano eruption on Sumatra between 69,000 and 77,000 years ago.

5. It’s the 9th biggest cat in the world

This animal is considered to be a medium-sized cat, which means that it’s the 9th-biggest cat in the world but isn’t anywhere near as big as a tiger, lions, or jaguar, other members of the family Felidae, and the 3 biggest cats in the world.

These cats have an average length of about 1.3 meters (4.26 feet) and stand about 65 centimeters (2.13 feet) tall up until the shoulders. They also weigh on average anywhere between 12 and 26 kilos (26 to 57 lbs).

6. It has distinctive lines on its back

One of the most distinctive characteristics of the Sunda clouded leopard is that it has a double line on its back. The color of its fur is usually grayish-yellow or gray hue and it has irregular spots on its shoulders.

Another way to easily recognize this cat is by its immense tail which grows about the same size as its body and can be used for balance when they are climbing in trees.

Sunda clouded leopard facts
An individual in Borneo / Source

7. It has the largest teeth compared to skull size of any cat

These animals are carnivores and are therefore equipped with a set of extremely sharp and huge teeth. One of the most fascinating facts about Sunda clouded leopards is that they have the biggest teeth of all cats in the world compared to the length of their skull!

Their canine teeth can grow up to 2 inches (5.1 centimeters) long, so you definitely don’t want to be the hunted prey around these cats!

8. It’s the largest predator on Borneo, but not on Sumatra

Another one of those interesting Sunda clouded leopard facts is that it occurs much more in Borneo than in Sumatra. A study in Sabah in Borneo has uncovered that about 17 individuals live in every 100 square kilometers of the island (39 square miles).

In Sumatra, on the other hand, it’s estimated that this number is just 1.29 individuals per 100 square kilometers (39 square miles).

The reason for this is fairly simple: On Borneo, the Sunda clouded leopard is the largest predator on the island. In Sumatra, they share the land with the mighty Sumatran tiger. Therefore, they are more scattered as they can end up becoming the hunted as well!

9. Not much is known about the Sunda clouded leopard’s behavior

The Sunda Clouded leopard is one of the most secretive cat species on the planet. They usually hide in trees and are believed to live out their life solitary. In that sense, it shares a lot of characteristics with the clouded leopard and some other members of the cat family.

We know that they prefer the tropical forests and lowlands below 1,500 meters of Borneo and Sumatra and that they most probably hunt by ambushing their prey while hiding in trees.

Apart from these details, we don’t know much about their behavior at all!

10. Sunda clouded leopards are an endangered species

According to the IUCN Red List, the Sunda clouded leopard is an endangered species. It’s estimated that the population consists of about 4,500 mature individuals and their numbers are decreasing drastically.

The main reason they are endangered is deforestation. These cats simply need trees to survive and if they lose their preferred habitat, they could be they go extinct.

Luckily, the local governments of both Borneo and Sumatra have protected these animals and a lot of programs are being conducted to ensure this won’t happen!

Sunda clouded leopard facts
Cat in the forest / Pt1979 / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en