The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is one of the most charismatic and least understood of Asia's many beautiful cat species. Little is known about the behavior or status of these shy and elusive cats in the wild. Only six clouded leopards ever have been radio-collared, and no systematic survey has ever been attempted to determine the number of these felids remaining in the wild.
Rampant habitat loss and fragmentation throughout the clouded leopard forest habitat in Southeast Asia and active poaching of clouded leopards are causing a decline in their already uncertain population. Clouded leopard pelts have increased dramatically in the illegal wildlife trade due to active poaching in Asia.
Unfortunately, populations in zoos are also struggling. Breeding clouded leopards in captivity has been a challenge the world over, primarily due to male aggression, decreased breeding activity between paired animals, and high cub mortality. The Smithsonian's National Zoo has been working in partnership with the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand, the Nashville Zoo, the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, and the Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan to develop a clouded leopard breeding program in Thai zoos (the largest population of confiscated clouded leopards in Southeast Asia).
To date, more than 50 cubs have been born, and six cubs have been imported to the United States to increase the genetic diversity of the North American Clouded Leopard SSP population. The National Zoo also has been working with the Thailand Department of National Parks and Wildlife and the nonprofit organization WildAid in Khao Yai National Park to assess the numbers of clouded leopards and other carnivores living in nature. A major component to this project is the training of Thai forest rangers to monitor wild carnivores and prevent poaching in the parks. These collaborative and international projects for clouded leopards in Thailand serve as a model for conserving this treasured species and carnivores throughout the world.