© Dhritiman Mukherjee/Alam
A rarely spotted leopard
With short, limber legs and a long tail, the clouded leopard is perfectly adapted for living in the trees. Flexible ankle joints allow it to climb down trunks head first, one of only two cat species that can pull this off. A long tail provides balance when leaping between trees. Sharp, retractable claws let this jungle climber dangle off branches in all sorts of gravity-defying positions.
Clouded leopards are stealthy, solitary creatures native to the tropical jungles of South East Asia. Considered a vulnerable species, there are thought to be only about 10,000 adults left in the wild although firm numbers are hard to come by. No wonder - these cats are so elusive, so rarely seen in the wild, what we know about their behaviour has been largely gleaned from studying them in captivity. International Clouded Leopard Day is observed on 4 August, so this is a great day to read up on these mysterious cats.