© Dhritiman Mukherjee/Alam
A special day for a special cat
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 descend trunks headfirst, one of only two cat species that can pull this off. A long tail provides stabilizing balance for leaps 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 Southeast Asia. Considered a vulnerable species, there are thought to be only about 10,000 adults left in the wild, but 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 behavior has been largely gleaned from studying them in captivity. But protecting the clouded leopard begins with learning about them, which is the aim of International Clouded Leopard Day, observed on August 4, so this is the optimal time to learn about these mysterious cats.