Temporal range: Early Pleistocene to recent
|Sunda clouded leopard (N. diardi) and clouded leopard (N. nebulosa)|
Neofelis is a genus comprising two extant cat species in Southeast Asia: the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) of mainland Asia, and the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi) of Sumatra and Borneo.
The generic name Neofelis was first proposed by John Edward Gray in 1867 as comprising two species; Neofelis macrocelis occurring in the Himalaya, Malacca, and Thailand, and Neofelis brachyurus occurring in the former Formosa. Reginald Innes Pocock recognized the taxonomic classification of Neofelis in 1917, but admitted only the single species Neofelis nebulosa with several subspecies and macrocelis as the type specimen. For almost 90 years, the classification of Neofelis as a monotypic genus was widely accepted. In 2006, Neofelis diardi was found to be distinct from its continental relative Neofelis nebulosa and classified as a separate species.
Gray described the genus Neofelis as having an elongate skull, a broad and rather produced face on the same plane as the forehead, a large and elongate nasal, a moderate orbit, a truncated lower jaw and very long conical upper and lower canine teeth with a sharp cutting hinder edge. This skull has resemblances to that of the fossil Smilodon, with very much elongated upper canines. As a result of this unusual skull anatomy, Neofelids have a maximum gape of approximately 90 degrees, the biggest of any extant Carnivoran, a trait shared by the extinct Machirodont subfamily.
Pocock described the skull of Neofelis as recalling in general features that of Panthera pardus, especially in the shortness and wide separation of the frontal and malar postorbital processes, relative proportion of mandibular teeth; but differing in the greater posterior width of the nasals, the thicker, more salient inferior edge of the orbit, and the mandible being greatly elevated anteriorly.
Distribution and habitat
Neofelis species range from Nepal and Sikkim eastward to south China and Hainan, southeastward to Myanmar, Annam, the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java and Borneo. They are most closely associated with primary evergreen tropical rainforest, but make use of other types of habitat. Sightings have also been made in secondary and logged forest, as well as grassland and scrub. In the Himalayan foothills they have been recorded up to 1,450 m (4,760 ft).
Distribution of species
Between 1821 and 1862, several felids have been described from Southeast Asia that are subordinated under Neofelis today:
- Felis nebulosa was first described in 1821 by Edward Griffith based on a specimen brought from Canton in southern China. Populations range from the Himalayan foothills in Nepal through mainland Southeast Asia into China.
- Felis diardi was first described in 1823 by Georges Cuvier based on a skin and a drawing received from Java. The Sunda clouded leopard is probably restricted to the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. In Java only clouded leopard fossils were found.
- Leopardus brachyurus was first described in 1862 by Robert Swinhoe based on two to three skins from Taiwan. Today the Formosan clouded leopard is considered a clouded leopard subspecies Neofelis nebulosa brachyurus. It is now considered to be extinct.
Deforestation is the foremost threat for both Neofelis species. They are also threatened by commercial poaching for the wildlife trade. Skins, claws and teeth are offered for decoration and clothing, bones and meat as substitute for tiger in traditional Asian medicines and tonics, and live animals for the pet trade. Few poaching incidents have been documented, but all range states are believed to have some degree of commercial poaching. In recent years, substantial domestic markets existed in Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Both Neofelis species are listed in CITES Appendix I and are protected over most of their range. Hunting is banned in Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Hunting regulations apply in Laos.
- Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Buckley-Beason, V.A.; Johnson, W.E.; Nash, W.G.; Stanyon, R.; Menninger, J.C.; Driscoll, C.A.; Howard, J.; Bush, M.; Page, J.E.; Roelke, M.E.; Stone, G.; Martelli, P.; Wen, C.; Ling, L.; Duraisingam, R.K.; Lam, V.P.; O'Brien, S.J. (2006). "Molecular Evidence for Species-Level Distinctions in Clouded Leopards". Current Biology. 16 (23): 2371–2376. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.08.066. PMC 5618441. PMID 17141620.
- Kitchener, A.C.; Beaumont, M.A.; Richardson, D. (2006). "Geographical Variation in the Clouded Leopard, Neofelis nebulosa, Reveals Two Species". Current Biology. 16 (23): 2377–2383. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.10.066. PMID 17141621. S2CID 6838593.
- Liddell, H.G. & Scott, R. (1940). "νέος". A Greek-English Lexicon (Revised and augmented ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Lewis, C.T. & Short, C. (1879). "fēles". A Latin Dictionary (Revised, enlarged ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Gray, J.E. (1867). Notes on the skulls of the Cats. 5. Neofelis. Page 265–266 in: Proceedings of the Scientific Meetings of the Zoological Society of London for the year 1867.
- Pocock, R. I. (1917). "The classification of existing Felidae". The Annals and Magazine of Natural History: Including Zoology, Botany, and Geology, 8th ser. vol. 20 no. 119: 329–350.
- Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 545–546. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- "About the Clouded Leopard".
- Christiansen, P. (2008). "Species distinction and evolutionary differences in the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and Diard's clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi)". Journal of Mammalogy. 89 (6): 1435–1446. doi:10.1644/08-MAMM-A-013.1.
- Pocock, R. I. (1939). "Neofelis". The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Vol. Mammalia. – Volume 1. London: Taylor and Francis. pp. 247–253.
- Nowell, K. & Jackson, P. (1996). "Clouded Leopard". Wild Cats: status survey and conservation action plan. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group. Archived from the original on 2012-04-06.
- Griffith, E. (1821). "Felis nebulosa". General and particular descriptions of the vertebrated animals : arranged conformably to the modern discoveries and improvements in zoology. Vol. Volume 1: Order Carnivora. London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, Rodwell and Martin, W. Wood. p. Plate 37.
- Cuvier, G. (1823). "Chapitre V. Des Ossemens de Grands Félis". Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles; ou, l'on retablit les caracteres de plusiers animaux dont les revolutions du globe ont detruit les especes. Vol. Volume IV: Les Ruminans et les Carnassiers Fossiles. Paris: G. Dufour & E. d'Ocagne. pp. 407−456.
- Meijaard, E. (2004). "Biogeographic history of the Javan leopard Panthera pardus based on a craniometric analysis". Journal of Mammalogy. 85 (2): 302−310. doi:10.1644/BER-010. S2CID 84535169.
- Swinhoe, R. (1862). "On the Mammals of the Island of Formosa". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London: 347–365.
- Ellerman J. R. & Morrison-Scott, T. C. S. (1966). "Genus Neofelis Gray, 1867". Checklist of Palaearctic and Indian mammals 1758 to 1946. London: Trustees of the British Museum. pp. 314–315.
- Grassman, L.; Lynam, A.; Mohamad, S.; Duckworth, J. W.; Borah, J.; Willcox, D.; Ghimirey, Y.; Reza, A. & Rahman, H. (2016). "Neofelis nebulosa". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T14519A97215090.
- Nowell, K. (2007). Asian big cat conservation and trade control in selected range States: evaluating implementation and effectiveness of CITES Recommendations. A TRAFFIC Report, June 2007