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New Leopard Species Discovered on Borneo and Sumatra Islands

Updated on May 7, 2007

Photo of Leopard

Bornean Clouded Leopards Could Become Endangered
Bornean Clouded Leopards Could Become Endangered

Bornean Clouded Leopards

Scientists have discovered a new big cat species on the southeastern Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. The announcement was made by WWF (World Wildlife Fund), a worldwide conservation organization. The common name of the new feline species is "Bornean clouded leopard". Its scientific name is "Neofelis Diardi".

Although its name is almost the same as the clouded leopards in mainland Asia, scientists say that genetic and DNA tests show that there are many differences. Tests conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute show at least forty DNA differences between the two species. It would be like comparing eagles to sparrows. Until the tests were made however, it was thought that the clouded leopards from both mainland Asia and the islands were the same species. Scientists say that the two leopard cat species probably deviated from one another more than a million years ago.

Not only are the genetics different, but researchers say that the cats' appearances also differ. The patterns on the fur are different, as are the colors of their skin. The Bornean clouded leopard species is a darker grayish color, has smaller spots or 'clouds', and has a double stripe. The mainland clouded leopards are lighter colored with fur that is more brown, and their 'clouds' are larger.

There are an estimated 8,000 - 18,000 Bornean clouded leopards currently in existence. The big cats average fifty pounds in weight. They are Borneo's largest predator. It preys upon wild deer, pigs, and monkeys.

In proportion to its body weight, Bornean clouded leopards have the longest canine teeth than any other cat. The teeth can be up to two inches long in a grown cat. This is the same as a tiger, but a tiger is ten times larger than a clouded leopard. Because of these canine teeth, it is being called a modern day sabre tooth tiger.

The Bornean clouded leopards live in the mountains of a rainforest. The area is called the Heart of Borneo. Clouded leopards in other areas of Asia live mostly in trees. However, Bornean clouded leopards spend most of their time on the ground, even though they are well-suited to live amongst the trees.

Scientists are also discovering many other new species of trees, plants, fish, and animals on the two islands. More than fifty new species have been discovered in the last year. The area's diverse lifeforms are being threatened by logging and rubber industries.

Because of the destruction of habitats, the Bornean clouded leopard has been placed in the Vulnerable classification by the IUCN (The World Conservation Union). The Bornean governments have vowed to conserve the Heart of Borneo by signing an historic Declaration document.


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      Erika Bruce 3 years ago

      That picture is not a clouded leopard. Its a fishing cat

    • profile image

      Kathy 5 years ago

      I think this is really cool. Finding a new species. I don't think its every day you find something new.

    • profile image

      who 5 years ago

      the picture you have there isn't actually a leopard, looks like some kind of wildcat

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      Susan Ferguson 6 years ago

      If you're announcing a newly discovered species, you might want to get your photos right. The cat pictured for this article is a fishing cat, not a clouded leopard.

    • fenny.dahlia profile image

      fenny.dahlia 6 years ago from Indonesia

      how with the brother ? : Sumateran Clouded Leopard...

      They' the owner of the longest fangs

    • profile image

      Cal King 6 years ago

      a more conservative approach is to name this population a new subspecies. Whenever a population is isolated geographically, genetic drift can result in the appearance of minute differences in morphology. Whether the cats themselves see these differences as a barrier to interbreeding or not is open to speculation. Naming new species on the basis of genetic differences (which are inevitable whenever two populations are geographically isolated) appears to be a fashionable trend.

    • profile image

      bov 7 years ago


    • dutch84 profile image

      dutch84 9 years ago

      cool. It's great to know that our world still has so many untold secrets...

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 9 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      Angela, I watched a special about the Clouded Leopard on Animal Planet. Beautiful, ay?

    • Angela Harris profile image

      Angela Harris 9 years ago from Around the USA

      Thanks for everyone's comments. And it really is amazing that this new species hasn't been discovered until now. I can understand insects and such, but a big cat? Wow!

    • goldendragon profile image

      goldendragon 9 years ago from USA

      It has pretty big population and is the largest predator at Borneo. I wonder why scientists have just found this new species now.

    • profile image

      Christopher 9 years ago

      They are really really beautiful!! It is so amazing how hidden they can be.

    • Angela Harris profile image

      Angela Harris 9 years ago from Around the USA

      Gabby, the scientific name for the Bornean Clouded Leopard is Neofelis Diardi.

    • profile image

      gabby  9 years ago

      wha is the scientific name for the new leopard

    • AuraGem profile image

      AuraGem 9 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      When i think of Borneo I think of rainforests, the South China Sea and the Empire Hotel. Yes! It's really Brunei I think about! This hub is most enlightening! Just great!

      Smiles and Light

    • Theophanes profile image

      Theophanes 9 years ago from New England

      Wow, yet another beautiful example of island genetics, a whole species broken off and evolving without it's counterparts in the mainland. Very interesting. I hope someone can step in and help Borneo's habitat loss. It's such an interesting and diverse place when it comes to wildlife. Fascinating creature and a lovely hub.

    • Angela Harris profile image

      Angela Harris 9 years ago from Around the USA

      So well said, JB. Thanks for the comment.

    • jb publisher profile image

      jb publisher 9 years ago

      for every loss there can be a discovery. Perhaps the most importnat discovery is how much there is to lose if we do not act now to balance the ecological pressures, and pay proper respect to That which makes us all possible.