Clouded leopards are adorable.
The “clouds” are those beautiful dark blotches on the coat.
These wild felines aren’t close relatives of the leopard, but modern research shows that clouded leopards do belong with the big cats. Their head and face are a little weird looking. That could be because these Southeast Asian cats are primitive – the first big cats to evolve some 11 million years ago. But some paleontologists have a different explanation for it.
Snow leopards aren’t leopards that live in snowy country. “Panthera uncia” is actually a separate species and more closely related to the tiger. While leopards rule in southern Asia, snow leopards own the alpine and subalpine zones from the Himalayas northward, across the Tibet plateau and the Central Asian high country, to mountainous southern Siberia.
The world’s most famous spotted cat is a little better off than other big cats. Although its range has shrunk, the leopard still calls two continents home. Since leopards can adapt to almost any environment from sea level up to around 17,000 feet in the Himalayas, you will find them in most of sub-Saharan Africa and across much of southern/northeast Asia. While the overall species isn’t endangered, some leopard subspecies are. But in India the high numbers of both leopards and people are causing serious problems.
When its fossils might be those of another big cat. This is the case with “Panthera atrox”. It used to be called the American lion, and recent genetic studies support this. However, some experts disagree. And if you take out Atrox, lions’ historical range shrinks considerably. – a huge difference for conservationists today.
The fact that cats are dangerous seems pretty self-evident.
Yet, last summer, visitors to a drive-through zoo still got out of their car near an uncaged tiger, with predictable results.
This summer, a Kenyan man illegally grazed his herd in Nairobi National Park at night – prime lion activity time. They found what little was left of him the next morning.
Seen more closely, though, these incidents aren’t as simple as they seem.
For one thing, each happened in a big city – Beijing and Nairobi, respectively.