The clouded leopard is one of the most secretive and elusive animals in the world, so spotting these majestic feline in the wild is nearly impossible. Their very own way to keep a low profile and the habitat they live in, make these wild cats extremely difficult to encounter.
Nevertheless, a group of of researchers have recently caught on camera this highly elusive wild cat in places they have never thought it would be possible – at a very high altitude in the Himalayan forest. This is the highest altitude ever reported where a clouded leopard was spotted.
The very unexpected meeting took place in the Nagaland Mountains in northeastern India, where researchers from the Delhi-based non-profit Wildlife Protection Society of India were able to photograph six clouded leopards at an elevation of over 3700 meters.
Although extremely rare, the clouded leopard has been seen multiple times, nearly always in low-altitude evergreen rainforests. However, wildlife experts had no idea that these wild cats could thrive at greater altitudes. Nevertheless, they were able to capture images of at least two adults and two cubs at a height of nearly 3700 m on this particular occasion.
“In total, we have evidence of at least two adults and two cubs,” the research team’s report reads. “Two distinct individuals were photo-captured at a camera placed above the tree line at 3,700 m close to the summit of Mt. Saramati. Another individual was photo-captured at 3,436 m.
“They are residents of the area, and are reproducing there, which indicates that there is enough food and forest cover for them to do so,” the paper authored by Ramya Nair, Alemba Yimkhiung, Hankiumong Yimkhiung, Kiyanmong Yimkhiung, Yapmuli Yimkhiung, Toshi Wungtung, Avinash Basker and Sahil Nijhawan, also reads.
The fact that these untamed cats may be seen at such high elevations supports the theory that clouded leopards are the best climbers of all the cats.
They may weigh between 25 and 50 pounds, and their extraordinary large teeth—some claim the longest in relation to the body—make them excellent hunters.