Clouded in Mystery: David Macdonald explains how trade is a potential threat for Clouded leopard survival


Neil D’Cruze, WildCRU researcher (and Head of Policy at World Animal Protection) led a study focused on clouded leopard trade. We used information from CITES records, published literature and expert opinion to assess what impact this activity is having on the smallest Asian ‘big’ cat.  Our key finding is an apparent shift toward commercial trade in live captive bred clouded leopards with trade irregularities that point toward possible laundering of wild caught animals. We also report that illegal trade in derivatives can openly be observed online and at wildlife markets in range countries where enforcement is weak. However, our energetic search has also revealed that specific information regarding the impact of trade on clouded leopards is lacking. Neil and I argue that this is not grounds for complacency, but rather suggests a need for increased research effort. Our paper is published in Biodiversity and Conservation, and is the first in-depth review of the trade in clouded leopards globally.

In brief:

* The USA was the most active exporter, and second most active importer, of Clouded leopards intended for commercial purposes over the last 25 years.

* Expert opinion highlighted the presence of clouded leopards at commercial ‘tiger farms’ in South East Asia which have been accused of illegal wildlife trade activity.

* Illegal trade in Clouded leopard body parts can be observed online and at markets in range countries, with China, India, Myanmar and Nepal being of particular concern.

Clouded Leopards illegal trade routesClouded Leopards illegal trade routes

* Expert opinion indicates that illegal trade activity is on the increase and that not enough is currently being done to protect Clouded leopards remaining in the wild.

dead clouded leopard and piglet

A dead Clouded Leopard and piglet


Read more about our Clouded Leopard Programme.