New leopard species identified in
Email Print Normal font Large font March 15, 2007 - 3:54PM
Scientists have identified a leopard found on the South-East Asian islands of Borneo and
Genetic and skin tests on the creature, now dubbed the Bornean clouded leopard, or Neofelis diardi, have shown that it is almost as different from clouded leopards found on the Asian mainland as lions are from tigers, the Swiss-based WWF said.
"For over 100 years we have been looking at this animal and never realised that it was unique," said Stuart Chapman, coordinator of a WWF program that aims at preserving the vast rain forests in a region known as the Heart of Borneo.
The announcement follows a December report from WWF saying dozens of new animal, fish, plant and tree species had recently been found on
Clouded leopards were first described scientifically in 1821 by British naturalist Edward Griffith and were given the official name Neofelis nebulosa. Until now, the mainland and island animals were believed to be a single species.
But DNA tests at the National Cancer Institute in the
By comparison, the WWF said, there are 56 genetic differences between lions and the common leopard.
The US researchers' conclusions, it added, were backed up by results of studies of skin coloration and fur patterns by biologists working for
The island clouded leopard - believed to number between 5,000 and 11,000 in Borneo and between 3,000 and 7,000 in
The mainland leopard, Neofelis nebulosa, which is found from
The Borneo leopard, said WWF, is the main predator on the island - shared by
It is spread across most forested areas, from coastal areas to interior mountain ranges, but prefers dense lowland and hillside rainforest where its natural prey is largely found.
Its last great forest home is the Heart of Borneo, a wild mountainous region of 220,000 sq km - five times the size of