"Clouded leopard" by Vearl Brown - Clouded Leopard II.

“Clouded leopard” by Vearl Brown – Clouded Leopard II.

The clouded leopard is a gorgeous animal. It’s also greatly threatened by the loss of its habitat. You can help save this big cat – more about that below. But first, let’s talk about the clouded leopard, and why have we named the Clouded Leopards Den 2015 prize for cloud innovation after this lovely creature.

To quote from National Geographic, “Somewhere between the small cats, which can purr, and the big cats, which can roar, are the clouded leopards that make their home in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia.” The cats live in Asia, with small habitats found scattered from Indonesia to the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal.

A great resource, called the Clouded Leopard Project, adds, “Clouded leopards primarily live in lowland tropical rainforests, but can also be found in dry woodlands and secondary forests. They have been spotted at elevations up to 9000 feet in the Himalayan mountains. Historically, their range covered most of Southeast Asia from Nepal and southern China through Thailand, Indonesia, and Borneo. However, this range has shrunk due to habitat destruction and human poaching.”

How big is the clouded leopard? National Geographic says that its body is from 2 to 3 feet long (0.6 to 0.9 meters), and up to 3 feet fall (0.9 meters). It can weigh up to 50 pounds (22 kg).

“Though clouded leopards are great climbers, scientists believe that they do most of their hunting on the ground, feasting on deer, pigs, monkeys, and smaller fare such as squirrels or birds. They are aided in their hunting by the largest canine teeth (proportionate to body size) of any wild cat,” says National Geographic.

The scientific name of the cloud leopard is Neofelis nebulosa, in the family Felidae, order Carnivora. There is a related cat family that lives on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, which has been labeled Neofelis diardi; until around 2006, these were thought to be a single species.

Only about 10,000 clouded leopards are thought to be around today.

How did the clouded leopard gets its name? According to the endangered species conservation organization WWF, “The clouded leopard is named after the distinctive ‘clouds’ on its coat – ellipses partially edged in black, with the insides a darker colour than the background colour of the pelt. The base of the fur is a pale yellow to rich brown, making the darker cloud-like markings look even more distinctive.”

Why have we chosen this beautiful creature as the namesake of the cloud innovation competition? First, when we learned about the endangered clouded leopard, we were inspired to help tell its story. (Yes, we love cats.)

The direct tie-in is that the Clouded Leopards Den 2015 prize is inspired by the BBC television show Dragon’s Den, where entrepreneurs compete for investments. (There is a similar show in the United States called Shark Tank.) Dragon’s Den -> Cloud Den -> Clouded Leopards Den. It’s that simple!

Equally simple is how you can help the clouded leopard, or rather, you can help us to help the clouded leopard. For each nomination for the Clouded Leopards Den prize, we will donate US$10 to one of the organizations seeking to protect the endangered cat.

Nominations for the Clouded Leopards Den 2015 prize are open through Feb. 23. You can find the nomination form here; there is no cost to enter, and yes, you may nominate your own company. Follow all the action at @CloudLeopardDen.