Behavioral Assessment of the Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa); A Comparative Study of Reproductive Success




Fazio, Jilian

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This thesis details a behavioral assessment of the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa). The clouded leopard is classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature‟s (IUCN 2010) Endangered Species commission, and faces many challenges surrounding its conservation both in the wild and in captivity. In captivity, the issue of highest concern is mate compatibility. This study utilizes two separate methods to determine temperament and behavioral differences within the species, including behavioral observations and a keeper rated temperament assessment. Behavioral observations were used to analyze three specific tests; urine scent test, mirror image stimulation (Gallup, 1968), and a novel object test. These tests were chosen to elicit behaviors similar to those seen during breeding introductions. Animal care staff was asked to complete a temperament assessment which was compared with the behavioral observations to identify and link anecdotal “personalities” with quantifiable behaviors. The project included 24 clouded leopards housed at the Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Thailand as well as the Smithsonian‟s Conservation Research Center, Front Royal, Virginia. This study revealed that the clouded leopards in the test population had four separate quantifiable temperaments including; “high-strung;” “active;” “calm;” and “aggressive.” These temperaments were found to be significantly correlated to reproductive success and gender, with reproductively successful individuals and males rating higher on “calm.” The temperaments were also significantly correlated with the method by which the individual was reared from birth, with mother-reared individuals rating higher on “aggressive.” Behavioral observations recorded during test trials were found to be significantly correlated with reproductive success. Overall, reproductively successful individuals were quicker to respond, more vocal and spent less time out of sight and more time lying. Several behaviors were also found to be sex specific. Reproductively successful males exhibited more “territorial” behaviors, including “patrol,” “defecate” and “urinewalk.” The “urinewalk” was an unusual behavior not previously recorded in this species. The urine scent tests served best to elicit these behaviors and further testing is recommended to determine the possible use of urine scent tests in predicting reproductive success in the male clouded leopard. The reproductively successful females responded with defensive behaviors including, “retreat” and “flinch.” The mirror image stimulation was the best test to elicit these behaviors and further testing is recommended to determine the possible use of the MIS in predicting reproductive success in clouded leopard females. The data obtained in all eight treatments combined served as the best overall indicator of reproductive success in the clouded leopard. Due to the small sample size in this study, further testing is recommended, specifically of reproductively successful individuals. These tests may serve as a helpful tool in the management of this species in captivity.



Novel object, Temperament, Scent test, Mirror image stimulation, Reproductive success, Captive management