Vietnamese police rescue rare clouded leopard from smugler

The 18-kilogram (40-pound) female was discovered by border guards on July 1 in northern Quang Ninh province when a man dropped a bag before running from authorities. He escaped by jumping into a river long the Vietnam-China border near the town of Mong Cai, said Ngo Ba Oanh, director of the Hanoi Center for Wild Animal Rescue, where the cat is being held.

The animal was found inside the bag sedated and with an injured right front foot, he said.

The cat will remain at the center for three to six months to allow it to fully recover before officials decide whether to release it back into the wild.

Clouded leopards are found in Asia and are rarely seen in the wild. They are known for their reclusive nature and tree-climbing ability and get their name from their unique spotted markings, making them sought after by poachers.

The animals are not technically leopards but a separate species of wild cat that belongs to the same family as lions, tigers, jaguars and leopards, according to the Thailand-based Clouded Leopard Project's Web site. They are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and are protected in most countries, but no population estimates exist, it said.