Scent marking in Sunda clouded leopards (Neofelis diardi): Novel observations close a key gap in understanding felid communication behaviours

© 2016 Author(s). Intraspecific communication is integral to the behavioural ecology of solitary carnivores, but observing and quantifying their communication behaviours in natural environments is difficult. Our systematic literature review found that basic information on scent marking is completely lacking for 23% of all felid species, and information on 21% of other felid species comes solely from one study of captive animals. Here we present results of the first systematic investigation of the scent marking behaviours of Sunda clouded leopards in the wild. Our observations using motion-triggered video cameras in Indonesian Borneo are novel for clouded leopards, and contrary to previous descriptions of their behaviour. We found that clouded leopards displayed 10 distinct communication behaviours, with olfaction, scraping, and cheek rubbing the most frequently recorded. We also showed that males make repeated visits to areas they previously used for marking and that multiple males advertise and receive information at the same sites, potentially enhancing our ability to document and monitor clouded leopard populations. The behaviours we recorded are remarkably similar to those described in other solitary felids, despite tremendous variation in the environments they inhabit, and close a key gap in understanding and interpreting communication behaviours of clouded leopards and other solitary felids.