GENEVA — A type of leopard found on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo and believed to be related to its mainland cousin is in fact a completely new cat species, WWF said Thursday.
The conservation group said American scientists compared the DNA of the clouded leopard with that of its mainland cousin and determined the two populations diverged some 1.4 million years ago.
"Genetic research results clearly indicate that the clouded leopard of Borneo should be considered a separate species," WWF quoted Dr. Stephen O'Brien of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, which carried out the tests, as saying.
The clouded leopard is Borneo's largest predator, has the longest canine teeth relative to its size of any cat, and can grow as large as a small panther.
There are estimated to be between 5,000 and 11,000 of these animals left in Borneo's rain forests, which are threatened by logging and are believed to hold many more undiscovered species, WWF said.
In December the organization, which is based in Gland, Switzerland, announced scientists had found at least 52 new species in Borneo, including 30 types of fish, two tree frogs and several plants.
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