Cat News Nr 51


And the winner is … the Tiger!

This fall’s Project of the Month on the Cat Specialist Group website ( and Kids for Cats in this issue (page 37) are dedicated to a drawing contest we offered to school kids in our home town. The winner – shown above – was the tiger drawn by Louise Martig. The tiger again! I admit I had hoped for the Eurasian lynx, but Louise, the most talented artist of the class, has chosen the tiger. I’m not sure if Louise (11) knows Harrison (67), but I’m certain that Harrison doesn’t know Louise. Yet the two have something in common: They are attracted by tigers, and they want to use the tiger as a flagship species to help other cats and animals. This is really important, because tigers need this help (read the articles on page 44, 45, 46, 49, 50, 51 and 52 of this issue), and the other cats too (read the remaining pages). Although they are both recognised artists, I believe that Harrison has a larger outreach than Louise, especially because he supported Robert and others to launch the Global Tiger Initiative (page 48).

We all must welcome the Word Bank’s engagement for the survival of the tiger, although many of us were and may still be sceptical. We conservationists know that we are right (always have been, of course…), but we also have to admit that we are often powerless. I’m sometimes frustrated if prominent artists, economic leaders or politicians say something – and make it immediately to the headlines – that we have been saying for thirty years but nobody ever was listening. But at the same time we all know that nature conservation will only be successful if not only a few dreamers, but also the leaders and the masses are willing to give it the highest priority, and if all our doing is judged against its impact on environment and nature. We are yet far from this. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Global Tiger Initiative really leads to a “tiger filter” for future World Bank projects, would act as an example for other development projects in the tiger ranges and eventually for all development projects with a potential negative impact on nature? It goes without saying that we, the technocrats, cannot do this by ourselves. We urgently need the Robert’s, the Harrison’s, the Vladimir’s, and eventually the Louise’s, who help nature because they love tigers. We, the specialists, have to make sure that cat conservation measures are based on best practise and best available science, and then sustainably implemented. On pages 30 and 31, Alan Rabinowitz presents a Tiger Conservation Protocol, that eventually might serve also as a model for other species.

                                                                                                                              Urs Breitenmoser

Does the fishing cat inhabit Sumatra? by J. W. Duckworth, C. R. Shepherd, G. Semiadi, P. Schauenberg, J. Sanderson, S. I. Roberton, T. G. O’Brien, T. Maddox, M. Linkie, J. Holden and N. W. Brickle

Debate in the 1930s about whether fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus inhabited Sumatra effectively ceased in 1940 when one key reference stated that it did. No cogent reasons were given, but most subsequent secondary sources set the island within the species’s range. Several cautious authors stressing the lack of verifiable Sumatran records went largely unheeded. Modern claims from Sumatra are misidentifications or, at best, cannot be objectively confirmed: the single certain identification is of a zoo animal of unknown provenance. Survey has been inadequate to assert that fishing cat does not inhabit Sumatra, so for now the question remains open. Fishing cat is classified on the 2008 Red List as Endangered: surveys are urgent on Sumatra and on Java, the only documented Sundaic population.

Confirmation of the endangered fishing cat in Botum Sakor National Park, Cambodia by A. Royan

The presence of fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus was confirmed in Botum-Sakor National Park, southwest Cambodia on 20 January 2008. Two juveniles were found abandoned by a park ranger following a natural fire, and were subsequently photographed by Frontier scientists in a village within the national park boundary. The discovery of these cats suggests the presence of a wild population of the species. Botum-Sakor National Park is one of only two coastal protected areas in Cambodia and contains significant potential fishing cat habitat, including large wetland areas and a combination of forest and grassland systems. Therefore, fishing cat might well have a widespread distribution within the National Park. Threats to fishing cat include direct targeting by hunters for food or indirect targeting via snares, while the future of natural habitat within the National Park and its surrounds remains uncertain due to increasing development pressure. The fishing cat is currently listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and as such, areas containing significant populations need to be identified and afforded increased levels of protection.

Recent sightings of fishing cats in Thailand by P. Cutter and P. Cutter

Formerly occurring widely over most of Southeast Asia, fishing cats Prionailurus viverrinus now appear to have the second most restricted range of wild felids in the region. We conducted surveys for fishing cats in four locations in peninsular Thailand between 2003 and 2009. Survey methods consisted of interviews, searches for signs and the use of automated camera traps. We documented fishing cats at Thale Noi Non-hunting Area and Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park and found no evidence of the species at Klong Saeng and Maenam Pachi Wildlife Sanctuaries. Priority actions for conserving fishing cats include surveying additional areas of potential occurrence and working with communities to disrupt direct persecution of the species.

Records of five Bornean cat species from Deramakot Forest Reserve in Sabah, Malaysia by A. Mohamed, H.Samejima and A. Wilting

Here we report records of all five Bornean cat species, the leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis, the Sundaland clouded leopard Neofelis diardi, the Bornean bay cat Pardofelis badia, the flat-headed cat Prionailurus planiceps and the marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata from Deramakot Forest Reserve (FR). Deramakot FR is a commercial forest reserve, where a reduced impact selective logging system is practised. All cat species except the leopard cat seem to occur in low numbers. Our results suggest that even commercially used forests may harbour these endangered cat species.

First flat-headed cat photo from Sabangau peat-swamp forest, Indonesian Borneo by S. Cheyne, H. Morrogh-Bernard and D. W. Macdonald

As part of an ongoing project to identify and assess the distribution and population status of Bornean felids in the Sabangau Peat-swamp forest, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, a flat-headed cat Prionailurus planiceps has been photographed for the first time. The flat-headed cat is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List 2008.

First camera trap image of Asiatic golden cat in Nepal by Y. Ghimirey and P. Pal

A camera trapping survey conducted in Makalu-Barun National Park in eastern Nepal in April-May 2009 has yielded the picture of a melanistic Asiatic golden cat Pardofelis temmincki. It was taken on 9 May 2009 at 1:26 PM in the site located at 27°35.336’N/87°07.568’E on 2517 m above sea level. The elevation range of the study area is 1780-2700 m and the habitats are dominated by the Schima-Castanopsis forests.

Camera-trapping snow leopards in the Tost Uul region of Mongolia by R. Jackson, B. Munkhtsog, D. P. Mallon, G. Naranbaatar and K. Gerlemaa

The snow leopard’s reclusive behaviour, generally low population density, fragmented distribution and rugged mountain habitat make it exceptionally hard to enumerate. Since conservation success hinges upon sound understanding of population size and distribution, there is an urgent need for reliable, non-invasive status surveys under differing environmental and habitat conditions. We conducted a camera-trap survey in the South Gobi of Mongolia for comparison with data from previous camera-trap abundance-population surveys in India, China and Kyrgyzstan conducted by other researchers. We documented the presence of 4 adults and 3 cubs during the 65-day survey. Based on the standard buffering technique, we surveyed a 264 km2 area yielding an estimated density of 1.52 adult snow leopards per 100 km2. However, since capture-recapture models perform poorly with less than 20 individuals, snow leopard camera-trap survey results should also include simpler, more basic metrics for future comparisons between surveys or areas, namely the minimum number of individuals detected, number of recaptures and camera-trap success per 100 trap nights.

Felids in an agricultural landscape in São Paulo, Brazil by G. Dotta and L. M. Verdade

We surveyed felids in an agricultural landscape in São Paulo, Brazil, from July 2003 to June 2004. A total of 284 km was walked in transects distributed among the following landscape attributes: semi-deciduous native forest fragments, Eucalyptus plantations, sugar-cane plantations and exotic pastures. The diversity and abundance of felid species were evaluated in the mosaic, and we tested possible differences in frequency of occurrence and species richness according to the land use type by using Nested ANOVA. We found a total of five felid species and the analysis showed no differences for both frequency of occurrence and species richness. We also compared the abundance of species found through studies using similar methodology in different areas by using the Kruskal-Wallis test, and no differences in abundance were found. Results demonstrate the difficulty of obtaining data about felid abundance even after one year of fieldwork. However, we could confirm the species occurrence in the area, and the similarity found in species abundance in our region and in more conserved areas allows us to say that Neotropical wild felids can survive in agricultural landscapes as long as native forest fragments remain in the area. Current environmental laws should thus be enforced in order to improve forest conservation and to mitigate the possible impacts of agriculture, paper industry, and livestock production on those species.

Use of captive bred animals for reintroductions by L. Hunter

Captive breeding and reintroduction are often publicized as a solution for the loss of species in the wild. This is especially true for highly charismatic and endangered taxa such as large felids where, at least in affluent developed countries, the general public’s experience of big cats is chiefly via popular media and zoos. Directly or otherwise, these sources often perpetuate the notion that the destiny of captive cats is to eventually return to the wild. This is compounded by the extraordinary publicity surrounding ad hoc reintroduction efforts such as those of lions undertaken by George and Joy Adamson in the 1960s and 1970s.

Stop the bleeding: implementing a strategic Tiger Conservation Protocol by A. Rabinowitz

Tigers remain our most critically endangered large cat species. The international community appears unable to stem the decline of tiger numbers, despite significant amounts of attention and funding, and a plethora of NGO’s claiming to be saving the world’s largest felid. The crux of the problem is that best practices for tiger conservation are not being accepted or adhered to. While we have the knowledge and the means to save core tiger populations and important tiger landscapes, the tiger conservation community does not work in synergy with each other. New initiatives for saving tigers are continually coming forth with agendas that are self-promoting, distracting, or lack potential for advancing and improving the situation for tigers.

Cats on the 2009 Red List of Threatened Species by K. Nowell

The IUCN Red List is the most authoritative global index to biodiversity status and is the flagship product of the IUCN Species Survival Commission and its supporting partners. As part of a recent multi-year effort to reassess all mammalian species, the family Felidae was comprehensively re-evaluated in 2007-2008.

Persistence of Persian leopard in a buffer habitat in north-eastern Iran by M. S. Farhadinia, B. Nezami, F. Hosseini and M. Valizadeh

An investigation on Persian leopard Panthera pardus saxicolor was carried out from September 2007 to October 2008 in Ghorkhod & Behkadeh Reserve, northeastern Iran. The area is the main buffer habitat around the core (source) population in Golestan National Park, but it suffers severe depletion of natural prey species due to lower level of protection measures, and is probably a sink population. We conclude that to ensure corridors and buffer zones, the most urgent and achievable solution is perhaps to designate additional “No Hunting Areas”and to implement anti-poaching measures, which may help the regional Persian leopard population to survive under a meta-population framework.