Cat News Nr 59


The Perisan leopard at risk

On 3 November 2013, a shepherd killed a male leopard in the province of Diyarbakir in the southeast of Turkey. The event was big news in Turkey and made it into the international news under the catching title "Shepherd kills first Anatolian leopard sighted in Turkey for years" ( Cat experts (so all readers of Cat News) of course realise that "Anatolian leopard" and "southeast" don't match. The Anatolian leopard Panthera pardus tuliana was living in the southern and western parts of Turkey, whereas the subspecies occurring in the east is P. p. saxicolor, the Persian leopard. But, as one colleague from Turkey wrote in an e-mail, most people in Turkey don't care about the subspecies, as long as there is any leopard left at all. He is right. The Anatolian leopard is dead, long live the Persian leopard!

The good news in the bad news is that this incident marks by far the western-most observation of a Persian leopard for many years. The search in the north-east, in the Caucasus region of Turkey, has failed to produce any hard evidence either. The hopes to discover a remnant population now concentrate on the south-eastern part of the country. There is very little information from this corner, and field investigations were impossible for a long time (and are still very difficult) because of the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish army. South of the area of interest are Syria and Iraq, and Iran in the east. The odd leopard may still occur in northern Iraq (see Cat News 56, 2012: 34-35), but such anecdotal information do not allow to assess the status of the leopard.

The Caucasus population of the Persian leopard is highly endangered. The leopard has likely disappeared from the Great Caucasus, and not more than a few animals remain in the Lesser Caucasus. In recent time, reproduction was only confirmed from the Caucasus provinces in Iran, but the situation in the protected areas surveyed by Ehsan Moqanaki in north-western Iran does not look promising (see article on page 22-25 in this issue). Reason to worry is not only the lack of evidence for leopard presence in some priority protected areas, but also the dire conservation: habitat destruction, overgrazing, lack of wild ungulates... Although the survey must be intensified and completed, it is not to be expected that the situation looks better outside the protected areas. We do not know whether this "last stronghold" of the leopard in the Caucasus is indeed strong and how long it will hold. It might already now be cut-off from the populations in the Zagros Mountains further south or in the Alborz Mountains further east.

The Alborz and the Kopet-Dag ranges in Iran and Turkmenistan might host the most important subpopulation of the Persian leopard today. However, it is difficult to get more than occasional reports from Turkmenistan, from western Afghanistan or western Pakistan, which form the assumed eastern distribution edge of the Persian leopard (see taxonomic notes for P. p. saxicolor under These countries will also have difficulties (if they are ever interested) to implement a conservation and monitoring programme for the leopards in the near future.

The Persian leopard has been listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List since 1996. All recent information has confirmed that this pessimistic assessment is indeed justified. The survival of the Persian leopard will depend on Iran. This country does not only host the largest population, it has also the best requirements to implement a large-scale conservation programme: well-educated scientists, a good network of protected areas under the supervision of the Department of Environment, and a number of established NGOs skilled in wildlife conservation. But all individuals and institutions engaged in conservation have been hampered by the difficult (economic) conditions that resulted from the sanctions. A careful optimism is now emerging after the encouraging negotiations in Geneva. For the sake of the Persian leopard and all other wildlife in the Middle East: Let's hope that the political isolation of Iran comes to an end and the country can play a leading role in conservation in the entire region.

Urs Breitenmoser

Important habitat for a small population of tigers in central Bhutan by L. Tharchen and D. W. Macdonald

Bhutan forms the northwest portion of a Tiger Conservation Landscape (TCL 37), a global priority 1 TCL that includes prime tigerPanthera tigris habitat spanning the low subtropical belt to the steep and high temperate forests up to and above the tree line. The Trongsa Forest range, a timber production zone under Zhemgang Forest Division, has not previously been a priority area for tigers, but a brief reconnaisance in 2010 revealed three tigers there. Therefore, in 2011/12 we undertook a systematic 60 day camera trapping survey of the 44.19 km2 area. This revealed at least four tigers, including two of those seen in 2010, not only drawing attention to the potential importance of the area for tiger conservation, but also raising issues of conflict with local farmers and directing our attention to the Pelela region (east Wangdue district and west of Trongsa) as a potentially important tiger habitat between Yotongla pass (east of Trongsa) and Pelela pass (east of Wangdue district).

Asiatic golden cat and Sunda clouded leopard occupancy in the Kerinci Seblat landscape, West-Central Sumatra by I. A. Haidir, Y. Dinata, M. Linkie and D. W. Macdonald

Using camera traps deployed at four study areas we investigate the influence of distance to forest edge and elevation on the occurrence of Sunda clouded leopard Neofelis diardi and Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii in the Kerinci Seblat landscape, Sumatra. Golden cats occupied a higher proportion of study areas than did clouded leopards, and were more likely to occur at lower elevations. Clouded leopards tended to avoid forest edge and to prefer higher elevation.

Supporting Online Material:

Table 2 and 3

Largest Tiger seizure ever in Malaysia by C. R. Shepherd, S. Khan and K. Krishnasamy

Malaysia’s wild tiger Panthera tigris population may be as high as 500, making it one of the most significant countries globally for tiger conservation. However, poaching and commercial trade poses an urgent and critical threat; hving the potential to cause the greatest damage in the shortest span of time. While Malaysia has adequate legislation, implementation and enforcement of the laws are hampered by the lack of suitable convictions to serve as deterrents.

Sighting of a rusty-spotted cat in Amboli village, India by Y. Lele and H. Chunekar

A single rusty-spotted cat Prionailurus rubiginosus was sighted at Amboli hill station, Maharashtra in the morning at 02:00 h on the road leading towards Shirgaonkar Point. Amboli is located in a beautiful semi-evergreen forest in the south of Maharashtra in the Western Ghats. No earlier record from Amboli is known for the rustyspotted cat.

First record of grey morph of Asiatic golden cat in Pakke Tiger Reserve, India by P. Chakraborty, Lalthanpuia, T. Sharma, R. Chakraborty and T. Tapi

The Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii has been reported from south-eastern Asia, particularly from Bhutan, Bangladesh and India. It occurs in various morphological forms such as the common reddish-brown or golden morph, the rare ocelot morph, the melanistic morph and the grey morph. A record of the grey morph from Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh is presented here. The population size is not known, but this cat is under threat due to habitat loss and hunting pressure. It is thus recommended that steps be taken to save this ‘fire cat’ of the east.

The first photographs of clouded leopards in the Northern Plains of Cambodia by A. Suzuki, T. Setha, T. Sokha and S. Kobayashi

The first photographs of clouded leopards Neofelis nebulosa in the Northern Plains of Cambodia were taken in Preah Vihear Protected Forest during the 2012/2013 dry season. Two individual clouded leopards were detected in evergreen and semi-evergreen forests in the Protected Forest, which is covered by deciduous dipterocarp forest for the most part. It is necessary for conservation planning to further investigate the habitat use and distribution of clouded leopards, both within Preah Vihear Protected Forest and beyond its boundaries.

Tiger camera trapped outside Chitwan National Park, Nepal by Y. Ghimirey and R. Acharaya

During a camera trapping survey in Setidevi community forests outside the buffer zone of Chitwan National Park CNP, a tigerPanthera tigris was photographed on 19 December 2012 at 18:39 h. The felid was captured along the bank of river Narayani.

Multi-stakeholder approaches to snow leopard conservation on the Tibetan Plateau by B. Weckworth and J. Li

In recent months our conservation and research consortium, made up of the Chinese NGO Shan Shui, Peking University, and international NGOs, Panthera and Snow Leopard Trust, has published manuscripts in Biological Conservation (Li et al. 2013a) and Conservation Biology (Li et al. 2013b) that detail the results of our studies on human-snow leopard conflict and the role of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in snow leopard Panthera uncia conservation. These projects illustrate the value of multistakeholder approaches to understanding both sources and solutions to conservation problems. This article summarizes some of our most important results.

New locations for the leopard cat in the Russian Far East by L. Kerley and M. M. Borisenko

New locations for the leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis were recorded on photographs taken with camera traps set for tigers in Lazovsky Zapovednik and Zov Tigra National Park, the Russian Far East in 2011-2012. Most leopard cats were recorded in snow free areas on beaches and cliff tops near the coast but 32% of detections and 45% of locations were in habitats that typically accumulate 50-90 cm of winter snow suggesting they may be more resilient to snow depth than previously reported.

Supporting Online Material:


Persian leopards in the Iranian Caucasus: a sinking ‘source’ population? by E. Moqanaki, U. Breitenmoser, B. H. Kiabi, M. Masoud and S. Bensch

Persian leopards Panthera pardus saxicolor in the Caucasus have suffered a major decline in numbers and extent of occurrence, and are now restricted to a few populations in north-western Iran. This perception bases on sporadic field observations and a sign survey conducted in 2004. To establish an updated basis for the current status of Iranian Caucasus leopard, we carried out field surveys in June-October 2012 using non-invasive genetic sampling of faeces combined with searches for signs and non-structured interviews with key local informants at five priority reserves in north-western Iran. Within approximately 285 km of trails evaluated in 33 survey days (435 man-hours) we found only six potential leopard scats, three of which were of sufficient quality for mitochondrial DNA analysis but none confirmed as originating from leopard. We recorded no fresh leopard signs and interviews suggested very little reliable proof for the species’ presence in all but Kiamaky Wildlife Refuge and Agh Dagh Protected Area. We caution that leopards in the Iranian Caucasus are in unfavourable status, and that prompt conservation actions are needed. It is unlikely that the assumed source population of leopards in north-western Iran is presently able of supporting the natural re-colonization of the Caucasus.

Supporting Online Material: 

Table 1

Figures 3-5


First photographic record of a serval in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, south-western Uganda by B. Mugerwa

I report the first photographic record, based on camera-trap images, of the serval Leptailurus serval in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, south-western Uganda.

Sand cat sightings in the Moroccan Sahara by A. Sliwa, G. Breton and F. Chevalier

We report here on past and recent sightings of sand cats Felis margarita margarita in their westernmost distribution area of the Moroccan Sahara. Sand cats were searched for while driving along roads, pistes and cross country using the headlights and high powered spotlamps from the roof of two vehicles looking for their eyeshine. The sex and age of the 11 sighted cats was assessed, and characteristics of the relevant habitat was recorded where they were seen. We also report on actual and potential threats to this cat population and propose an in-depth ecological study on this little known cat species in the area in the future.

A third species of lynx, the bobcat, found to experience early sibling aggression by A. Antonevich and S. Naidenko

Early spontaneous sibling aggression is known in Eurasian lynx and Iberian lynx. It differs from other types of aggression in lynx and other animals. In 2010 similar sibling fights in a bobcat Lynx rufus litter were recorded at the Tchernogolovka Research Centre in Russia.

Test of scent lures and hair snares for captive jaguars and implications for field use by L. M. Myers and M. B. Main

Hair snares are an effective noninvasive method to survey carnivores, but they have not been used to study jaguars Panthera onca.We evaluated the effectiveness of 4 scent lures for attracting jaguars and promoting cheek-rubbing behavior, and a hair snare design for the collection of hair samples with 7 captive jaguars. We recorded latency time (time from entering the enclosure to inspection), investigation time (time spent investigating), and behavior score (interaction with treatments or control) to evaluate scent lures. Our results revealed that Calvin Klein Obsession perfume for women (CK) elicited the most cheek-rubbing events and the highest behavior scores. Other scent lures were less effective (Hawbaker Wildcat No.2, catnip oil) or ineffective (bobcat urine) at promoting cheek-rubbing behavior and had lower behavior scores. Our hair snare model was effective at collecting samples with the mean hair count being 312 (95% CI = 145-478). Our results indicated that CK was effective at promoting investigation and cheek rubbing by jaguars in a captive setting and that the hair-snare design was effective at collecting hair samples. However, further testing in the field is needed to validate the use of this technique for wild jaguars.