Non-Panthera cat species in South-east Asia - Introduction
South-east Asia covers about 3% of the world's land area yet supports 30% (11) of the world's 36 cat species presently recognised by The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN 2012; full citations are given in the reference list to the concluding article). The region's significance is heightened by three of these 11 species (flat-headed cat Prionailurus planiceps, bay cat Catopuma badia and Sunda clouded leopard Neofelis diardi) being confined to South-east Asia and another three (Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii, marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata and mainland clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa) occurring mostly there. High endemicity in South-east Asia is typical of many taxonomic groups (Sodhi et al. 2010). Yet the region is changing very quickly, with rapid habitat change and intensive trade-driven hunting on a scale never seen anywhere else in the world. Many of its species are highly threatened with extinction (Duckworth et al. 2012).
One of the region's cats, tiger Panthera tigris, is among the highest profile species for the conservation world and the general public, and another, leopard P. pardus, has a huge world range. But the other nine species - here called non-Panthera cats, and the topic of this special issue - are barely studied anywhere in their range, historically or recently. Ironically, the one species researched in many countries, leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis, is the only one of these species known to face no serious threat in South-east Asia. The others represented, until recently, a serious challenge even to detect, let alone study. Their populations are assumed to be declining at least in proportion to conversion of natural habitat into agriculture, human settlement and infrastructure, and probably through the effects of hunting, in part driven by illegal trade.
Wild animals have been camera-trapped since the 1890s (Kucera & Barrett 2011). This technique has exploded in use in South-east Asia since the mid 1990s. Non-Panthera cats are rarely camera-trap programme targets in the region, but many significant records are generated as bycatch, as evidenced by any issue of Cat News. Beyond the newsworthy individual records lies a vast, presently dissociated, pool of photographs of these cats. Most record species in their generally accepted geographic ranges so seem, perhaps, insignificant as individual records. But with few in-depth studies on these species' natural history and no conservation monitoring programme in place for any of them, these records, provided the identifications of non-target species are made correctly (at present this is not a safe assumption), represent a barely-tapped resource potentially to clarify several topics for each species:
- its present geographic range, with the opportunity to compare with past records;
- the habitats it uses (notwithstanding some difficulties of consistently classifying habitats);
- its encounter rates, which might, with due care, allow some inference on abundance; and
- the threats which it faces.
All these bear on a species' conservation status, that is, its survival prospects. Clear knowledge of these attributes helps design effective conservation programmes. This special issue includes nine contributions (Fig. 1): three (for Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam) are countrywide reviews of available non-Panthera cat records, considering surveys of many sites. Five others digest information from individual survey landscapes. Finally, the concluding article combines information from all the surveys to discuss the regional conservation status of each species. It also speculates on the degree to which the conservation status of non-Panthera cats could be tracked by collation and analysis of by-catch records from cameratrapping programmes.
J. W. Duckworth, Antony Lynam and Christine Breitenmoser-Würsten
Small and medium sized cats in Gunung Leuser National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia by W. Pusparini, H. T. Wibisono, G. V. Reddy, Tarmizi and P. Bharata
Small and medium cat diversity and spatio-temporal distribution in Gunung Leuser National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia, was recorded between March and October 2010. A pair of infra-red cameras was set up in each of the 68 locations resulting in 54 independent events of small and medium cats in 3,452 trap nights. Four of the five small and medium cat species confirmed to inhabit Sumatra were photographed: Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii, Sunda clouded leopard Neofelis diardi, marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata and leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis. Golden cat was the most frequently photographed species (0.72 independent event per 100 trap nights), followed by clouded leopard (0.41), marbled cat (0.23) and leopard cat (0.20). Golden cats were predominantly photographed in montane forests 1,800/1,900-2,400/2,500m (34%), marbled cats in medium elevation hills 400/500-800/900m (38%) and montane forests (38%), clouded leopards in medium elevation hills (43%) and leopard cats were mostly found in the lowlands <150m (100%). Golden cats seemed to be diurnal, clouded leopards and marbled cats were active at dawn/dusk, and leopard cats were strongly nocturnal. Trade in Medan of clouded leopard and golden cat (live and stuffed specimens) indicates some level of harvest of these small and medium cats, but data are insufficient to determine whether such harvest is a significant threat.
Supporting Online Material
Small-medium wild cats of Endau Rompin Landscape in Johor, Peninsular Malaysia by M. Gumal, M. Abu Bakar, Y. Mohd Nawayai, S. H. Liang, B. Lee, C. P. Low, H. Hasnizam, D. Kong, D. Magintan, D. Ten, Z. Ahmad Zulfi, A. Azima, K. Norhidayati, P. Y. Thai, M.
Six species of wild cats were camera-trapped in the Johor Endau-Rompin Landscape which comprises both a national park and Permanent Reserved Forests (PRF). The camera-trapped species were tiger Panthera tigris, leopard Panthera pardus, mainland clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa, Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii, leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis and marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata. These records were the result of by-catch in a camera-trapping survey for tigers in this landscape. The geographical distribution of these cats, based on the camera-trap stations, is reported. Incidental information such as their activity patterns indicated that leopard cats and clouded leopards were largely nocturnal, whereas Asiatic golden cats seemed crepuscular and marbled cats diurnal. Such by-catch data from camera-trapping surveys are valuable and should thus be examined in detail as they can potentially be used as a means to focus enforcement efforts especially if the by-catch species is a target for poaching and is recorded with reasonable detectability by camera-trapping.
The status of jungle cat and sympatric small cats in Cambodia’s Eastern Plains Landscape by T. N.E. Gray, C. Phan, C. Pin and S. Prum
South-east Asia is a global hotspot for cat diversity with up to eight species occurring sympatrically. The Eastern Plains Landscape of Cambodia contains the largest extent of deciduous dipterocarp forest remaining in Indochina. Two protected areas within the Eastern Plains Landscape (Mondulkiri Protected Forest and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary) were camera-trapped extensively (>220 locations; >18,500 camera-trap nights) between 2008 and 2012. Six cat species, leopard Panthera pardus (391 encounters), leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis (122 encounters), jungle cat Felis chaus (19 encounters), marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata (four encounters), mainland clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa (three encounters), and Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii (two encounters) were photographed. Leopard cats were encountered equally frequently across forest types (deciduous dipterocarp forest and mixed deciduous/semi-evergreen forest) but jungle cats were photographed more often in deciduous dipterocarp forest. Activity patterns also differed between the two species with jungle cat more diurnal than leopard cat. This represents the first published analysis of jungle cat habitat preferences and activity patterns in South-east Asia and provides further evidence that jungle cat is a deciduous dipterocarp specialist in Indochina. With few areas of extensive undisturbed deciduous dipterocarp forest elsewhere in the species’ South-east Asian range, the Eastern Plains jungle cat population is likely to be regionally significant.
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Status and distribution of smaller cats in Myanmar by Than Zaw, Than Myint, Saw Htun, Saw Htoo Tha Po, Kyaw Thinn Latt, Myint Maung, A. J. Lynam
Camera-trapping in many areas across Myanmar shows that of six smaller cat species, leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis, mainland clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa and Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii remain widespread in the larger remaining forested landscapes. Marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata is somewhat less widely distributed or not so well documented by this survey method. Landscapescale threats such as habitat fragmentation by mega-development projects may be significant threats to these four species. The remaining two species - fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus and jungle cat Felis chaus – may need specific conservation actions to ensure their national survival. Most cats are completely protected by existing wildlife law in Myanmar, but the legal status of fishing cat, leopard cat and jungle cat should be clarified.
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Non-Panthera cat records from big cat monitoring in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary by S. Simcharoen, M. Umponjan, S. Duangchantrasiri, A. Pattanavibool
A camera-trapping deployment for tiger Panthera tigris monitoring in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary HKK, in the Western Forest Complex WEFCOM of Thailand, was carried out intensively between 2005 and 2009. The deployment’s annual setup included an average of 162 camera-trap locations with more than 2,000 trap-nights and covered almost 1,000 km². Many other wildlife species were photographed including small and medium (non-Panthera) cats. This analysis explores the potential use of the system to monitor cat species other than tiger and leopard Panthera pardus. In five years, leopard and tiger, major targets of the deployment, were camera-trapped in 653 and 483 notionally independent events respectively. Among non-Panthera cats, leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis was the most common, with 155 events. Independent events of three other non-Panthera cats were rare: ten of Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii, six of mainland clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa, and only two of marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata. Leopard cat in HKK used mixed deciduous forest heavily and showed an obvious crepuscular and nocturnal activity pattern. The camera-trapping deployment for tigers in HKK could be used to monitor leopard cats, but different deployment designs would be necessary for other non-Panthera cats at this site.
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Recent distribution records, threats and conservation priorities of small cats in Thailand by N. Tantipisanuh, W. Chutipong, D. Ngoprasert, A. J. Lynam, R. Steinmetz, R. Sukmasuang, K. E. Jenks, L. I. Grassman Jr., P. Cutter, S. Kitamura, M. C. Baker, W.
Although small cats are presumed important as mesopredators in mammalian food chains, they have been largely ignored by biodiversity assessments of Thailand’s protected areas. In November 2009, a workshop involving regional specialists and participants from local universities, conservation organizations and government agencies was convened to assess the current status and distribution of small carnivores. In this paper, we review the small cat by-catch from 24 camera-trap surveys primarily targeting tigers Panthera tigris and other large mammals, two radio-telemetry studies, and a small number of direct sightings from 16 protected areas across Thailand. These data were collected between 1996 and 2011 and form the most current available information on distribution and threats for small cats in the country. A total of seven small to medium cat species have been recorded in Thailand. No cat species is restricted to Thailand and while some (leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis, mainland clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa, Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii and marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata) are evidently widespread across the country where habitat is available, abundance and ranging patterns in the recorded sites are poorly understood. Fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus, jungle cat Felis chaus and flat-headed cat Prionailurus planiceps are each known from few Thai records and localities, and populations may be particularly threatened due to persecution, and loss and degradation of habitat. Small and medium cats in general may be persecuted but seldom appear in wildlife trade inside Thailand with the exception of the clouded leopard. A thorough review of Thai historical records of small cats, to look for patterns of range contraction and habitat use, is needed, with a focus on those species which have not been widely found today (fishing cat, flat-headed cat and jungle cat).
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Non-Panthera cats in Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area, Lao PDR by C. N. Z. Coudrat and C. Nanthavong, S. Sayavong, A. Johnson, J. B. Johnston and W. G. Robichaud
Small and medium-sized wild cat species (2 - 20 kg, non-Panthera species) in Laos remain little known. So far, four species are known to occur in the country: Least Concern leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis, Near Threatened Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii, Vulnerable marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata and Vulnerable mainland clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa. Although all four were confirmed in the Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area NNT NPA during a camera-trap survey of 20,452 camera trap-days, from March 2006 to January 2011, only 21 images were captured of these species. In contrast, all these species were found with much lower survey efforts in NNT NPA in the 1990s and continue to be readily cameratrapped in other evergreen forest sites in South-east Asia. In combination, these factors indicate that the present low encounter rate is likely to represent recently reduced density in NNT NPA. Although the area supports over 3,000 km² of largely little-encroached forest, hunting pressure from Lao and mostly Vietnamese poachers is probably responsible for the vanishing populations of these now-rare species in the area. This is a consequence of the remarkable amount of non-selective ground snares used throughout most of the area, a situation typical for most forest areas in Laos and Viet-nam. Because of its size and habitat condition, NNT NPA should be one of the most important areas in the country and the region for the conservation of small carnivore species including wild cats, but this importance is rapidly eroding. Therefore, action is urgently needed to control illegal hunting in the area for the conservation of non-Panthera wild cat species.
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The decline of non-Panthera cat species in Vietnam by D. H. A. Willcox, Tran Quang Phuong, Hoang Minh Duc and Nguyen The Truong An
Vietnam is likely to have once supported globally significant populations of leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis, Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii, marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata and mainland clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa, and probably also fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus. Jungle cat Felis chaus is also recorded for Vietnam but the limited extent of the species’s preferred habitat type, deciduous forest, means that it is unlikely to have ever been widely distributed in the country. The current conservation status of all these small cat species in Vietnam is poorly understood. All traceable verifiable small cat field records from 1 January 1995 to 31 October 2013 were collated and reviewed, as were the results of camera-trap surveys that did not record any cats at all. Only leopard cat had a sizeable number of confirmed records. Several surveys of >1,000 camera trap nights did not record any other species of small cat. Indiscriminate cable-snare trapping is likely to have caused significant declines in Vietnam’s non-Panthera cat species, and probably extirpated Asiatic golden cat, mainland clouded leopard and marbled cat from plausibly many of Vietnam’s protected areas. Vietnam is unlikely to still hold globally significant populations of these three species and immediate conservation efforts should focus on the two countries in Indochina that are still likely to: Cambodia and Lao PDR. The last confirmed fishing cat record for Vietnam is now 13 years old, but given this species’s relative tolerance to human-induced habitat changes, and the relatively low amount of snare-trapping in its preferred wetland mosaic habitats, targeted searches for this species in Vietnam are warranted and are a regional conservation priority.
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Non-Panthera cat species in South-east Asia: present knowledge and recommendations by J. W. Duckworth, A. J. Lynam and Ch. Breitenmoser-Würsten
The conservation status of South-east Asia's nine species of non-Panthera cat is imprecisely known. Flat-headed cat Prionailurus planiceps, bay cat Catopuma badia and Sunda clouded leopard Neofelis diardi are confined to South-east Asia, while Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii, marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata and mainland clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa occur mostly there. The recent great increase in camera-trapping is generating many verifiable records of non-Panthera cats, usually as by-catch to the surveys' foci. Inspection of such records from Myanmar,Thailand and Vietnam (whole country reviews) and Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia and Sumatra (Indonesia; single-landscape reviews) show that the evergreen forest species - the two allopatric Catopuma species, the two parapatric clouded leopard species, leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis and marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata - are all recorded widely. In well-protected areas of suitable habitat the yare found mostly commonly; but densities are much reduced, even in large little fragmentedand little-degraded landscapes, where snaring is heavy (Vietnam andNakai-Nam Theun, Lao PDR). Leopard cat is considerably more resilient than are the others. By contrast, only Cambodian dry forest was found to hold many jungle cats Felis chaus (apparently suitable habitat in Myanmar is poorly surveyed); fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus records are exceptional outside surveys specifically for them, and the species seems to have a small, fragmented and vulnerable range in South-east Asia; flat-headed cat has been found widely, but rarely, within its (also fragmented) range. These last three, particularly fishing cat, are served poorly by South-east Asian protected areas. The global priority species for South-east Asiaare arguably flat-headed cat because it occurs nowhere else, and fishing cat becauseno large populations are known from anywhere. By contrast, jungle cat is still apparently numerous outside South-east Asia. With no major near-term increase in conservation attention likely for these nine cat species, regular reviews, duly attending to misidentification risk, of their camera-trap by-catch records could help track, coarsely, seven species' status. Fishing cat, however, requires directed monitoring because of both its apparent perilous status and its non-overlap with typical cameratrap areas; flat-headed cat would also benefit strongly from this.