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Overview

Brief Summary

The Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) has the broadest geographic distribution of all small Asian felids. These cats are found from southern India to the islands of the Sunda Shelf and north to the Russian Far East (the Leopard Cat is one of only a handful of felid species that can be found on islands in East Asia and the only one to occur even on several small islands; Watanabe 2009). Leopard Cats are the only wild felids occurring in Japan or the Philippines. Leopard Cats are found in a wide range of forest types from lowland tropical evergreen rainforest and rubber and oil palm plantations at sea level to moist temperate broadleaf and dry coniferous forests in the Himalayas at 3000 m. They also do well in successional habitats, shrub forests, and farmlands and on coastal islands. They are generally absent from cold steppe grasslands or arid areas. Their small feet are not well suited for moving in deep snow and they consequently avoid areas where snow depth exceeds 10 cm.

Leopard Cats feed on a variety of small prey, including rodents, reptiles, birds, amphibians, crabs, and insects. They are excellent swimmers and captive animals spend a lot of time playing in the water.

These cats are heavily hunted for their pelts in many parts of their range and, as a result, although still common over most of their range, Leopard Cats may be at risk of extinction in India, Thailand, and Bangladesh. China has set an annual harvest quota of 150,000 individuals, but the number actually taken is likely larger than this. Chinese fur companies are said to have hundreds of thousands of Leopard Cat pelts stockpiled in their warehouses. Leopard Cat coats are often sold in Nepal and Kashmir.

(Sunquist and Sunquist 2009 and references therein)

  • Sunquist, M.E. and F.C. Sunquist. 2009. Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis). Pp. 162-163 in: Wilson, D.E. and Mittermeier, R.A., eds. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 2. Hoofed Mammals. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  • Watanabe, S. 2009. Factors Affecting the Distribution of the Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis on East Asian Islands. Mammal Study 34(4): 201-207.
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Distribution

Range Description

The leopard cat is a widespread species in Asia. It is found throughout most of India west into Pakistan and Afghanistan (Habibi 2004), through the Himalayan foothills, across most of China, and north to the Korean peninsula and into the Russian Far East (Nowell and Jackson 1996). It is found throughout Southeast Asia, and on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Taiwan. It is found on numerous small offshore islands of mainland Asia (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). The leopard cat is the only wild felid found in the Japan, where it occurs on the small islands Tsushima and Iriomote, and the Philippines, where it occurs on the islands of Palawan, Panay, Negros and Cebu. In the Philippines, there are recent (2007) unconfirmed reports from the island of Masbate. It should be present in Guimaras due to proximity to Negros and Panay, but no presence was reported, and is therefore presumed to be extinct (R. Lorica and W. Oliver, unpub.).
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Geographic Range

Prionailurus bengalensis is one of the most widespread carnivore species in Asia, and can be found throughout most of southern Asia. Prionailurus bengalensis occupies eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, northern and coastal India, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo, Nepal, Korea, Cambodia, parts of the Philippines, and Eastern China. Prionailurus bengalensis has been divided into a number of subspecies over its range that differ in coloration, pelage, body length, and reproductive cycles.

Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native ); indian ocean (Native )

  • 2009. "Leopard Cat foundation" (On-line). Accessed March 12, 2011 at http://www.leopardcat.8k.com/LC.html.
  • 2001. "Leopard Cat" (On-line). International Society for Endangered Cats. Accessed March 12, 2011 at http://www.wildcatconservation.org/Leopard_Cat_(Prionailurus_bengalensis).html.
  • 2004. Leopard Cat. Pp. 391 in M McDade, ed. Prionailurus bengalensis, Vol. 14, 2nd Edition. Canada: Gale.
  • Francis, C. 2008. A Field Guide to the Mammals of South-east Asia. London: New Holland Publishers.
  • Mukherjee, S., A. Krishnan, K. Tamma, C. Home, N. R, S. Joseph, A. Das, U. Ramakrishnan. 2010. Ecology Driving Genetic Variation: A Comparative Phylogeography of Jungle Cat (Felis chaus) and Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) in India. PLoS One, 5/10: 1-16.
  • Nowak, R. 2005. Leopard Cat. Pp. 249 in Walker's Carnivores of the World, Vol. 1, 1 Edition. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.
  • Watanabe, S. 2009. Factors Affecting the Distribution of the Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) on East Asian Islands. Mammal Study, 34/4: 201-207.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Leopard cats are the size of large housecats. On average, they weigh between 3 and 7 kg. In general, they have pale, tawny pelage with a white belly. Their body and tail are covered with rosettes and their tail is often ringed at the tip. Four longitudinal bands run from their foreheads to their necks. Their head to body length ranges from 44.5 to 107 cm, and their tail ranges from 23 to 44 cm. Leopard cats have a small head with a short muzzle and round ears. There are differences in coat length and color based on local environmental conditions. At more northern latitudes their fur is longer and paler, and they typically weigh more. Their coloration varies with habitat. For example, individuals in snowy habitats have lighter pelage than those in heavily forested habitats, which tend to have dark-tawny pelage. Sexual segregation has not ben documented in this species.

Range mass: 3 to 7 kg.

Range length: 44.5 to 1070 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Type Information

Type for Prionailurus bengalensis
Catalog Number: USNM 144325
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Female; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): W. Abbott
Year Collected: 1907
Locality: Pulo Tebing Tinggi [= Pulau Tebingtinggi], Sumatra, Riau, Indonesia, Asia
  • Type: Lyon, M. W. 1908 Sep 14. Proceedings of the United States National Museum. 34: 658.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The species can range up to 3,000 m in parts of its range, which extends into the Himalayas along river valleys. It occurs in a broad spectrum of habitats, from tropical rainforest to temperate broadleaf and, marginally, coniferous forest, as well as shrub forest and successional grasslands. The northern boundaries of its range are limited by snow cover; the leopard cat avoids areas where snow is more than 10 cm deep. It is not found in the cold steppe grasslands, and generally does not occur in arid zones, although there are a few records from relatively dry and treeless areas in Pakistan. Leopard cats occur commonly in dense secondary growth, including logged areas, and have been found in agricultural and forest (rubber tree, oil palm, sugarcane) plantations. The species can live close to rural settlements. Leopard cats are excellent swimmers, and have successfully colonized offshore islands throughout their range (Nowell and Jackson 1996; Sunquist and Sunquist 2002).

In the most comprehensive study, based on a large sample size of 20 radio-collared cats in Thailand's Phu Khieu Wildlife Sanctuary, mean home range size (95% MCP) was 12.7 km², larger than in other areas of Thailand (4.5 km²) (Grassman et al. 2005), on Borneo (3.5 km²: Rajaratnam 2000), or on Japan's Iriomote island (Schmidt et al. 2003). There was no significant difference between male and female home range size. Open and closed forest habitats were used in proportion to their occurrence, and activity patterns showed crepuscular and nocturnal peaks. On Borneo, Rajaratnam et al. (2007) found that leopard cats hunted rodents in oil palm plantations, and used forest fragments for resting and breeding. Murids dominate the diet (85-90%: Grassman et al. 2005b, Rajaratnam et al. 2007). Other small mamals, eels and fish have also been reported, as well as occasional scavenging of carrion (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Prionailurus bengalensis is found in tropical and temperate forests, coniferous forests, shrub land habitat, and grasslands. Its distribution is limited to areas with less than 10 cm of snow annually, and it is not found in steppe or arid climates. Prionailurus bengalensis has a fairly diverse diet and is able to find food in most habitats. It seems relatively impervious to human disturbance as populations in secondary growth and disturbed areas are stable and it is often found near agricultural fields and rural settlements. Prionailurus bengalensis is an exceptional swimmer, possibly explaining its distribution on islands, and is intolerant of temperatures above 35 C, possibly explaining its absence from central India. It is capable of living at higher elevations (i.e., 3000 m) with minimal snow fall.

Range elevation: 0 to 3000 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Prionailurus bengalensis is primarily carnivorous and preys on small terrestrial vertebrates such as rodents and lizards. They are also known to eat bats, snakes and insects on occasion. Prionailurus bengalensis usually eats mice and rats, with species varying by location. Large individuals are capable of catching larger prey, such as hares and young deer, and possibly fish and birds. Its broad distribution results in a highly variable diet throughout its geographic range. In the Philippines, P. bengalensis primarily preys upon house mice, Pacific rats, rice-field rats, and Tanezumi rats.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; fish; carrion ; insects

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Piscivore , Insectivore )

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Leopard cats are predators. They prey upon a number of small vertebrate species, such as rodents, possibly helping control pest populations. On islands, they are often the only primarily carnivorous species present. They are prey for larger carnivores and may be carriers of Feline Immunodeficiency virus, which can be transmitted to domestic cats. Parasites specific to this species have not been documented.

  • Hayama, S., H. Yamamoto, S. Nakanishi, T. Hiyama, A. Murayama. 2010. Risk Analysis of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Infection in Tsushima Leopard Cats (Prionailurus bengalensis euptilurus) and Domestic cats using a Geographic Information System. Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 72: 1113-1118.
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Predation

Leopard cat are nocturnal and semi-arboreal, which likely helps reduce risk of predation. As ambush predators, they are extremely stealthy and they probably use their small size and cryptic coloration to avoid potential predators.Major predators include large cats and birds of prey, and they are hunted by humans for their meat and fur.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Leopard cats use scat and urine to mark territories or communicate with conspecifics. Like most felids, they are ambush hunters and are generally very quiet. They rely on sight, sound, and small to hunt but are known to purr and cry, similar to domestic cats.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

In the wild, leopard cats have an average lifespan of about 4 years, and have been known to live up to 20 years in captivity. The lifespan of captive individuals varies greatly as individuals may die from the stress of transport. When leopard cats are released into non-native environments by breeders, they usually die not long after.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
4 years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
20 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
4 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
15.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 17 years (captivity) Observations: Teeth may be lost at 8-10 years of age. One wild born specimen was about 17 years of age when it died in captivity. Other specimens have been known to live over 16 years in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Little is known of the mating system of leopard cats. Male territories often overlap with those of multiple females, with whom the male tries to mate with. The mating system of the leopard cat has not been extensively studied, which may have to do with their low relative abundance and their solitary, nocturnal tendencies.

Mating System: polygynous

Prionailurus bengalensis mates year round in southeastern Asia. In more northern latitude, it breeds in January through March and gives birth in May. Gestation lasts 65 to 72 days and can produce anywhere from 1 to 4 cubs per litter with an average of 2.5. If a litter is lost (e.g., predation), females can become pregnant again within 4 to 5 months. Cubs weigh between 75 and 120 g at birth and can open their eyes within 10 days after parturition. Cubs become sexually mature around 18 months old.

Breeding interval: Prionailurus bengalensis can breed yearly depending on environmental conditions

Breeding season: Breeding season varies with local conditions

Range number of offspring: 1 to 4.

Range gestation period: 62 to 75 days.

Range birth mass: 75 to 120 g.

Average time to independence: 8 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 10 (low) months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 18 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 8 (low) months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 18 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous

Average number of offspring: 2.5.

Prionailurus bengalensis females are the primary caregivers, however, the mean duration of parental care is unknown. Cubs are born semi-altricial, furred and helpless with their eyes closed. They are raised in a hollow tree, rock crevice or burrow until they are ready to leave. Prionailurus bengalensis reaches sexual maturity at 18 months. Males may help care for young but the extent of paternal care is unknown.

Parental Investment: altricial ; male parental care ; female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Prionailurus bengalensis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Sanderson, J., Sunarto, S., Wilting, A., Driscoll, C., Lorica, R., Ross, J., Hearn, A., Mujkherjee, S., Khan, J.A., Habib, B. & Grassman, L.

Reviewer/s
Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
The Leopard Cat is a widespread and relatively common species (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002), although some island subspecies are included in the Red List. Although there is a declining population trend in parts of its range due to habitat loss and hunting, the species is stable in many areas, even thriving in some altered habitats including oil palm and sugar cane plantations (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007).

History
  • 2002
    Least Concern
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Leopard cats are widespread and abundant throughout their geographic range and are classified as a species of "least concern" on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. However, several distinct island subspecies are experiencing significant population declines. Potential threats include commercial trade of their meat, skins, and live animals for the pet industry. Leopard cats are considered poultry pests and retaliatory killings are not uncommon.

US Federal List: endangered

CITES: appendix i

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
The leopard cat is the most frequently recorded small cat across most of its wide range, in comparison with sympatric species (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Duckworth et al. 1999, Holden 2001, Duckworth et al. 2005, Lynam et al. 2006, Yasuda et al. 2007), and with its broad distribution has an abundant population. However, it is probably declining due to habitat loss and hunting. Large numbers of leopard cat furs were exported from China (averaging 200,000 skins per year in the late 1980s) (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Higher survival rates (92%) were recorded in a protected area with little human influence, compared with lower rates in areas with greater human activity (53-82%) (Haines et al. 2004). While the leopard cat is more tolerant of disturbed areas than other small Asian felids, it likely undergoes higher mortality in such areas.

Island populations are most at risk of extinction, with the Iriomote cat P.b. iriomotensis listed as Critically Endangered, and the Visayan leopard cat P.b. rabori of the Philippine islands of Panay, Negros, Cebu and possibly Masbate listed a Vulnerable. The small population (approximately 100) on Japan's 710 km² Tsushima Island, considered the same subspecies as occurs in northeastern mainland Asia, has decreased over the last 30-40 years (Izawa et al. 2007).

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
In China, the centre of its range, commercial exploitation has been heavy: hundreds of thousands of Leopard Cat skins per year were exported in the 1980s. Although commercial trade is much reduced, the species continues to be hunted throughout most of its range for fur, for food, and as pets. They are also widely viewed as poultry pests and killed in retribution. Island populations are small and seriously threatened in the Philippines and Japan. Leopard cats can hybridize with domestic cats, as is shown by the popular domestic breed, the "Bengal Cat" although most of these exotic cats are now bred from Bengal Cat stock rather than wild crosses (TICA, The International Cat Association, 2012). . Hybridization in the wild has been reported, but is not considered a significant threat. Although the species is less dependent on forest cover than others, habitat loss and fragmentation is still a major threat across most of its Asian range (Nowell and Jackson 1996).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Included on CITES Appendix II; populations in Bangladesh, India and Thailand are included on Appendix I (as Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis). The species is protected at the national level over part of its range, with hunting prohibited in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Thailand and Taiwan, and hunting and trade regulations in place in South Korea, Lao PDR and Singapore (Nowell and Jackson 1996, A. Wilting pers. comm. 2008). The species is on Afghanistan’s 2009 Protected Species List, banning all hunting and trading of this species within the country. It is found in numerous protected areas.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Leopard cats are carriers of potentially fatal domestic cat diseases, such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), and reas with high proportions of infected domestic cats also have high proportions of infected leopard cats. Leopard cats are also considered poultry pests throughout their geographic range.

Negative Impacts: causes or carries domestic animal disease

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Leopard cats are excellent hunters and prey upon small vertebrate pests in rural and agricultural areas. By controlling local rodent populations, they likely help humans in a variety of different ways, including disease control and regulating the abundance of agricultural pests. Their fur and meat are popular in China and Japan, and the sale of leopard cat skins is likely impacting local populations. They are popular in the pet trade industry, as they are often bred with domestic cats to create bengal cats. Restrictions on their capture and trade are being increased.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food ; body parts are source of valuable material; controls pest population

  • Chan, B. 2010. Carnivores (Mammalia: Carnivora) in South China: a status review with notes on the commercial trade. Mammal Review, 40/4: 247-292.
  • Sanderson, J., S. Sunarto, A. Wilting, C. Driscoll, R. Lorica, J. Ross, A. Hearn, S. Mujkherjee, J. Khan, B. Habib, L. Grassman. 2008. "IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Prionailurus bengalensis. Accessed March 09, 2011 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/18146/0.
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Wikipedia

Leopard cat

The leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) is a small wild cat of South and East Asia. Since 2002 it has been listed as Least Concern by IUCN as it is widely distributed but threatened by habitat loss and hunting in parts of its range. There are twelve leopard cat subspecies, which differ widely in appearance.[2]

The leopard cat's name is derived from the leopard-like spots prevalent in all subspecies, but its relation to the leopard is distant.

Characteristics[edit]

Skull, as illustrated by N. N. Kondakov.

A leopard cat is about the size of a domestic cat, but more slender, with longer legs and well-defined webs between its toes. Its small head is marked with two prominent dark stripes and a short and narrow white muzzle. There are two dark stripes running from the eyes to the ears, and smaller white streaks running from the eyes to the nose. The backs of its moderately long and rounded ears are black with central white spots. Body and limbs are marked with black spots of varying size and color, and along its back are two to four rows of elongated spots. The tail is about half the size of its head-body length and is spotted with a few indistinct rings near the black tip. The background color of the spotted fur is tawny, with a white chest and belly. However, in their huge range, they vary so much in coloration and size of spots as well as in body size and weight that initially they were thought to be several different species. The fur color is yellowish brown in the southern populations, but pale silver-grey in the northern ones. The black markings may be spotted, rosetted, or may even form dotted streaks, depending on subspecies. In the tropics, leopard cats weigh 0.55 to 3.8 kg (1.2 to 8.4 lb), have head-body lengths of 38.8 to 66 cm (15.3 to 26.0 in), with long 17.2 to 31 cm (6.8 to 12.2 in) tails. In northern China and Siberia, they weigh up to 7.1 kg (16 lb), and have head-body lengths of up to 75 cm (30 in); generally, they put on weight before winter and become thinner until spring.[3] Shoulder height is about 41 cm (16 in).

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Leopard cats are the most widely distributed Asian small cats. Their range extends from the Amur region in the Russian Far East over the Korean Peninsula, China, Indochina, the Indian Subcontinent, to the West in northern Pakistan, and to the south in the Philippines and the Sunda islands of Indonesia. They are found in agriculturally used areas but prefer forested habitats. They live in tropical evergreen rainforests and plantations at sea level, in subtropical deciduous and coniferous forests in the foothills of the Himalayas at altitudes above 1,000 m (3,300 ft).[3]

In 2009, a leopard cat was camera trapped in Nepal’s Makalu-Barun National Park at an altitude of 3,254 m (10,676 ft). At least six individuals inhabit the survey area, which is dominated by associations of rhododendron, oak and maple.[4] The highest altitudinal record was obtained in September 2012 at 4,500 m (14,800 ft) in the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area.[5]

In the northeast of their range they live close to rivers, valleys and in ravine forests, but avoid areas with more than 10 cm (3.9 in) of snowfall.[6] They are rare in Pakistan’s arid treeless areas.[7] In Afghanistan, they were reported in the 1970s from Jalalkot and Norgul in the Kunar Valley, and the Waygul forest of Dare Pech.[8]

In Sabah’s Tabin Wildlife Reserve leopard cats had average home ranges of 3.5 km2 (1.4 sq mi).[9] In Thailand’s Phu Khieu Wildlife Reserve 20 leopard cats were radio-collared between 1999 and 2003. Home ranges of males ranged from 2.2 km2 (0.85 sq mi) to 28.9 km2 (11.2 sq mi), and of the six females from 4.4 km2 (1.7 sq mi) to 37.1 km2 (14.3 sq mi).[10]

Distribution of subspecies[edit]

Illustration of Javan leopard cat from Richard Lydekker's "A hand-book to the Carnivora", 1896
Tsushima leopard cat

As of 2009, the following subspecies are recognized:[2][11]

The Iriomote cat has been proposed as a species since 1967, but following mtDNA analysis in the 1990s it is now considered a subspecies of the leopard cat.[2][16]

The Tsushima leopard cat lives exclusively on Tsushima Island. Initially regarded as belonging to the Chinese leopard cat subspecies, it is now considered an isolated population of the Amur leopard cat P. b. euptilurus/euptilura.[17] The Japanese name for the Tsushima leopard cat is Tsushima Yamaneko.[18]

Ecology and behavior[edit]

An alert leopard cat

Leopard cats are solitary, except during breeding season. Some are active during the day, but most hunt at night, preferring to stalk murids, tree shrews and hares. They are agile climbers and quite arboreal in their habits. They rest in trees, but also hide in dense thorny undergrowth on the ground.[10] In the oil palm plantations of Sabah, they have been observed up to 4 m (13 ft) above ground hunting rodents and beetles. In this habitat, males had larger home ranges than females, averaging 3.5 km2 (1.4 sq mi) and 2.1 km2 (0.81 sq mi) respectively. Each male's range overlapped one or more female ranges.[19]

Leopard cats can swim, but seldom do so. They produce a similar range of vocalisations to the domestic cat. Both sexes scent mark their territory by spraying urine, leaving faeces in exposed locations, head rubbing, and scratching.[3]

Diet[edit]

Leopard cats are carnivorous, feeding on a variety of small prey including mammals, lizards, amphibians, birds and insects. In most parts of their range, small rodents such as rats and mice form the major part of their diet, which is often supplemented with grass, eggs, poultry, and aquatic prey. They are active hunters, dispatching their prey with a rapid pounce and bite. Unlike many other small cats, they do not "play" with their food, maintaining a tight grip with their claws until the animal is dead. This may be related to the relatively high proportion of birds in their diet, which are more likely to escape when released than are rodents.[3]

Reproduction and development[edit]

There is no fixed breeding period in the southern part of its range; in the colder northern range they tend to breed around March or April, when the weather is mild enough to support newborn kittens. The estrus period lasts for 5–9 days.[citation needed] If the kittens do not survive, the female may come into heat again and have another litter that year.

After a gestation period of 60–70 days, two to four kittens are born in a den, where they remain until they are a month old. The kittens weigh about 75 to 130 grams (2.6 to 4.6 oz) at birth and usually double their weight by age of two weeks; at five weeks, they are four times their birth weight. The eyes open at ten days, and the kittens start to eat solid food at 23 days. At the age of four weeks, the permanent canines appear, and the kittens begin to eat solid food. Leopard cats have lived for up to thirteen years in captivity.[3]

Leopard cats usually pair for life and raise their kittens together for about 7 to 10 months.[citation needed] Full maturity is reached at 18 months, but in captivity, the male can become ready to breed at 7 months, and the female at 10 months.

Threats[edit]

Skin and skin details from an identification guide for law enforcement agents

In China, leopard cats are hunted mainly for their fur. Between 1984 and 1989, about 200,000 skins were exported yearly. A survey carried out in 1989 among major fur traders revealed more than 800,000 skins on stock. Since the European Union imposed an import ban in 1988, Japan has become the main buyer, and imported 50,000 skins in 1989.[20] Although commercial trade is much reduced, the species continues to be hunted throughout most of its range for fur, for food, and as pets. They are also widely viewed as poultry pests and killed in retribution.[2]

In Myanmar, 483 body parts of at least 443 individuals were observed in four markets surveyed between 1991 and 2006. Numbers were significantly larger than non-threatened species. Three of the surveyed markets are situated on international borders with China and Thailand, and cater to international buyers, although the leopard cat is completely protected under Myanmar's national legislation. Effective implementation and enforcement of CITES is considered inadequate.[21]

Conservation[edit]

A leopard cat at the Bronx Zoo

Prionailurus bengalensis is listed in CITES Appendix II. In Hong Kong, the species is protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance Cap 170. The population is well over 50,000 individuals and, although declining, the cat is not endangered.[2]

The Tsushima leopard cat is listed as critically endangered on the Japanese Red List of endangered species, and has been the focus of a conservation program funded by the Japanese government since 1995.[17]

Taxonomic history[edit]

In 1792, Robert Kerr first described a leopard cat under the binominal Felis bengalensis in his translation of Carl von Linné’s Systema Naturae as being native to southern Bengal.[22] Between 1829 and 1922, different authors of 20 more descriptions classified the cat either as Felis or Leopardus.[12] Owing to the individual variation in fur colour, leopard cats from British India were described as Felis nipalensis from Nepal, Leopardus ellioti from the area of Bombay, Felis wagati and Felis tenasserimensis from Tenasserim. In 1939, Reginald Innes Pocock subordinated them to the genus Prionailurus. The collection of the Natural History Museum in London comprised several skulls and large amounts of skins of leopard cats from various regions. Based on this broad variety of skins, he proposed to differentiate between a southern subspecies Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis from warmer latitudes to the west and east of the Bay of Bengal, and a northern Prionailurus bengalensis horsfieldi from the Himalayas, having a fuller winter coat than the southern. His description of leopard cats from the areas of Gilgit and Karachi under the trinomen Prionailurus bengalensis trevelyani is based on seven skins that had longer, paler and more greyish fur than those from the Himalayas. He assumed that trevelyani inhabits more rocky, less forested habitats than bengalensis and horsfieldi.[23]

Between 1837 and 1930, skins and skulls from China were described as Felis chinensis, Leopardus reevesii, Felis scripta, Felis microtis, decolorata, ricketti, ingrami, anastasiae and sinensis, and later grouped under the trinomen Felis bengalensis chinensis.[12] In the beginning of the 20th century, a British explorer collected wild cat skins on the island of Tsushima. Oldfield Thomas classified these as Felis microtis, which had been first described by Henri Milne-Edwards in 1872.[24]

Two skins from Siberia motivated Daniel Giraud Elliot to write a detailed description of Felis euptilura in 1871. One was depicted in Gustav Radde’s illustration cum description of a wild cat; the other was part of a collection at the Regent's Park Zoo. The ground colour of both was light brownish-yellow, strongly mixed with grey and covered with reddish-brown spots, head grey with a dark-red stripe across the cheek.[25] In 1922, Tamezo Mori described a similar but lighter grey spotted skin of a wild cat from the vicinity of Mukden in Manchuria that he named Felis manchurica.[26] Later both were grouped under the trinomen Felis bengalensis euptilura.[12] In the 1970s and 1980s, the Russian zoologists Geptner, Gromov and Baranova disagreed with this classification. They emphasized the differences of skins and skulls at their disposal and the ones originating in Southeast Asia, and coined the term Amur forest cat, which they regarded as a distinct species.[27][28] In 1987, Chinese zoologists pointed out the affinity of leopard cats from northern China, Amur cats and leopard cats from southern latitudes. In view of the morphological similarities they did not support classifying the Amur cat as a species.[29]

The initial binomial euptilura given by Elliott[25] was eventually changed to euptilurus referring to the ICZN Principle of Gender Agreement; at present, both terms are used.[30]

Molecular analysis of 39 leopard cat tissue samples clearly showed three clades: a Northern Lineage and Southern Lineages 1 and 2. The Northern Lineage consisted of leopard cats from Tsushima Islands, the Korean Peninsular, the continental Far East, Taiwan, and Iriomote Island. Southern Lineage 1, comprising Southeast Asian individuals, showed higher genetic diversity. Souther Lineage 2 had large genetic distances from other lineages.[14]

Leopard cat and hybrids as pets[edit]

In the USA, P. bengalensis is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1976; except under permit, it is prohibited to import, export, sell, purchase and transport the felid in interstate commerce.[31]

Keeping a leopard cat as a pet requires a license in most places. License requirements vary by location.[32]

The Asian leopard cat (P. b. bengalensis) is mated with a domestic cat to produce hybrid offspring known as the Bengal cat. This hybrid is usually permitted to be kept as pet without a license. For the typical pet owner, a Bengal cat should be at least four generations (F4) removed from the leopard cat. The "foundation cats" from the first three filial generations of breeding (F1–F3) are usually reserved for breeding purposes or the specialty-pet home environment.[33]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 542. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Sanderson, J., Sunarto, S., Wilting, A., Driscoll, C., Lorica, R., Ross, J., Hearn, A., Mujkherjee, S., Ahmed Khan, J., Habib, B., Grassman, L. (2008). "Prionailurus bengalensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Sunquist, M., Sunquist, F. (2002). Wild cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 225–232. ISBN 0-226-77999-8. 
  4. ^ Ghimirey, Y., Ghimire, B. (2010). Leopard Cat at high altitude in Makalu-Barun National Park, Nepal. Catnews 52: 16–17.
  5. ^ WCN (2012). Leopard Cat found at 4500m. Wildlife Conservation Nepal.
  6. ^ Geptner, V. G., Sludskii, A. A. (1972). Mlekopitaiuščie Sovetskogo Soiuza. Vysšaia Škola, Moskva. (In Russian; English translation: Heptner, V.G., Sludskii, A.A., Komarov, A., Komorov, N.; Hoffmann, R.S. (1992). Mammals of the Soviet Union. Vol III: Carnivores (Feloidea). Smithsonian Institute and the National Science Foundation, Washington DC)
  7. ^ Roberts, T.J. (1977) The mammals of Pakistan. Ernest Benn, London.
  8. ^ Habibi, K. (2004) Mammals of Afghanistan. Zoo Outreach Organisation, Coimbatore, India.
  9. ^ Rajaratnam, R. (2000) Ecology of the leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah, Malaysia. PhD Thesis, Universiti Kabangsaan Malaysia.
  10. ^ a b Grassman Jr, L. I., Tewes, M. E., Silvy, N. J., Kreetiyutanont, K. (2005) Spatial organization and diet of the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) in north-central Thailand. Journal of Zoology (London) 266: 45–54.
  11. ^ Wilson, D. E., Mittermeier, R. A. (eds.) (2009). Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 1: Carnivores. Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-84-96553-49-1
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Ellerman, J. R., Morrison-Scott, T. C. S. (1966). Checklist of Palaearctic and Indian mammals 1758 to 1946. Second edition. British Museum of Natural History, London. Pp. 312–313
  13. ^ a b c d e Groves, C. P. (1997). Leopard-cats, Prionailurus bengalensis (Carnivora: Felidae) from Indonesia and the Philippines, with the description of two new species. Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde 62: 330 pp.
  14. ^ a b Tamada, T., Siriaroonrat, B., Subramaniam, V., Hamachi, M., Lin, L.-K., Oshida, T., Rerkamnuaychoke, W., Masuda, R. (2006). "Molecular Diversity and Phylogeography of the Asian Leopard Cat, Felis bengalensis, Inferred from Mitochondrial and Y-Chromosomal DNA Sequences". Zoological Science 25: 154–163. doi:10.2108/zsj.25.154. PMID 18533746. 
  15. ^ Imaizumi, Y. (1967). A new genus and species of cat from Iriomote, Ryukyu Islands. Journal of Mammalian Society Japan 3(4): 74.
  16. ^ Masuda, R.; Yoshida, M. C. (1995). "Two Japanese wildcats, the Tsushima cat and the Iriomote cat, show the same mitochondrial DNA lineage as the leopard cat Felis bengalensis". Zoological Science 12: 655–659. doi:10.2108/zsj.12.655. 
  17. ^ a b Murayama, A. (2008) The Tsushima Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis euptilura): Population Viability Analysis and Conservation Strategy. MSc thesis in Conservation Science. Imperial College London
  18. ^ Ministry of the Environment, Tsushima Wildlife Conservation Center (2005). National Endangered Species Tsushima Leopard Cat - English Version.
  19. ^ Rajaratnam, R., Sunquist, M., Rajaratnam, L., Ambu, L. (2007) Diet and habitat selection of the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis borneoensis) in an agricultural landscape in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Journal of Tropical Ecology 23: 209–217
  20. ^ Nowell, K., Jackson, P. (1996). Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis (Kerr 1792): Principal Threats in: Wild Cats: status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland
  21. ^ Shepherd, C. R., Nijman, V. (2008). The wild cat trade in Myanmar. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
  22. ^ Kerr, R; Gmelin, S.G. (1792) The animal kingdom or zoological system of the celebrated Sir Charles Linnaeus : class I. Mammalia : containing a complete systematic description ... being a translation of that part of the Systema Naturae. London : Murray.
  23. ^ Pocock, R.I. (1939) The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Mammalia. – Volume 1. Taylor and Francis, Ltd., London. Pp. 266–276
  24. ^ Thomas, O. (1908) The Duke of Bedford's zoological exploration in Eastern Asia. – VII List of mammals from the Tsu-shima Islands. Proceedings of Zoological Society of London, 1908 (January – April): 47–54
  25. ^ a b Elliott, D.G. (1871) Remarks on Various Species of Felidae, with a Description of a Species from North-Western Siberia. Proceedings of the Scientific Meetings of the Zoological Society of London for the Year 1871. Pp. 765–761
  26. ^ Mori, T. (1922) On some new Mammals from Korea and Manchuria. Felis manchurica, sp. n. Annals and magazine of natural history : including zoology, botany and geology. Vol. X, Ninth Series: 609–610
  27. ^ Heptner, V. G. (1971) [On the systematic position of the Amur forest cat and some other east Asian cats placed in Felis bengalensis Kerr, 1792.] Zoologicheskii Zhurnal 50: 1720–1727 (in Russian)
  28. ^ Gromov, I.M., Baranova, G.I., Baryšnikov, G. F. (eds.) (1981) Katalog mlekopitaûŝih SSSR : pliocen--sovremennostʹ Zoologičeskij Institut "Nauka." Leningradskoe otdelenie, Leningrad
  29. ^ Gao, Y.; Wang, S.; Zhang, M.L.; Ye, Z.Y.; Zhou, J.D.; eds. (1987) [Fauna Sinica. Mammalia 8: Carnivora.] Science Press, Beijing. (in Chinese)
  30. ^ "What if the spelling is changed later?". International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  31. ^ Department of the Interior. (1976). Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Endangered Status of 159 Taxa of Animals. Federal Register Vol. 41 (115): 24062−24067.
  32. ^ http://www.leopardcat.8k.com/purchasingLC.html
  33. ^ The Bengal Cat Guide
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