In addition to large cat species such as tigers (Panthera tigris) and leopards (Panthera pardus), our understanding of other cat species remains limited. However, Southeast Asia is home to nine small to medium-sized cat species apart from the Panthera family. Some of these species are relatively unfamiliar, yet they are highly vulnerable to extinction due to habitat loss.
"These species are also a priority for conservation due to their rarity and the level of threat they face," explained conservation researchers Christine Breitenmoser, Will Duckworth, and Antony Lynam in a recent interview with mongabay.com.
Our knowledge of various cat species, including their habitats, is still lacking. Current research primarily focuses on tiger habitats in forests, overlooking the preferred habitats of cats such as the fishing cat, flat-headed cat, and jungle cat, which thrive in wetlands, rivers, and shrubby forests.
The most significant threat to cat species in this region is habitat destruction. Southeast Asian forests currently face the highest deforestation rates globally. Forests are being cleared in Indonesia and Malaysia for palm oil, rubber, and industrial timber plantations, while in Thailand and Indochina, lowlands and riverine areas are converted for agriculture.
In general, human activities in wetland areas (including peat swamp forests), hunting, and the loss of various wildlife species worsen the situation.
Cat Species in Southeast Asia and Their Conservation Status:
- Asian golden cat (Catopuma temminckii): Near Threatened
- Bay cat (Catopuma badia): Endangered
- Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa): Vulnerable
- Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus): Endangered
- Flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps): Endangered
- Jungle cat (Felis chaus): Least Concern
- Leopard (Panthera pardus): Near Threatened
- Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis): Least Concern
- Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata): Vulnerable
- Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi): Vulnerable
- Tiger (Panthera tigris): Endangered
The flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) and the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) are two cat species that require extensive research and conservation attention.
"To date, we have very limited knowledge about their ecology, habitat preferences, and activity patterns. Some field studies rely solely on camera trap images. Therefore, small cats deserve more attention from conservationists and researchers," emphasized Christine Breitenmoser, Will Duckworth, and Antony Lynam.
Source : Mongabay.co.id