Asian Golden Cat (Catopuma temminckii)

 The Asian golden cat (Pardofelis temminckii, syn. Catopuma temminckii), also called the Asiatic golden cat and Temminck's cat, is a medium-sized wild cat of South Eastern Asia. In 2008, the IUCN classified Asian golden cats as Near Threatened, stating that the species comes close to qualifying as Vulnerable due to hunting pressure and habitat loss, since Southeast Asian forests are undergoing the world's fastest regional deforestation rates. The Asian golden cat was named in honour of the Dutch zoologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck, who first described the African golden cat in 1827.

Description

The Asian golden cat is heavily built, with a typical cat-like appearance. It has a head-body length of 66 to 105 cm (26 to 41 in), with a tail 40 to 57 cm (16 to 22 in) long, and is 56 cm (22 in) at the shoulder. The weight ranges from 9 to 16 kg (20 to 35 lb), which is about two or three times the size of a domesticated cat. The pelage is uniform in colour, but highly variable ranging from red to golden brown, dark brown to pale cinnamon, gray to black. Transitional forms among the different colorations also exist. It may be marked with spots and stripes. White and black lines run across the cheeks and up to the top of the head, while the ears are black with a central grey area. Golden cats with leopard-like spots have been found in China, resembling a large leopard cat. This spotted fur is a recessive characteristic.

Distribution and habitat

Asian golden cats live throughout Southeast Asia, ranging from Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India and Bangladesh to Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Southern China to Malaysia and Sumatra. They prefer forest habitats interspersed with rocky areas, and are found in dry deciduous, subtropical evergreen and tropical rainforests.[5] Sometimes, they are found in more open terrain such as the grasslands of Assam's Manas National Park. In altitude, they range from the lowlands to over 3,000 m (9,800 ft) in the Himalayas.

In Laos, they also occur in bamboo regrowth, scrub and degraded forest from the Mekong plains to at least 1,100 m (3,600 ft).Surveys in Sumatra and in the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area in northern Laos indicated that they are more common than sympatric small cats, suggesting that they are more numerous than previously believed. Surveys in Thailand, Northern Myanmar and India's western Arunachal Pradesh revealed fewer numbers. In Bhutan's Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, they were recorded by camera traps at an altitude of 3,738 m (12,264 ft). In Sikkim's Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve, they were photo-trapped at elevations up to 3,960 m (12,990 ft).

Since Hodgson’s description of 1831 of a male individual in Nepal under the binomial Felis moormensis, the country is believed to be the westernmost part of the felid's range. But no specimen has been recorded in the country, until in May 2009 a camera trap survey yielded the first photographic record of a melanistic Asian golden cat in Makalu Barun National Park at an altitude of 2,517 m (8,258 ft).

Three subspecies have been recognized.
Pardofelis temminckii temminckii
found in the Himalayas, Southeast Asian mainland and Sumatra
Pardofelis temminckii dominicanorum found in southeast China
Pardofelis temminckii tristis found in southwest China

These trinomials do not yet reflect the taxonomic re-classification accepted since 2006.

Native:
Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia (Sumatera); Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia; Myanmar; Nepal; Thailand; Vietnam

 Population:

Some surveys have found more records for the Asiatic golden cat than for some other sympatric small felids (including the marbled cat, flat-headed cat, and fishing cat), suggesting that it may be more common than previously thought (Duckworth et al. 1999, Holden 2001, Duckworth et al. 2005, J. Sanderson pers. comm. 2007). Other survey efforts, however, have turned up fewer records (Rao et al. 2005, Lynam et al. 2006, Mishra et al. 2006). Given that its distribution (Nowell and Jackson 1996), home range (Grassman et al. 2005) and camera trap encounter rates (Holden 2001, Lynam et al. 2006) are similar to those of clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa and Neofelis diardi diardi), it may be of roughly equivalent abundance.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Ecology and behavior

Asian golden cats are territorial and solitary. Previous observations suggested that they are primarily nocturnal, but a field study on two radio-collared specimens revealed arrhythmic activity patterns dominated by crepuscular and diurnal activity peaks, with much less activity late at night. The male's territory was 47.7 km2 (18.4 sq mi) in size and increased more than 15% during the rainy season. The female's territory was 32.6 square kilometres (12.6 sq mi) in size. Both cats travelled between only 55 metres (180 ft) to more than 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) in a day and were more active in July than in March.
Asian golden cats can climb trees when necessary. They hunt birds, large rodents and reptiles, small ungulates such as Muntjac and young Sambar deer. They are capable of bringing down prey much larger than themselves, such as domestic water buffalo calves. In the mountains of Sikkim, they reportedly prey on ghoral. Their vocalizations include hissing, spitting, meowing, purring, growling, and gurgling. Other methods of communication observed in captive Asian Golden cats include scent marking, urine spraying, raking trees and logs with claws, and rubbing of the head against various objects, much like a domestic cat. Not much is known about the reproductive behavior of this rather elusive cat in the wild. Most of what is known, has been learned in captivity. Female Asian golden cats are sexually mature between 18 and 24 months, while males mature at 24 months. Females come into estrus every 39 days, at which times they leave markings and seek contact with the male by adopting receptive postures. During intercourse, the male will seize the skin of the neck of the female with its teeth. After a gestation period of 78 to 80 days, the female gives birth to a litter of one to three kittens in a sheltered place. The kittens weigh 220 to 250 grams (7.8 to 8.8 oz) at birth, but triple in size over the first eight weeks of life. They are born already possessing the adult coat pattern, and open their eyes at six to twelve days. In captivity, they live for up to twenty years. The Asian golden cat bears a great resemblance to the African golden cat, but it is unlikely that they are closely related because the forests of Africa and Asia have not been connected in over 20 million years. Their similarity is more an example of convergent evolution.
The Asian golden cat is similar to the bay cat of Borneo in both appearance and behavior. Genetic studies revealed that the two species are very closely related. The Asian golden cat is found in Sumatra and Malaysia, which only separated from Borneo about 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. These observations led to the assumption that the Borneo bay cat is an insular subspecies of the Asian golden cat. Genetic analysis has shown that the Asian golden cat, along with the bay cat and the marbled cat, diverged from the other felids about 9.4 million years ago, and that the Asian golden cat and bay cat differed as long as four million years ago, suggesting that the bay cat was a different species long before the isolation of Borneo. Because of the evident close relationship with the marbled cat, it has recently been suggested that all three species should be grouped in the genus Pardofelis. In some regions of Thailand, the Asian golden cat is called Seua fai ("fire tiger"). According to a regional legend, the burning of an Asian Golden Cat's fur drives tigers away. Eating the flesh is believed to have the same effect. The Karen people believe that simply carrying a single hair of the cat will be sufficient. Many indigenous people believe this cat to be fierce, but in captivity it has been known to be very docile and tranquil.T he Asiatic golden cat is primarily found in forest habitats, ranging from tropical and subtropical evergreen to mixed and dry deciduous forest (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Less frequently it is found in more open habitats such as shrub and grasslands (Choudhury 2007). Grassman et al. (2005) found golden cats used closed forest and more open habitats in proportion to their occurrence, showing no significant preference. Some studies have suggested it may be less common in montane forest: in Sumatra's Kerinci Seblat National Park, all records for this species were from lowland forest with none from montane forest, unlike the clouded leopard and marbled cat (Holden 2001). Mishra (2006) also found clouded leopard and marbled cat, but no Asiatic golden cat, in the hill forests of India's western Arunachal Pradesh province. However, Wang (2007) obtained camera trap photos of the Asiatic golden cat at an elevation of 3,738 m in Bhutan's Jigme Sigye Wangchuk National Park in an area of dwarf rhododendron and grassland, an elevation record for the species. Activity readings from two radio-collared golden cats in Thailand's Phu Khieu National Park showed daytime and crepuscular activity peaks (Grassman et al. 2005). Forty-seven per cent of 15 camera trap records in Sumatra's Kerinci Seblat National Park were in daytime (Holden 2001). This suggests that the species is not primarily nocturnal, as thought previously. An adult female Asiatic golden cat in Thailand's Phu Khieu National Park had a home range of 32.6 km², overlapped 78% by a male whose home range was 47.7 km². Golden cat home ranges were larger than clouded leopard home ranges, although they were similar in activity and mean daily distance moved (Grassman et al. 2005).One confirmed scat contained the remains of Indochinese ground squirrel (Grassman et al. 2005). Scats from Sumatra contained rat and Muntjac remains, and the stomach contents of a carcass in Thailand's Kaeng Krachan National Park included the remains of a small snake (Grassman 1998). While the reddish-gold pelage the cat is named for is the most common form, there are also are spotted (Wang 2007) and melanistic morphs (Holden 2001, Grassman et al. 2005).
Systems: Terrestrial

Major Threat(s):

 The Asiatic golden cat is threatened primarily by habitat loss to deforestation, but it threatened by indiscriminate snaring (Holden 2001), and there is illegal trade in its pelt and bones (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Duckworth et al. 1999, Lynam et al. 2006). It has been reported killed for depredating livestock, including poultry but also larger animals such as sheep, goats and buffalo calves (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). The Asiatic golden cat is capable of taking larger prey, and is threatened by declining ungulate abundance in many parts of Southeast Asia.

Conservation Actions:

P. temminckii is listed under Appendix I of CITES (as Catopuma temminckii). It is fully protected over most of its range by National legislation. Hunting is prohibited in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam and is regulated in Lao PDR. There is no legal protection outside protected areas in Bhutan (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Its range includes many protected areas.

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