Marbled Cat (Pardofelis marmorata)

Description

The marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) is a small wild cat of South and Southeast Asia. Since 2002 it has been listed as vulnerable by IUCN as it occurs at low densities, and its total effective population size is suspected to be fewer than 10,000 mature individuals, with no single population numbering more than 1,000. The species was once considered to belong to the pantherine lineage of "big cats". Genetic analysis has shown that it is closely related with the Asian golden cat and the bay cat, all of which diverged from the other felids about 9.4 million years ago The marbled cat is similar in size to a domestic cat, with a more thickly furred tail (which may be longer than the body), showing adaptation to its arboreal life-style, where the tail is used as a counterbalance. Marbled cats range from 45 to 62 centimetres (18 to 24 in) in head-body length, with a 35 to 55 centimetres (14 to 22 in) tail. Recorded weights vary between 2 and 5 kilograms (4.4 and 11 lb). The coat is thick and soft, and varies in background colour from dark grey-brown through yellowish grey to red-brown. Spots on the forehead and crown merge into narrow longitudinal stripes on the neck, and irregular stripes on the back. The back and flanks are marked with dark, irregular dark-edged blotches. The legs and underparts are patterned with black dots, and the tail is marked with black spots proximally and rings distally.  In addition to its long tail, the marbled cat can also be distinguished by its large feet. It also possesses unusually large canine teeth, resembling those of the big cats, although these appear to be the result of parallel evolution. When standing or resting, marbled cats assume a characteristic position with their backs arched. The marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) possesses an unusual mixture of small and big cat characteristics. Although just three kilograms and about the size of a domestic cat, this species superficially resembles the much larger clouded leopard in its broad feet, enlarged canines and strikingly similar, blotched coat pattern . The thick, soft, brownish-yellow fur is covered on the back and sides in large, mottled, irregular-shaped blotches margined with black. However, these markings are less well-defined in the marbled cat than those of its larger cousin, tending to be more broken and marbled (hence the name), while the black spots on the limbs are more numerous . The bushy tail is extremely long, reflecting the catís arboreal lifestyle, and similarly marked with black spots and rings. Prominent black lines occur on the head, neck and back, starting as dark, interrupted bands running from the corner of each eye up and over the forehead. Distinctive dark stripes also mark the cheeks, while the chin, upper lip, cheeks and patches around the eyes are contrastingly white or buff in colour. The eyes are amber or golden, and the ears are short, rounded and black, with a conspicuous white to buff spot on the back .

Range Description:

The marbled cat is found in tropical Indo Malaya westward along the Himalayan foothills westward into Nepal and eastward into Southwest China, and on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. There are few locality records of this species (Nowell and Jackson, 1996, Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002).


The map shows range within forest cover (European Commission, Joint Research Centre, 2003) to reflect patchiness caused by deforestation upon recommendation of the assessors (IUCN Cats Red List workshop 2007).
Countries: Native:
Bhutan; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia (Kalimantan, Sumatera); Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak); Myanmar; Nepal; Thailand; Vietnam

Population

 The marbled cat appears relatively rare compared to sympatric felids, based on the paucity of historical as well as recent records (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Duckworth et al. 1999, Holden 2001, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002, Grassman et al. 2005, Azlan and Sharma 2006, Lynam et al. 2006, Mishra et al. 2006, Yasuda et al. 2007), although Cambodia stands out for having a relatively high encounter rate (13 camera trap records, compared to 12 for the Asiatic golden cat and 4 for the clouded leopard: Duckworth et al. 2005).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Ecology

In May 2000, a female marbled cat was trapped along an animal trail in a hill-evergreen / bamboo mixed forest in Thailand's Phu Khieu Wildlife Sanctuary. This first-ever radio-tracked marbled cat had an overall home range of 5.8 km2 (2.2 sq mi) at an elevation of 1,000 to 1,200 m (3,300 to 3,900 ft) and was active primarily during nocturnal and crepuscular time periods. It is probable that forest canopies provide the marbled cat with much of its prey: birds, squirrels, other rodents and reptiles. A few marbled cats have been bred in captivity, with gestation estimated at between 66 and 82 days. In the few recorded instances, two kittens were born in each litter, and weighed from 61 to 85 g (2.2 to 3.0 oz). The eyes open at around twelve days, and the kittens begin to take solid food at two months, around the time that they begin actively climbing. Marbled cats reach sexual maturity at 21 or 22 months of age, and have lived for up to twelve years in captivity. Very little is known about the biology, behaviour and diet of the marbled cat, except what has been observed in captivity. The species is believed to be primarily nocturnal and more arboreal than most other cats, which would help explain its relative obscurity , although recent studies have shown activity during both day and night. With its long, slender body, extremely long tail, short legs and broad feet, the marbled cat is well-adapted for tree-climbing and has been observed in trees in the wild, once stalking a bird, and is an adept climber in captivity. Birds are thought to constitute a major part of the diet, and there have also been records of squirrels and rats being eaten, while lizards and frogs may also be taken . Little is known about how far this secretive cat ranges, although one female, radio tracked in Thailand for a month, was found to have a home range of 5.3 square kilometres . What is known of this catís reproductive behaviour comes from observations of just a few captive individuals. Two litters of two kittens have been recorded from January and February, and one litter of unknown size was born in September. Gestation is estimated to last somewhere between 66 and 82 days. Young attain sexual maturity at 21 to 22 months and individuals in captivity have lived up to 12 years and three months. The marbled cat is primarily associated with moist and mixed deciduous-evergreen tropical forest (Nowell and Jackson 1996), and may prefer hill forest (Duckworth et al. 1999, Holden 2001, Grassman et al. 2005). A few sightings have been made in secondary forest or cleared areas near forest, but it is likely forest-dependent (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Grassman and Tewes (2002) reported the observation of a pair of adult marbled cats in a salt lick in Thailand's Phu Khieu National Park. It has never been studied, although Grassman et al. (2005) made a preliminary home range estimate of 5.3 km≤ for an adult female who was radio-collared and tracked for one month in Thailand's Phu Khieu National Park. The marbled cat probably preys primarily on rodents, including squirrels (Nowell and Jackson, 1996), and birds.
Systems: Terrestrial

Major Threat(s):

The marbled cat appears to be forest-dependent, and its habitat in Southeast Asia is undergoing the world's fastest deforestation rate (1.2-1.3% a year since 1990: FAO 2007), due to logging, oil palm and other plantations, and human settlement and agriculture. Although infrequently observed in the illegal Asian wildlife trade (Nowell and Jackson 1996), it is valued for its skin, meat and bones, and indiscriminate snaring is prevalent throughout much of its range and is likely to pose a major threat (IUCN Cats Red List workshop, 2007). They have been reported as poultry pests (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Mishra et al. 2006).

 Conservation Actions:

Included on CITES Appendix I. Hunting of this species is prohibited in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China (Yunnan only), India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand. Hunting regulations are in place in Lao PDR, Singapore (Nowell and Jackson 1996). It occurs in a number of protected areas. Further research is needed on its ecology, distribution and status (IUCN Cats Red List workshop, 2007)

HOME