Spotted Linsang (Prionodon pardicolor)


Range Description:

This species is found throughout much of southeast Asia, including eastern Nepal, India (Sikkim, Assam, Bengal and other states of north-east India), Bhutan (although no records have been traced), northern and central  Myanmar, Northern and Central Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Northern, central and probably Southern Vietnam, and Central to southern China (Western Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Xizang, Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangdong, and Guangxi) (Van Rompaey, 1995; Walston 2001, Zhang, 1997, Roberton et al. in prep., Duckworth et al. in prep.). Two stuffed individuals were recorded by Choudhury (2002), one in Dzulake (25°3'8 N, 93°55'E) and one in Chizami (25°36'N, 94°24'E). It was recorded from Doi Inthanon National Park in Thailand in 1995 (Tizard, 2002). It was also sighted for sale on the side of a road between Mengla and Shangyong in Xishuanbanna Autonomous Region, Yunnan China in 1997 (Tizard, 2002). It was photographed by camera-traps in Nonggang, Jiuwanshan and Cenwanglaoshan Nature Reserves in Guangxi from 2002 to 2004, and also at Chebaling and North Guangdong Tiger Nature Reserve in Guangdong in 2003 (Lau et al., in prep.). Another recent record from China was reported by Yangsheng (1998) for Jiangxi province. F. Debruyne and A. Schoofs (in litt. 2001 to Tizard 2002) report it from Oudomxay Market, in Lao PDR. Walston (2001) reports it from the hills of southwestern Cambodia. Van Rompaey (1995) gave an elevational range from 150 m to 2700 m, there are records from up to nearly 4000 m (Pocock 1939), although it is not confirmed that these animals were truly caught at such altitudes (Duckworth et al. in prep.). It has been sighted in Nakai-Nam Theun National Biodiversity Conservation Area, Lao PDR (Evans et al. 1994, Duckworth 1997a). Dead animals have been seen in Xekong and Xaignabouli Provinces (Bergmans 1995).
Countries: Native:
Cambodia; China; India; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Myanmar; Nepal; Thailand; Vietnam


 This species is rather rarely recorded; which is likely an artefact of sampling techniques. For example, one of the most intensive direct observation surveys of carnivores in its range, that of Duckworth (1998) did not record it during the main survey, although it was found incidentally during bat survey at the same site. This survey gave no evidence of high numbers/high encounter rates in pristine habitat far from human habitation in the heart of its range, implying that this is the natural state of affairs for this species; at this site, various key quarry species (e.g. diurnal primates) showed little fear of people and even heavily decreased species such as Tiger Panthera tigris and Gaur Bos gaurus were observed directly, making it inconceivable that the linsang populations had been artificially reduced there. With the advent of camera-trapping, records have increased in many areas. The relatively low numbers of records of the species in most of its range may be a result of its lurking and rather arboreal nature (Duckworth et al. in prep.).  It was formerly thought to be uncommon to rare throughout its range (Van Rompae, 1995), but even historically there were indications that the rarity of specimens belied the species' real status. Hodgson (1841) states that it is “sufficiently common in the mountains of Nepal”, and in 1847 he found “the species very numerous in the eastern half of Nepal and Sikkim.” In the 1970s four observations were made in Chitwan National Park (Sunquist 1982). In the 1880s it was not considered rare in Sikkim (Blanford 1888-1891). The species is near its southern distributional limit in Thailand, and has been considered to be very rare and localized there (Lekagul and McNeely 1977) but there is no evidence it is not simply overlooked. Pham-chong-Ahn (1980) found the species to be uncommon in northern Viet Nam, but, judging from sale in markets, it seems to have been common in 1988 (Schreiber et al. 1989), and a more comprehensive collation of small carnivore records from the country confirms this impression (Roberton et al. in prep.). Bergmans (1995) speculated that it would be found to be common in Lao PDR and subsequent camera-trapping in the country, while rather limited, has found the species in most survey blocks of both main areas so far surveyed (Johson et al. 2006, Johnson and Johnson 2007). This species is the relatively rarely recorded in northeastern India (Choudhury, 1999) but there has been little camera-trapping or spotlighting. There are very few records in Cambodia (Olsson pers. comm.). It is relatively common in Yunnan (China). In sum recent records show it is not as rare as was often previously thought, although it probably lives at low density (Duckworth et al. in prep.).
Population Trend: Unknown

 Habitat and Ecology:

Little is known on the ecology of this species. It has been recorded in lowland, hill and mountain forest, bamboo forest, secondary growth, dense grassland and along rivers (Pham-chong-Ahn, 1980; Sunquist, 1982; Van Rompaey, 1995; Tizard, 2002; Wozencraft, 2005). It is partly arboreal and preys mostly on small vertebrates (Lekagul and McNeely, 1977; Pham-chong-Ahn, 1980; Van Rompaey, 1995).  This species is most often recorded in both primary and secondary forests, mainly in mountain and hill areas, up to at least 2,700 m, probably to 4,000 m (Van Rompaey 1995, Duckworth et al. in prep). It is found in primary and secondary forests at elevations between 150 and at least 2,700 m (Van Rompaey, 1995). In Chitawan National Park in Nepal, it was observed in a mosaic of lowland riverine forest and tall, dense grassland, as well as in an area of sal (Shorea robusta) forest interspersed with dense grasses (Sunquist, 1982). In Viet Nam it is found in moist, mixed, and bamboo forest, and along mountain rivers (Pham-chong-Ahn, 1980). It is quite arboreal, though it is equally at home in trees and on the ground (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). It has been suggested that it mainly inhabits the lower shrub layer (Kuznetzov and Baranauskas, 1993). It preys mostly on small birds (Hodgson, 1847), remains of rodents, frogs, and snakes have also been found in the stomachs of some specimens (Pham-chong-Ahn, 1980). It has also been spotted feeding on the carcass of a tiger, indicating that it is an opportunistic scavenger (Sunquist, 1982). Each litter consists of two young (Lekagul and McNeely 1977), twice a year, breeding in February and August (Hodgson, 1847). They are seldom maintained in captivity, and no lifespan has been recorded (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). Two stuffed individuals were recorded by Choudhury (2002), one in Dzulake (25 38 N, 93 55 E, 1750 m) in excellent primary subtropical broadleaf forest and one in Chizami (25 36 N, 94 24 E, 1400 to 1700 m), with degraded secondary forest in the lower areas and some primary forest in the upper areas (all subtropical broadleaf). It was recorded in moist secondary growth along water courses through a mosaic of cultivation, scrub, and pine plantations at about 1400 m in Thailand (Tizard, 2002). It is found in limestone forests in China and preys on rats (Lau pers. comm.).
Systems: Terrestrial

 Major Threat(s):

 The species was previously considered to be threatened by habitat loss and degradation, hunting and trade across much of its range (Schreiber et al., 1989). Although the impacts of these threats on populations are unknown they may be causing declines (Choudhury, 2002; Tizard, 2002) and further research is needed. Across its range, there has been loss and degradation of forests through logging and conversion of forests to agriculture. There has been an increased demand for civet meat in Chinese and Vietnamese markets (Bell et al. 2004), but this species does not seem to be a specifically sought one in the trade: extensive examination of trade seizures through Vietnam (the main route to China hardly ever found the species (U. Streicher in Duckworth et al. in prep.), nor is it sought in trade within China (M. W. N. Lau pers. comm.). Nor is it preferentially sought at the local, subsistence level, although throughout its range when it is caught it is eaten. Generalised mammal hunting is extremely heavy in much of its range. As a semi-arboreal species which is almost exclusively nocturnal, it is less exposed to risks of incidental killing and bycatch in snares and traps. The concern expressed in the IUCN Action Plan for Conservation of Mustelids and Viverrids (Schreiber et al. 1989), was made at a time when most of its geographic range was out of access to western biologists, through political factors (Viet Nam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, the relevant parts of China, most of north-east India, Bhutan), and capacity-building programmes for national conservation personnel were only just beginning in some areas. Hence, there was a very weak information base upon which to make this listing: indirect information from most range states and direct information from Nepal and Thailand, both at the margins of the species' range. In the intervening two decades, most of this area has opened up, and there have been many records of this species (Duckworth et al. in prep.), indicating that this 1989 assessment was unduly pessimistic.

Conservation Actions:

This species is listed on CITES Appendix I. It has been sighted in Nakai-Nam Theun National Biodiversity Conservation Area (Evans et al. 1994, Duckworth 1997a). In recent years, it has been recorded from Mouling National Park (Singh et al. 1996), Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary (Chakraborty and Sen 1991) and the border of Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary and Nameri National Park in 1999 (P. Saikia pers. comm.). It was also recorded from Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary (a local protected area not covered by the national government) by Choudhury (2002). It was recorded from Doi Inthanon National Park in Thailand in 1995 (Tizard 2002). Tizard (2002) reports a record of this species from Xishuanbanna Biosphere Reserve and recently it has also been camera trapped from several nature reserves in Guangdong and Guangxi (Lau, pers comm) in China. Many other recent records from South-east Asia are listed in Duckworth et al. (in prep.) This species is listed on Category II of the China Wildlife Protection Law (1988) (Li et al. 2000). The species is totally protected in Myanmar, on the list of protected species in Nepal, and protected in Thailand, Viet Nam and India. In Thailand is protected by the Wild Animals Reservation and Protection Act (WARPA) of 1980 (Van Rompaey, 1995). This species is listed on Category II of the China Wildlife Protection Law (1988) (Li et al. 2000), is totally protected in Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam and India, and is on the list of protected species in Nepal (Van Rompaey, 1995). It is recorded from many protected areas across its range (Chakraborty and Sen, 1991; Evans et al., 1994, Singh et al., 1996, Duckworth, 1997; Walston 2001, Tizard, 2002, Johnson et al. 2006, Roberton et al. in prep., Than Zaw et al. in press, Duckworth et al. in prep.).