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Does the fishing cat inhabit Sumatra?


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Debate in the 1930s about whether fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus inhabited Sumatra effectively ceased in 1940 when one key reference stated that it did. No cogent reasons were given, but most subsequent secondary sources set the island within the species’s range. Several cautious authors stressing the lack of verifiable Sumatran records went largely unheeded. Modern claims from Sumatra are misidentifications or, at best, cannot be objectively confirmed: the single certain identification is of a zoo animal of unknown provenance. Survey has been inadequate to assert that fishing cat does not inhabit Sumatra, so for now the question remains open. Fishing cat is classified on the 2008 Red List as Endangered: surveys are urgent on Sumatra and on Java, the only documented Sundaic population
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CATnews 51 Autumn 2009
ISSN 1027-2992
The World Conservation Union
N° 51 | AUTUMN 2009
CATnews 51 Autumn 2009
original contribution
Does the fishing cat inhabit
Debate in the 1930s about whether fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus inhabited Su-
matra effectively ceased in 1940 when one key reference stated that it did. No cogent
reasons were given, but most subsequent secondary sources set the island within
the species’s range. Several cautious authors stressing the lack of verifiable Sumat-
ran records went largely unheeded. Modern claims from Sumatra are misidentifica-
tions or, at best, cannot be objectively confirmed: the single certain identification is
of a zoo animal of unknown provenance. Survey has been inadequate to assert that
fishing cat does not inhabit Sumatra, so for now the question remains open. Fishing
cat is classified on the 2008 Red List as Endangered: surveys are urgent on Sumatra
and on Java, the only documented Sundaic population.
The fishing cat inhabits much of mainland
tropical Asia and the large islands of Sri
Lanka and Java (e.g. Corbet & Hill 1992).
A further large island, Sumatra, is gene-
rally included in the range, despite several
past cautions. To mobilise information from
camera-trap ‚by-catch‘ (photographs of non-
target species), JWD and SIR were invited
by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
Indonesia Program in June 2008 to run a ca-
pacity-building workshop in small-carnivore
identification using the Sundaic country pro-
grammes photographic holdings. The Muse-
um Zoologicum Bogoriense, Cibinong, Bogor,
Indonesia (MZB), holding the chief training
resource – a skin collection – was the other
partner, through GS and Yuli Sulistya Fitriana.
Four photographs, from Bukit Barisan Selatan
National Park [= NP], Sumatra, were labelled
as fishing cat. Our cursory search for verifi-
able records of fishing cat in Sumatra found
the comment in Van Strien (1996: 172) that
“Sumatra is usually included in the [fishing
cat’s] range, but there are no substantiated
records”. Hence, the four photographs were
scrutinised by workshop participants and then
externals, followed by a deeper investigation
of museum holdings, published photographs
and literature, and correspondence concern-
ing the animal on the island. Sanderson‘s
(2009) interim account of the topic overlooked
various key literature and specimen sources.
Figure 1 shows the location of sites and areas
referred to in the text.
Historical information concerning fish-
ing cat in Sumatra
Influential, generally authoritative, pre-1940
sources on tropical Asian mammals, such as
Pocock (1939), did not consider fishing cat to
inhabit Sumatra, and Sody (1931: 153) spe-
cifically stated (in translation) that “it is not
known from Sumatra, Borneo or any other
island [than Java] in Indonesia”. Delsman
(1932), however, figured a fishing cat shot in
Java with the comment that the hunter, Mr
Pieters, told him that (in translation) “at the
mouths of the Way Tulang Bawang, Way
Mesuji and Way Sekampung [all in today’s
Tulangbawang district] and other rivers in
South Sumatra the fishing cat was repea-
tedly seen and shot, while he was hunting for
crocodiles”, information he repeated in his
overview of animals in Indonesia (Delsman
1951). Brongersma’s (1935) comprehensive
review of Sundaic cat distribution, referred,
for fishing cat in Sumatra, only to this Dels-
man (1932) statement, and summed up with
“its presence in Sumatra has not yet been
definitely proved” (p. 13). Jacobson (1933) er-
roneously presented Delsman (1932) as pho-
tographic evidence of fishing cat in Sumatra,
a mistake pointed out by Sody (1936), who
reiterated that there remained no firm evi-
dence of the species in Sumatra, and alluded
to a parallel saga of hunters’ claims of leo-
pard Panthera pardus on the island. This is an
informative comparison: over 70 years later
there remains no evidence that leopard has
lived in Sumatra in historical times, despite
subfossil remains there (Whitten et al. 2000);
yet leopard is more morphologically distinc-
tive to game hunters than is fishing cat.
Sody (1936) mentioned two fishing cats in
the Naturhistorisches Museum, Bern, Swit-
zerland (NMBE), labelled as from Padang,
but (without giving reasons) did not consider
them proof of the species in Sumatra. The
relevant specimens are NMBE 1031761 (a
female, 20 October 1913, from Padang) and
NMBE 1031294 (a male of unknown date
and locality), both donated by Zoo Rotter-
dam. P. Schmid (in litt. 2009) confirmed their
identification, adding that they came through
Johann Büttikofer (1850–1927), who had
worked at NMBE from 1876 to 1878, and who
from 1897 to 1924 directed Rotterdam Zoo.
The provenance of objects received by NMBE
from Büttikofer after 1897 is not always clear,
and Padang was a significant trading point at
this time. In such light, Sody’s doubts guide
the only justifiable treatment of these speci-
Ending this 1930s flurry of discussion, Chasen
(1940) listed fishing cat for Sumatra, citing
only Pocock (1939) and Brongersma (1935) for
the species, yet neither included the island in
its range (see above). Sody (1949: 180) reiter-
ated that he found the contention that fishing
cat occurred in Sumatra to be “unfounded”,
and warned against trusting localities of
zoo-mediated animals. Nonetheless, nearly
all other post-1940 compilations with suf-
ficient range detail placed Sumatra in the
species’s range (Carter et al. 1945; Ellerman
& Morrison-Scott 1966; Lekagul & McNeely
1977; Van der Zon 1979; Corbet & Hill 1992;
Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, 2009; Suyanto et
al. 2002; Wozencraft 2005; Sanderson et al.
2008). None cited specific references for fish-
ing cat on Sumatra; all may stem from Chasen
(1940), and none is explicitly an independent
opinion that fishing cat inhabits Sumatra. G.
B. Corbet (in litt. 2008) stated that, for a spe-
cies of uncontroversial species-level taxono-
my, listing by Chasen (1940) would have been
sufficient for Corbet & Hill (1992) to include
Sumatra; Van der Zon (1979) explicitly based
his treatments strongly upon Chasen (1940);
and Suyanto et al. (2002: v) “obtained much ...
species distributional information from their
[Corbet & Hill 1992] treatment”.
Van Strien’s (2001) final output on Indonesian
mammal distribution listed Sumatra for fish-
ing cat, citing only Delsman (1932) and Sody
(1936). This does not, however, imply his be-
lief of natural occurrence there: he also listed,
for Borneo, the mounted Pontianak specimen
held in the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity
Research, Singapore, and generally assumed
to be a trade specimen (K. Lim in litt. 2008).
None of these historical commentators seem
to have been aware of a key specimen, # 922
B, at the Institut Royal des Sciences Naturels,
Brussels, Belgium. Suyckerbuyck donated the
skeleton, including skull, of an adult male cat
CATnews 51 Autumn 2009
fishing cat on Sumatra
to IRSNB on 24 July 1877 within ‘general
inventory’ # 4008, a batch of 32 mammal,
and c.4000 other, specimens. It is labelled
‘Sumatra’, but no localities are mentioned
on the original card for 4008 or on any other
available contemporary documentation; the
mammals have been labelled as from Java,
Borneo, Sumatra and ‘no locality’, but how so
is not known. They may have been added by
S. Frechkop when the specimens were identi-
fied; then, this animal was catalogued as a
leopard cat P. bengalensis, and only in 1971
was it determined to be a fishing cat (by PS;
background information from G. Lenglet in
litt. 2009). The ambiguous collection location
forestalls this specimen proving fishing cat
occurrence on Sumatra.
Van Bree & Mohd Khan (1992) stated that
no museum specimens of fishing cat are yet
known for Sumatra. Other than the equivocal
Bern and Brussels material, neither we nor A.
Wilting (in litt. 2009) found any in 15 muse-
ums checked (AMNH, CAS, FMNH, HNHM,
SMF, SMNS, USNM, ZMB, ZSM; acronyms
expanded in Supporting Online Material Ap-
pendix 1), and all institutions linked to MaNIS
(search in August 2008); Van Strien (2001)
had already checked some additional collec-
tions important for Indonesian mammals.
Recent claims of fishing cat in Sumatra
Nowell & Jackson (1996: 74) mapped fishing
cat across Sumatra, marking five “protected
areas where the species occurs”: Way Kam-
bas, Berbak, Gunung Leuser, Kerinci Seblat
and Bukit Barisan Selatan NPs. These spots
are not linked to source, but “the informa-
tion on occurrence in protected areas was
gathered from a wide variety of sources,
including IUCN protected area directories
... with reported occurrence independently
confirmed where possible, the voluminous
files of the Protected Areas Data Unit of
the World Conservation Monitoring Centre
in Cambridge, databases maintained by na-
tional government and institutions, the litera-
ture and, most importantly, data provided by
correspondents” (Nowell & Jackson 1996:
1–2). K. Nowell (in litt. 2008) highlighted
the impossibility of confirming, in this glo-
bal review of the entire family Felidae, each
record from such a large, disparate, range of
sources. She stated that the spot-markings
should not be taken as confirmed records. In
fact, this trawl brought in, for Sumatra, more
records of fishing cat than of any other small
cat (K. Nowell in litt. 2008), a statistic that
suggests that at least most of these records
were mistaken. We have not traced sources
for records at three of the five sites. The Ke-
rinci Seblat listing seems to relate to a 1996
set of footprints found in Sindang Silaut (Lu-
nang, West Kerinci), an area of swamp forest
30 km south-west of Tapan (Holden 2001). No
camera-trapping was undertaken here or in
any similar nearby habitat. The plaster casts
made are lost, but surviving line-drawings
and notes indicate clear webbing on the toes
(JH). The Berbak spot relates to an adult fe-
male cat found dead in the Buntu Besar River
on 22 August 1991 (HIMBIO 1992). No rea-
sons are given for the identification as fish-
ing cat, the accompanying photograph [photo
10] is unidentifiable, and we cannot locate
any preserved parts. In 1985, Nash & Nash
(1985) identified footprints in Padang Sugi-
han Wildlife Reserve (= WR) as from a fishing
cat, but did not secure plaster-casts. Despite
airing both the latter records (Nash & Nash
1985; HIMBIO 1992), Melisch et al. (1996:
315) evidently considered them unsatisfac-
tory because they wrote that “due to the only
marginal distribution overlap (possibly in the
north of the Malay Peninsula) and the pre-
ference for wetland environs, we tentatively
conclude that [flat-headed cat] P. planiceps
replaces P. viverrinus in Borneo, Sumatra and
most of peninsular Malaysia”. In addition,
Holden (2006) referred to fishing cat in Muara
Jambi; this concerned an animal seen, briefly,
on a forest trail: the record is here withdrawn
by JH. This sighting was given in Maddox
et al. (2007), which also stated that fishing
cat faeces were identified eight times in the
area; these reports, based merely on visual
inspection, should be disregarded.
Despite high camera-trapping effort in several
Sumatran sites since the early 1990s ( Table
1), no identifiable photographs of fishing cat
Fig. 1. Sumatra, showing localities mentioned in the text: 1, Bukit Barisan Selatan
NP; 2, Way Sekampung; 3, Way Kambas NP; 4, Way Tulang Bawang; 5, Way Mesuji;
6, Padang Sugihan Wildlife Reserve; 7, Bentayan Wildlife Reserve; 8, Dangku Wildlife
Reserve; 9, Kerinci Seblat NP; 10, Sindang Silaut; 11, Harapan Rain Forest; 12, Asiatic
Persada; 13, Berbak NP; 14, Muara Jambi; 15, Bukit Tiga Puluh NP; 16, Padang; 17,
Tesso Nilo NP; 18, Batang Gadis NP; 19, Senepis Buluhala; 20, Rawa Singkil; 21, Sian-
tar; 22, Suak; 23, Kluet Selatan; 24, Gunung Leuser NP; 25, Meulaboh.
CATnews 51 Autumn 2009
J. W. Duckworth et al.
seem to have been generated. Kawanishi &
Sunquist (2003) cited records from Kerinci
Seblat and Bukit Barisan Selatan NPs, to ML
and TGO respectively. The latter were based
upon four photographs from 1998, 2000 and
2003, the former upon a single one. Because
many features which distinguish fishing cat
from leopard cat are somewhat subjective
(e.g. shorter tail, thicker neck, different pos-
ture) or are imprecise through photographic
flash (e.g. warmth of body tone), these
photographs were examined by S. Christie,
A. Hearn, T. Maddox, K. Nowell, J. Ross, Su-
narto Sunarto and M. Sunquist, as well as the
authors, resulting in concurrence that all five
images show leopard cats. The identification
of those from Bukit Barisan Selatan NP was
covered, with reproduction of the images, by
Sanderson (2009). A further Sumatran ca-
mera-trap photograph labelled ‘fishing cat’ is
in a 2009 grey literature report; this animal,
from Way Kambas, is an obvious leopard cat.
In July 2008, CRS and V. Nijman found, during
a random visit, a live fishing cat at a small
zoo in Siantar (2°55´N, 99°05´E; Fig. 2). This
small-town zoo has only limited holdings of
species not native to Sumatra, but a wild ori-
gin on the island cannot be assumed, because
zoos exchange species within Indonesia (CRS
personal observations). Wildlife trade sur-
veys across Sumatra have not yielded any
other fishing cat record, although leopard
cats are very common (Shepherd et al. 2004;
also E. Rood, I. Singleton and S. Wich in litt.
2009). Attempts to clarify the origin of this
animal are ongoing.
Attempting to resolve the status of fish-
ing cat in Sumatra
Chasen (1940) was the key authority quash-
ing controversy whether fishing cat lives in
Sumatra. His absence of discussion, despite
the previous decade’s public controversy,
suggests that his inclusion of Sumatra was
a slip. That he published no correction does
not argue against this: he died in 1942 (Cor-
bet & Hill 1992). His working notes cannot be
re-evaluated: “the greater part” sank with
his ship during evacuation from Singapore
in World War Two (Weitzel et al. 1988). If
Chasen had in fact found out something, the
text of Sody (1949) indicates that it did not
make it onto the local ‘bush telegraph’.
Fig. 2. Captive fishing cat, Siantar, Sumatra, 17 July 2008 (Photo C. R. Shepherd).
Table 1. Camera-trap studies in Sumatra reviewed for fishing cat photographs. For all the listed studies the lack of photographs
of fishing cat is known, for other studies undertaken on the island it is not known. Effort figures are for guidance only and are not
closely comparable between studies.
Nr in Fig. 1 Location name Trapping effort References
1 Bukit Barisan Selatan NP 10 years O‘Brien et al. 2003; this study
3 Way Kambas NP 13,297 trap-hours Franklin et al. 1999; Franklin 2002
7 Bentayan WR 495 trap-nights Maddox et al. 2007
8 Dangku WR 573 trap-nights Maddox et al. 2007
9 Kerinci Seblat NP 132,000 trap-hours Holden et al. 2003; Linkie et al. 2003
11–12 Asiatic Persada*/ Harapan Rain Forest 6,000+ trap-nights Maddox et al. 2007
13 Berbak NP 823 trap-nights Maddox et al. 2007
15 Bukit Tiga Puluh NP 2,028 trap-nights Maddox et al. 2007
17 Tesso Nilo NP and immediate surroundings 12,773 trap-nights Sunarto Sunarto in litt. 2009
18 Batang Gadis NP 1,728 trap-nights H. T. Wibisono in litt. 2009
24 Gunung Leuser NP 3,800+ trap-nights M. Griffiths in litt. 2009
24 Gunung Leuser NP three years D. Priatna in litt. 2009
* A plantation and logging concession landscape centred on Asiatic Persada and the adjacent (then) logging concession Asialog,
now the Harapan Rain Forest.
CATnews 51 Autumn 2009
fishing cat on Sumatra
A lack of records of a species does not prove
its absence. That we have traced only one
trade or captive fishing cat in Sumatra in re-
cent decades may reflect partly the paucity of
systematic survey. It does not indicate that
it is not native there, because CRS, despite
many market visits and active correspon-
dence with other people undertaking them,
knows of only one such record from Java, un-
questionably fishing cat native range, during
his 18 years association with the country: at a
private dealer’s house in Surabaya on 14 Au-
gust 2005 (Fig. 3; M. Auliya in litt. 2009). By
a similar process of comparison, the absence
of fishing cat camera-trap photographs from
Sumatra is not informative: a global review
of records of flat-headed cat, which is also
a denizen of lowland wetlands, found that it
has been camera-trapped on the island only
few times (A. Wilting, pers. comm.).
For several reasons fishing cat might be over-
looked in Sumatra. Firstly, the island is large
and only patchily surveyed, so species of lo-
calised geographical and/or ecological distri-
bution could be readily overlooked: e.g. the
highly distinctive Sumatran Ground Cuckoo
Carpococcyx viridis was ‘lost’ for decades
until its recent rediscovery (Brickle 2007). On
neighbouring Java, fishing cat seems to be
almost restricted to tidal forests with sandy
or muddy shores (Melisch et al. 1996), and
while not tied to such habitats throughout its
range, occurring as far from the sea as Ne-
pal (Pocock 1939), the locations in Delsman
(1932) are consistent with similar habitat use
in Sumatra.
Secondly, most camera-trapping in Sumatra
has targeted tigers, and chances of camera-
trapping fishing cat in this way, with its sam-
pling focus on game trails, ridges and springs
within closed forest, are low. Camera-trap-
ping in Sumatran lowland swamp forest has
been undertaken to a significant extent only
in Way Kampas NP. Since late 2008 a pro-
gramme in Berbak NP includes many sites
near rivers, but so far no fishing cats have
been photographed. There seems to have
been no camera-trapping where Delsman
(1932) reported the species.
Thirdly, variation in fishing cat habitat use
across its range is too poorly understood to
know what specific microhabitat placement
of camera-traps, if any, would boost chances
of detection in Sumatra. Without good under-
standing of any species’s local behaviour and
ecology, interpreting its prevalence, including
absence, on camera-trap pictures is difficult.
Sumatra is not alone in chequered percep-
tions of fishing cat occurrence. This cat was
generally treated as absent from peninsular
(=West) Malaysia, an area relatively well sur-
veyed historically, but one, reportedly a wild-
trapped animal from Negeri Sembilan, lived
in a zoo there over 1967–1977 (Van Bree &
Mohd. Khan 1992), and specimens labelled
as from Malaysia come from Kuala Lumpur
(1971 and 1977; both in SMF, and plausibly
traded with the zoo; no further details on ori-
gin are available), and Malacca (1878, SMNS;
and c.1820s [date inferred from the collector’s
identity: Diard], RMNH). This last is presum-
ably the Malacca specimen(s) examined by
Swinhoe (1862). Malacca provided many
trade specimens at this era, and the origin
of the modern zoo animal cannot be known
with certainty. There remain no incontestable
records of a wild-living fishing cat in penin-
sular Malaysia: an incomplete camera-trap
image from Taman Negara NP in 1999 was
thought perhaps of a fishing cat (Kawanishi
& Sunquist 2003), but JGS believes it to be
a leopard cat. Kawanishi & Sunquist (2003)
also observed tracks in that park which they
thought likely to belong to fishing cat.
There are also indications, assumed to be
trade specimens or misidentifications, of fish-
ing cat from Borneo (see above), Singapore
and Bali (Van Bree & Mohd. Khan 1992). Fish-
ing cat was listed from Taiwan by Swinhoe
(1862), in error; as Nowell & Jackson (1996)
pointed out, this mistake was still being re-
peated over a century later (e.g. Wozencraft
1993), and the island is still mapped for the
species in Pan Qinghua et al. (2007). Confir-
mation that fishing cat may be detected only
late even in relatively well-collected regions
does, however, come from Myanmar: the
first country record (discounting non-specific
19th century statements of occurrence) was
not until 1935 (Carter 1943; AMNH 113496),
despite the Bombay Natural History Society’s
collection programme in operation, and ex-
tensive in lowland regions superficially suit-
able for the species, for the preceding twenty
years (Fry 1929 and references therein).
Concluding discussion and recommen-
The occurrence of fishing cat in Sumatra
should be considered hypothetical pending an
objectively verifiable record: a specimen, pho-
tograph or, less preferably, a field sighting by
a cautious and capable observer experienced
with identification of leopard cat, and pub-
lished with full supporting field notes for the
basis of the identification. Sign-based records
can help inform hypothetical distribution, but,
unless there is genetic confirmation (see e.g.
Lucherini et al. 2008), the richness of Sumat-
ra’s carnivore community prevents their being
taken as proof. In the rather few attempts to
assess the reliability of carnivore sign records,
observers are generally overconfident, even
in carnivore communities much simpler than
Sumatra’s (e.g. Davison et al. 2002), reflect-
ing problems of accurate sign identification
to species more broadly across mammals (e.g.
McKelvey et al. 2006; Bowkett et al. 2009).
Fig. 3. Captive fishing cat, Surabaya, Java, 14 August 2005 (Photo M. Auliya).
CATnews 51 Autumn 2009
J. W. Duckworth et al.
Although it might seem implausible that any
morphologically distinctive mammal could
mistakenly enter ‘common knowledge’ of
occurrence on a large island, this does hap-
pen. Once a species is listed for a significant
geopolitical unit, even if that is soon dis-
credited, secondary citation of the original
error almost invariably occurs: Malay Wea-
sel Mustela nudipes is still listed for Java
(e.g. Wozencraft 2005) 175 years after the
original error was highlighted (Duckworth
et al. 2006). Furthermore, when an observer
‘knows’ a species inhabits a given area, the
bar may be (consciously or subconsciously)
lowered for subsequent identifications, and
so further ‘records’ result, a cycle, in extreme
cases, perverting conservation resource de-
ployment (Pratt 2000, McKelvey et al. 2008).
That fishing cat is not proven to inhabit Su-
matra therefore requires wide dissemination,
and any overlooked or future claim warrants
detailed documentation.
The Endangered status of fishing cat on the
2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
(Sanderson et al. 2008) urges specific surveys
seeking it in Sumatra. Any suitable habitat
remaining around Delsman’s (1932) sites
is of obvious survey priority. A. Compost (in
litt. 2009) points out that the habitat in some
parts of Way Kambas, Berbak and Bukit Ba-
risan Selatan NPs resembles that where he
has seen fishing cats in Java: Ujung Kulon
and Pulau Dua Bird Sanctuary, Banten bay,
West Java; in the latter, he photographed
and filmed them regularly from 1988 to 1992
(see Other search
areas, suggested by H. Rijksen (in litt. 2009)
on habitat grounds, are the Rawa Singkil
area, Kluet, and the Meulaboh (Bahbahrot)
swamps, along the west coast of Aceh. Even
if no fishing cat records result, the undertak-
ing will help clarify current status of flat-
headed cat, now also Red-Listed as Endan-
gered (Hearn et al. 2008). Equally urgent is an
assessment of fishing cat’s current status in
Java and, arguably, in peninsular Malaysia.
Java holds the only confirmed Sundaic popu-
lation, which was considered to be highly
threatened by the last review (Melisch et al.
1996). A. Compost (in litt. 2009) revisited Pu-
lau Dua three years ago and heard that the
fishing cats there, which had been quite con-
fiding, had been poisoned by the owners of
the fish ponds adjacent to the island.
We thank the Wildlife Conservation Society Asia
Program, notably its director Colin Poole, for the
exercise that prompted this review; the Museum
Zoologicum Bogoriense, Cibinong, Bogor, Indone-
sia, for welcoming the exercise’s participants into
its vitally important collections; and the current
senior staff of the WCS Indonesia Programme,
Noviar Andiyani and H. T. Wibisono, and of LIPI-
Indonesian Institute of Sciences Division of Zo-
ology at Cibining, Ir Maharadatun Kamsi and Ir
Ahmad Jauhar Arief, without whom the identifi-
cation workshop would not have happened; and
Frida ‘Minda’ Saanin and Deasy Krisanti at WCS
Indonesia, and Yuli Sulistya Fitriana at MZB for
essential organisational support. We thank, for
discussion and assistance, Mark Auliya, Conrad
Aveling, Sarah Christie, Alain Compost, Gordon
Corbet, Gabor Csorba, Klaas-Douwe ‘KD’ B. Dijk-
stra, Dan Duff, Neil Franklin, Gabriella Fredriks-
son, Mike Griffiths, Olavi Grönwall, Colin Groves,
Donny Gunaryadi, Andy Hearn, Simon Hedges, Pe-
ter Jackson, Kae Kawanishi, Richard Kraft, Katrin
Krohmann, Georges Lenglet, Lim Boo Liat, Kelvin
Lim, Debbie Martyr, Frieder Mayer, Erik Mei-
jaard, Roland Melisch, Doris Möricke, Shomita
Mukherjee, Tilo Nadler, Vincent Nijman, Kristin
Nowell, Robert Olley, Laura Eiford and Siobhan
Fagan (WCS library), Dody Permadi, Dolly Priatna,
Herman Rijksen, Ente Rood, Joanna Ross, Paul
Schmid, Ian Singleton, Sylvia Schwencke, Rob
Timmins, Graham Usher, Dave Ware, Tony Whit-
ten, Serge Wich and Andreas Wilting. Finally,
the international museums’ role, in contributing
to the Mammal Networked Information System
(MaNIS), or providing information directly, can-
not be underestimated: American Museum of
Natural History (AMNH), California Academy of
Sciences (CAS), Field Museum, Chicago (FMNH),
Magyar Neinzeti Muzeum/Hungarian Natural
History Museum (HNHM), Los Angeles County
Museum (LACM), Natural History Museum, Mu-
seum Zoologicum Bogoriense (MZB), Natural His-
tory Museum (formerly British Museum (Natural
History)), South Kensington, London, U.K. (NHM),
Naturhistorisches Museum, Bern, Switzerland
(NMBE), Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet, Stockholm
(NRM), Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research,
Singapore (RMBR), Leiden National Museum of
Natural History, Naturalis (RMNH), Senckenberg
Museum Frankfurt (SMF), Staatliches Museum für
Naturkunde Stuttgart (SMNS), National Museum
of Natural History, United States National Mu-
seum, Smithsonian Institution (USNM), Museum
für Naturkunde, Berlin (ZMB), and Zoologische
Staatssammlung München (ZSM).
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1 Wildlife Conservation Society Asia Program, 2300
Southern Blvd, New York, NY 10460, U.S.A.
Current address: PO Box 5573, Vientiane, Lao PDR
2 TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Taman SEA,
47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
3 Puslit Biologi LIPI, Jl. Raya Jakarta-Bogor Km.
46, Cibinong 16911, Jawa Barat, Indonesia
4 Los Navarros 6, E-35140 Mogán, Gran Canaria,
5 Small Cat Conservation Alliance, Wildlife Conser-
vation Network, 25745 Bassett Lane, Los Altos,
CA 94022, USA
6 Vietnam Hunting & Wildlife Trade Program, Wild-
life Conservation Society, 1101 Hacisco tower,
Ngo 107, Nguyen Chi Thanh, Hanoi, Vietnam
7 Wildlife Conservation Society, Mpala Research
Centre, P.O. Box 555, Nanyuki, Kenya 10400
8 Zoological Society of London, Regents Park,
London, NW1 4RY
9 Fauna & Flora International Program Aceh, Jln
Tgk. Chik Dipasi No. 50, Desa Limpok,
Darussalam, Aceh Besar, Nanggroe Aceh
Darussalam 23373, Indonesia
10 P.O. Box 1380, 359 Street 306, Bong Keng Kang,
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
11 Wildlife Conservation Society - Indonesia
Program, Jalan Burangrang N° 18, Bogor 16151,
... India and Sri Lanka are strongholds for the Fishing Cat. There is no authentic report from peninsular Malaysia and its distribution in Laos and Sumatra is disputed (Duckworth et al. 1999(Duckworth et al. , 2009. Within India, the Fishing Cat is primarily distributed in the eastern parts (West Bengal, Assam, Orissa, parts of Andhra Pradesh) and along the foothills of the Himalaya in the Terai tract (Pocock 1939;Sunquist & Sunquist 2002). ...
... He based this identification on the individual he saw at the Snake Park. Since both records are unsubstantiated it is prudent to treat them with caution owing to the several instances of misidentification of Leopard Cats and house cats as Fishing Cats, even by experts (Duckworth et al. 2009, Shomita Mukherjee pers. obs. ...
Full-text available
The Fishing Cat Prionailurus viverrinus is classified as Endangered in the IUCN Red List and yet its distribution range within India is not resolved. In spite of its potential habitat being present in coastal Kerala, there are only a few, unsubstantiated records of the cat. Moreover, its occurrence in Sri Lanka strengthens the possibility of its presence (historical or current population) in southern India, including Kerala. This survey was conducted to assess the occurrence of the Fishing Cat in coastal Kerala through personal informal interviews with local people and molecular analysis of scats. The study failed to find any evidence of the occurrence of Fishing Cat in the coastal areas of Kerala. We discuss two possibilities - one, of the species existing earlier but driven to extinction in recent decades, due to high levels of land conversion through anthropogenic activities in these areas and the other of the Fishing Cat having never occurred in coastal Kerala. A speculative reasoning for its absence from the region could be related to the difference in salinity levels between the eastern and western coasts of India which has already been documented. Moreover, fewer freshwater sources merge into the sea in coastal areas of Kerala as compared to the eastern coast of India. This could limit the distribution of the Fishing Cat. The argument was also supported by the lack of any authentic report till date or of local names for the Fishing Cat in the region.
... Small and medium cats are defined here as all Sumatran cat species except those of the genus Panthera. Little is known about the conservation status of these small and medium cats on the island (Bezuijen 2000, Holden 2001, Hutajulu et al. 2007, Duckworth et al. 2009, Sanderson 2009, Wibisono & Mc-Carthy 2010. Accurate assessment of their conservation status is difficult as only few field surveys specifically targeting the natural history of the island's small and medium cats have been undertaken compared to big cats such as tigers. ...
... There is no substantiated record of flat-headed cats in northern Sumatra, despite recent records in Southeast Sumatra and Kerinci Seblat (Bezuijen 2000, Holden 2001), as well as central Sumatra (Wilting et al. 2010). The occurrence of another wetland small cat, the fishing cat, in Sumatra, is still uncertain (Duckworth et al. 2009, Sanderson 2009). Siantar Zoo, ca. ...
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Small and medium cat diversity and spatio-temporal distribution in Gunung Leuser National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia, was recorded between March and October 2010. A pair of infra-red cameras was set up in each of the 68 locations resulting in 54 in- dependent events of small and medium cats in 3,452 trap nights. Four of the five small and medium cat species confirmed to inhabit Sumatra were photographed: Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii, Sunda clouded leopard Neofelis diardi, marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata and leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis. Golden cat was the most frequently photographed species (0.72 independent event per 100 trap nights), followed by clouded leopard (0.41), marbled cat (0.23) and leopard cat (0.20). Golden cats were predominantly photographed in montane forests 1,800/1,900-2,400/2,500m (34%), marbled cats in medium elevation hills 400/500-800/900m (38%) and montane forests (38%), clouded leopards in medium elevation hills (43%) and leopard cats were mostly found in the lowlands <150m (100%). Golden cats seemed to be diurnal, clouded leopards and marbled cats were active at dawn/dusk, and leopard cats were strongly nocturnal. Trade in Medan of clouded leopard and golden cat (live and stuffed specimens) indicates some level of harvest of these small and medium cats, but data are insufficient to determine whether such harvest is a significant threat.
... Based on museum records, the species has also been reported from the Malay Peninsula, Java and possibly Sumatra (e.g., Blanford 1888Blanford -1891Jentink 1892;Brongersma 1935). These records from the Malay Peninsula that were based solely on museum specimens have generally been assumed to have been the result of mislabelling, misidentification or material obtained from the pet trade (Duckworth et al. 2009). ...
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The Fishing Cat is not a species known to inhabit Singapore. However, a historical specimen stated to have come from Singapore in 1819 and attributed to Pierre-Médard Diard (RMNH.MAM.59688) is now housed at Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, the Netherlands. Two hundred years after it was obtained, the mounted skin and skull of this specimen, including specimen labels, were photographed and digitally catalogued. Four sets of annotations from labels and a document detailing records and a receipt of specimens sent by Diard to Leiden are presented to ascertain the specimen’s identity, followed by a historical account of Diard based on a reconstruction of the timeline of key events of Singapore’s natural history. Subsequently, the specimen is examined to confirm its taxonomic identity using comparative morphometrics with other museum specimens, and data associated with the specimen are analysed to determine the origins of this specimen. We conclude that the current evidence does not allow confirmation of the specimen’s status as having been collected in Singapore or being obtained from the pet trade. If the specimen was an imported specimen, it would point towards a trade in rare and large animals in Singapore and the region from as early as 1819. Presently, the specimen remains one of the few extant zoological specimens obtained in Singapore in 1819 and the only one currently known outside of England.
... This is due to the Golden cats being commonly found in mountains (900-2500 > mdpl) (Griffiths, 1996;W Pusparini et al., 2014). As for the fishing cat, there has not been a valid confirmation about its existence in Sumatra to this day (Duckworth & Shepherd, 2009;Sanderson, 2009). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The Kampar Peninsula in Riau is a unique ecosystem and shown its unique distribution of biodiversity. Although the peninsula was categorized as production forests since the eighties, the degradation of the core of Kampar Peninsula considered as lowest in the region. To assess the richness of wildlife in Kampar Peninsula, Biodiversity assessments have been conducted by collaborating partner, Fauna & Flora International-Indonesia Programme using camera trap in the landscape. Biodiversity richness of this lightly degraded area is significant. Five species of wild cats of Sumatra were found in the landscape including the charismatic Sumatran Tiger and a rare species of the flatheaded cat. Several large mammals species such as, sunbear, sambar deer and bearded pig were found in the area as well as several unique and endemic species of birds, reptiles and amphibians. Based on this initial finding and the existence of top predator in the region, and its potential of recording new species, the biodiversity richness in the whole Kampar Peninsula appears to be potentially high and its conservation status most likely more significant than the neighbouring designated conservation areas.
... Social housing also was found to have a significant effect on FGM levels in fishing cats. Observations of wild fishing cats are scarce and the ecology of this species is still mostly unknown, although field research has increased in recent years [35][36][37][38][39]. Most camera trap photos reveal single individuals or females with offspring [36,40], leading researchers to believe they are largely solitary in the wild. ...
Full-text available
The ex situ population of fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) has become increasingly important for the conservation of this species. Unfortunately, captivity-induced stress is a concern and potential factor for lack of breeding success in this small felid, resulting in an unsustainable population. The objectives of this study were to: 1) validate an enzyme immunoassay for monitoring of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM) concentrations in the fishing cat; 2) identify potential exogenous stressors in the captive environment; 3) pinpoint management techniques that may lower FGM concentrations; and 4) determine if FGM concentrations are related to breeding success. Through a successful adrenocorticotrophic hormone challenge and additional laboratory methods, a cortisol enzyme immunoassay was validated as an effective tool for detecting FGM in this species. Between 2010 and 2013, longitudinal FGM monitoring was conducted in 26 fishing cats in the North American Species Survival Plan®. Exogenous stressors that elevated FGM concentrations included: chemical immobilizations; permanent transfers between facilities; construction; facility events; and fights/aggression among breeding pairs. Management factors that lowered FGM concentrations included: increased animal-keeper interaction through formal training; and providing indoor, off-exhibit, holding areas. In addition, social housing of individuals (either established breeding pairs or same sex pairs) decreased FGM concentrations. Individuals with breeding success (defined as observed copulations during the study period) also had lower FGM concentrations than unsuccessful individuals. Findings indicate that management factors play a role in lowering glucocorticoid (stress) levels in fishing cats, which may ultimately affect breeding success in the ex situ population.
... Despite being commonly cited in the literature, there are no records that the fishing cat has ever occurred on Sumatra and there are only a few uncertain records from peninsular Malaysia (Sody 1949, Van Bree & Momin Khan 1992, Duckworth et al. 2009). was unable to discern any geographical differentiation based on pelage coloration and markings between fishing cats from throughout their range. ...
Full-text available
1. The current classification of the Felidae was reviewed by a panel of 22 experts divided into core, expert and review groups, which make up the Cat Classification Task Force CCTF of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group. 2. The principal aim of the CCTF was to produce a consensus on a revised classification of the Felidae for use by the IUCN. 3. Based on current published research, the CCTF has fully revised the classification of the Felidae at the level of genus, species and subspecies. 4. A novel traffic-light system was developed to indicate certainty of each taxon based on morphological, molecular, biogeographical and other evidence. A concordance of good evidence in the three principal categories was required to strongly support the acceptance of a taxon. 5. Where disagreements exist among members of the CCTF, these have been highlighted in the accounts for each species. Only further research will be able to answer the potential conflicts in existing data. 6. A total of 14 genera, 41 species and 77 subspecies is recognised by most members of the CCTF, which is a considerable change from the classification proposed by Wozencraft (2005), the last major revision of the Felidae. 7. Future areas of taxonomic research have been highlighted in order to answer current areas of uncertainty. 8. This classification of the Felidae will be reviewed every five years unless a major new piece of research requires a more rapid revision for the conservation benefit of felid species at risk of extinction.
... Social housing was found to have a significant effect on GCM levels in fishing cats during this study. Observations of wild fishing cats are still scarce and the ecology of this species is still mostly unknown, although field research has increased in recent years (Adhya, 2014; Cutter, 2009; Duckworth et al., 2009; Mukherjee et al., 2012; Tantipisanuh et al., 2014). Most camera trap photos reveal single individuals or females with offspring (Cutter, 2009; Rainey & Kong, 2010), leading researchers to believe they are largely solitary in the wild. ...
Full-text available
Fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) are a small felid found primarily throughout Southeast Asia. Wild populations have been rapidly dwindling due to degradation and loss of habitat along with retribution killings. Captive populations have been established throughout the world to help ensure this species persists. In North America, Species Survival Programs (SSP) are committees formed within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to help manage captive populations of threatened and endangered species. The SSPs are made up of a group of species-specific experts dedicated to sustaining a healthy captive population that can serve to educate the public and potentially replenish dwindling wild populations if needed in the future. The SSPs make breeding recommendations for each species based on genetics, age and keeper intuition. Often because of a genetically valuable animal’s age, there is only one chance to create a successful breeding pair. The fishing cat SSP recommended several new breeding pairs in 2010, 2011, and 2012. These recommendations allowed for the monitoring of institutional transfers and breeding introductions on fishing cats to identify whether specific management strategies lead to, or enhance the odds of reproductive success. It was hypothesized that individual fishing cats would differ in their adrenocorticol response during transfer between institutions and during breeding introductions. The prediction was that glucocorticoid levels would have a direct correlation with the manner in which the individuals are managed and overall breeding success. Three methods were used to obtain data for analyses including: non-invasive fecal hormone monitoring, keeper-rated surveys to identify environment/management factors as well as assess temperament, and behavioral observations during breeding introductions. Non-invasive fecal hormone monitoring was combined with animal keeper rated assessments and behavioral observations to examine the effects of these breeding recommendations and transfers on the reproductive success of the fishing cat. The study ultimately had four objectives: 1. Examine the current management and breeding behaviors of captive fishing cats. 2. Validate a glucocorticoid assay for longitudinal monitoring of exogenous stressors on adrenocortical activity in males and females. 3. Determine relationship between adrenal activity and gonadal function in females. 4. Characterize temperament within the population and correlate with behavioral traits, breeding success and adrenal activity. The study ran from 2010-2013 monitoring 27 (13 male; 14 female) fishing cats at 17 institutions which included 15 unique breeding pairs and 20 transfers (13 males, 7 females), which occurred primarily in the fall (62%). Validation of a single antibody cortisol enyzme immunoassay (R4866 supplied by C.J. Munro, University of California, Davis, CA, USA) was performed using standard assay validation. In addition, an adrenocorticotropin challenge revealed peak glucocorticoids metabolites (GCM) occur approximately 21 hours after adrenal stimulation. Longitudinal monitoring revealed significant elevations in GCM concentrations during institutional transfers lasting 54 ± 16 days indicating most individuals take at least three months to settle into a new facility after translocation. Most initial physical breeding introductions during this study (83%) occurred within that timeframe. Mate compatibility seems rigid with pairs copulating between 39-289 days after quarantine release, or not at all, indicating a one year trial period for pairs is sufficient to determine potential breeding success. Increases 4-10x in baseline GCM concentrations were observed during periods of chronic illness (i.e. hepatitis) and therefore could be used to help diagnose acute health concerns in this species. Institutions with successful fishing cat pairs spent more days/month training their cats and had a higher number of indoor off-exhibit areas (2-3). They also all videotaped breeding observations and provided nestboxes (1-4) for their females. Management strategies that predicted lower GCM concentrations were similar; increased animal keeper interaction (>10 days/month) and indoor off-exhibit holding areas (2-3). “Friendly” vocalizations from males and females, as well as the female being in estrus during physical breeding introductions, both predicted copulation success. Results from keeper rated temperament assessments were in line with this finding as individuals with a “Friendly” temperament were considered highly “vocal”, “friendly to conspecifics” and “expressive” and were predicted to have breeding success. Successful individuals also performed more species-specific behaviors on exhibit and interacted with enrichment. Temperaments were not predictive of GCM concentrations, sex, age or the manner in which an individual was reared (hand or mother). Breeding success in this species was predicted by lower concentrations of both mean and peak mean fecal GCM concentrations, indicating that reproductively successful individuals may have overall lower cortisol levels. Reproductive activity occurred throughout the year and was not impacted by institutional transfers. Natural pregnancies (n = 5) all occurred March-July and 67% of females exhibited one or more periods of anestrus lasting 66-181 days beginning most often April-August (67%). Highest mean progestogen and estrogen concentrations occurred between December and August. Differences in peak estrogens, occurring approximately 8 days (range 0-30) into non-pregnant luteal phases (NPLP) and 40 days (range 32-49 days) into a pregnancy may help distinguish the two. A high percentage of females (58%) exhibited spontaneous ovulation during the study period with no clear ovulation mechanism. Ovulation may be influenced by age or induced by external stimuli, other than intromission during copulation - such as semiochemicals detected in shared enclosure spaces or tactile contact through mesh enclosures. The species high reliance on aquatic habitats also may lend itself to resource dependant stimulation of the hypothalamus pituitary gonadal axis, such as annual rainfall or access to large pools of water, which bears further investigation. Recommendations include transfers in the late spring or early summer of males allowing at least three months post quarantine release for physical introductions, to allow the tranferred individual time to return to baseline GCM concentrations before experiencing another stressful event (breeding introductions). Institutions with breeding pairs can improve breeding success via reducing fishing cat stress levels with positive animal keeper interaction through training and providing indoor off-exhibit refuge areas. It is also suggested that videotaping breeding introductions and providing at least 1-2 nest boxes for females may all contribute to greater captive breeding success in the fishing cat. The information gained by this study provides an outline for fishing cat SSP managers on how this species is managed in captivity. It also provides a solid foundation of longitudinal monitoring of adrenal activity and provides recommendations for the future sustainability of the ex situ population.
... This is particularly useful for species assessment on a landscape level, where from some areas the only data available may be soft data, a problem not unique to lynx in the Alps (e.g. see Duckworth et al. 2009Duckworth et al. , 2010 for the recent discussion on the presence of the fishing cat in Laos and Sumatra or Sarmento et al. 2009 for an underestimation of a population decline based on soft data only). ...
Full-text available
The project Status and Conservation of the Alpine Lynx Population (SCALP) is an ongoing program aiming to co-ordinate the lynx monitoring and propose conservation activities in the Alps. The SCALP project was initiated from several active lynx researchers as an informal group in the early 1990s twenty - years after the reintroductions in Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, and Austria. To propose adequate management measures, a sound monitoring of the Alpine lynx population needs to be in place. In the early 1990s the first efforts were made to put all available data on lynx presence together. The least common denominator of data collection in the Alps was - and still is - the compilation of direct and indirect signs of lynx presence. To standardise the interpretation of the data collected, SCALP experts agreed on a categorisation of occurrence records, where each record is evaluated retrospectively whether it can be verified for correct species identification and whether it has been verified for correct species identification. Therefore, for the monitoring of the lynx throughout the Alps in the frame of the SCALP surveys, the collected data are classified in three categories according to the following SCALP criteria: Category 1 (C1): "Hard facts", verified and unchallenged observations; Category 2 (C2): Observations controlled and confirmed by a lynx expert (e.g. trained member of the network); Category 3 (C3): Unconfirmed category 2 observations and all observations such as sightings and calls which, if not additionally documented, by their nature cannot be verified. The SCALP criteria allow to both combine and distinguish reliable and only partly reliable data for a better interpretation of the actual distribution.