Five Cats

Map of Sumatra by Neil Franklin of the Sumatran Tiger Conservation Program (Flickr).

Bukit Tigapuluh is a 354,000 acre national park located on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, mostly in the Province of Riau with about 81,500 acres in the Province of Jambi. It is the home for such endangered species as the Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus) and the Sumatran Elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus), and the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) and Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis). The smallest tiger subspecies, the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), lives only on Sumatra. Listed by the IUCN as critically endangerd, it has no subpopulation larger than 50 individuals, and fewere than 300 individuals in total remain. Numerous threatened species of bird are also found there.

Like many third world wildlife sanctuaries, the park is under constant threat. Here the chief reasons for deforestation are logging (principally by Asia Pulp & Paper) and encroachment by palm oil plantations. Two-thirds of the park has been logged. Like many third world countries, Indonesia devotes insufficient resources to prevent destruction of its wildlife resources.

The park is also the home of two minority indigenous tribes, the Talang Mamak and Orang Rimba, who are also dependent on the natural resources of the forest.

On Wednesday WWF-Indonesia again issued a plea to the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry for more strict scrutiny of industrial activity in and around the park. This plea was accompanied by photographs of five species of felids taken by its camera trapping program during a systematic three-month sampling in the corridor to the park. The cats were photographed in an unprotected forest corridor between the Bukit Tigapuluh forest landscape and the Rimbang Baling Wildlife sanctuary in Riau Province. This area, says WWF-Indonesia, is especially threatened by encroachment and forest clearance for industrial plantations.

As for the cats, Karmila Parakkasi, coordinator of the WWF-Indonesia Tiger Research Team says:

Four of these species are protected by Indonesian Government regulations and are listed as threatened by extinction on the IUCN Red List. This underscores the rich biodiversity of the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape and the forest corridors that connect to it. These amazing cat photos also remind us of how much we could lose as more of these fragile forests are lost to logging, plantations and illegal encroachment.

But of course a picture is worth a thousand words.

The Sunda Clouded Leopard.

Distinct from the clouded leopard of mainland Asia (Neofelis nebulosa), the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi) lives only in Borneo and Sumatra. In Borneo they live in lowland rainforests; in Sumatra in montane areas. Their two inch long canines are as large as any felid, but because they are smaller, Sunda clouded leopards have the largest canines proportionate to their skull size of any extant cat. The animals evidently used a now submerged land bridge to reach Sumatra, where they diverged from the mainland clouded leopards about 1.4 Ma in the mid-Pleistocene.

The clouded leopard is strongly arboreal, so logging and deforestration are grave treats.

Neofelis diardi. The long tail is useful for balance in trees.

The Leopard Cat.

From a conservation point of view, the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) is of the least concern of these five cats. From northern China and Korea to the central Asia countries, the leopard cat is the most widely distributed small Asian cat.  They have long legs and webbed toes, but otherwise are much like a domestic cat. Their strikingly striped faces are quite distinctive.

Prionailurus bengalensis.

The Asian Golden Cat.

Considered near threatened, the Asian golden cat (Catopuma temmincki) ranges from Nepal and India to China to Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Its coat is a solid single color, but that color could be anything from red to golden brown, dark brown to pale cinnamon, gray to black. Some in China show a recessive characteristic, spotted fur, making them look like large leopard cats. They hunt birds, large rodents and reptiles, and small ungulates.

Catopuma temmincki.

Marbled Cat.

The marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) belongs to the clade which contains the Asian golden cat, which diverged from other felids 9.4 Ma in the latter part of the Miocene. About the size of a domestic cat, it has proportionally larger feet, tail and canines. Its markings are much like the larger clouded leopards. It is found from Nepal through southern China into Southeast Asia and Indonesia. It is listed by the IUCN as vulnerable.

Pardofelis marmorat.

The Sumatran Tiger.

Sumatran tigers became genetically distinct from the mainland subspecies at the end of the Pleistocene or beginning of the Holocene (12,000-6,000 years ago). It is smaller than the mainland subspecies (males are about 8 feet long) and its stripes are noticeably thinner. It is, however, the apex predator of Sumatra, feeding on anything from large ungulates to small rodents. The are both fast runners and fast swimmers. But their numbers are so low that their future seems bleak.

Panthera tigris sumatrae.

Aditya Bayunanda, WWF-Indonesia’s Coordinator for the Global Forest Trade Network Programme, says:

“The abundant evidence of these five wild cat species suggests that the concession licenses of companies operating in these areas, such as Barito Pacific, should be reviewed and adjusted according to Indonesian Ministry regulations, which state that concession areas with the presence of endangered species should be protected by the concessionaire. WWF-Indonesia has also called on protection for areas bordering Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, either by expanding the park or managing it under the current forest ecosystem restoration scheme.”

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