International Society For Endangered Cats

A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World

News From The Field: Does The Fishing Cat Inhabit Laos?

Wild cats can’t be saved without knowing what they need to survive in their natural habitat. What kind of habitat do they use? What are their activity patterns & social organizations? Without data collected by field biologists, conservation programs can’t be put in place. To further our educational efforts, we are posting regular Monday summaries of a paper written by wild cat field biologists, which briefly outlines their findings.

No fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus record from Laos is supported by an actual specimen or photograph. Historical reports derive only from works replete with major errors. Recent reports based only on tracks and/or villagers’ reports cannot be assessed for reliability. Of three recent field sightings, one was probably a leopard cat P. bengalensis, one was seen too poorly for identification, but one was well seen and characteristics fit the fishing cat. It was in a fast river running through degraded hill evergreen forest.

This habitat may be atypical for the species and the site may be unusually far inland: a critical review of south-east Asian distribution is needed. Typical 1990s-2000s mammal surveys in Laos were probably unsuited to detecting fishing cats. Their status in Laos will remain unclear pending a targeted survey. Further claims of this cat in Laos – indeed inland south-east Asia – require documentation of evidence for identification.

J.W Duckworth, Tony Stones, Rob Tizard, Sean Watson, James Wolstencroft

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group Cat News newsletter

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