, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 1263-1280

The Jungle Cat Felis chaus in Indochina: a threatened population of a widespread and adaptable species

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Abstract

The Jungle Cat Felis chaus is widespread in India and neighbouring countries but is known by only one historical specimen from Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam (Indochina), widely published as from Vietnam, but in fact from Cambodia. All but two of the recent Indochinese records come from extensive natural lowland habitat dominated by deciduous dipterocarp forest in northeast Cambodia. The species probably occurred more widely in Indochina, largely through additional use of secondary habitats, where hunting pressure is now very heavy. Suggestions of decline in Indochina are corroborated by more conclusive evidence from Thailand. In Indochina, all other small and medium-sized cats are recorded much more frequently than Jungle Cat: closed evergreen forest supports source populations of them, but there is no evidence that Jungle Cat uses extensively such forest. The open forests of northern and eastern Cambodia are highly significant for conserving threatened biodiversity, notably large waterbirds, vultures and ungulates, groups where species formerly widespread across Indochina have contracted in range and declined steeply. These taxa were better collected than small cats and it seems plausible that Jungle Cat showed a similar change. Jungle Cat conservation in Indochina needs extensive habitat retention with intensive anti-poaching activities, because suitable habitat is easily accessible to hunters. The habitat adaptability shown elsewhere by Jungle Cat could allow a much healthier regional conservation status if hunting (including trapping) can be greatly reduced in scrub and agricultural habitats, but changing culturally ingrained hunting practices will take a long time.