Panthera's growing Small Cats Program strategizes to operate at key sites on every continent where small cat species occur to assess their unique needs and threats.
Kerinci Seblat National Park, located in West-Central Sumatra, Indonesia is one of the largest protected areas in Asia and is considered a stronghold for Sunda clouded leopards, Asian golden cats, and marbled cats. Panthera is currently working with Fauna & Flora International’s Indonesia Program and Kerinci Seblat National Park’s management authority to implement a long-term monitoring program for these three species. With research led by Dr. Wai-Ming Wong, we’re working to understand their population trends and mitigate the threats they face from agricultural expansion, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict.
Asian golden cat (Pardofelis Temminckii): Vulnerable
Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata): Vulnerable
Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi): Vulnerable
A number of landscapes in Malaysian Borneo are considered the last strongholds for threatened small cats such as the flat-headed cat, Sunda clouded leopard, marbled cat, and endemic bay cat. However, habitat loss and incessant poaching are risking the future of these cats and there’s very little science on how they respond to extreme habitat modification. This is especially worrying for the flat-headed cat, as recent surveys haven't found them in areas where they were previously recorded. The Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, where we partner with HUTAN, and Deramakot Forest Reserve, where we partner with the Leibinz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, are the only places where the four wild cat species have been regularly recorded, indicating they are high-value conservation areas. Panthera’s work, led by Dr. Wai-Ming Wong, is identifying the core zones for these small cat species, as well as learning how they adapt and respond to habitat modification, so we can prioritize protection efforts.
Sand cats were down-listed from near threatened to least concern following a recent IUCN Red List assessment. However, IUCN acknowledged that there’s very limited ecological research on this species, including their distribution and the population’s response to threats. The preliminary research in the Moroccan Sahara demonstrated that sand cats are highly mobile and can spend a lot of time traversing great distances, depending on the condition of their habitat. It’s likely that their exceptional movement patterns and space requirements put sand cats in situations where they have negative contact with humans and domestic carnivores.
Together with local collaborators and partners from Rabat Zoo and the High Commission for Water, Forests and the Fight against Desertification, Panthera’s sand cat specialist, Mr. Grégory Breton, and Panthera’s research associate, Dr. Alexander Sliwa, are continuing a long-term telemetry study and data collection to understand sand cat lifespans, population densities, and social systems. This research will also document and prevent negative impacts on sand cats from human development in their range while helping to construct a more meaningful species threat assessment. The ultimate goal of the project here is to create tailored conservation measures before sand cats disappear from the fragile desert ecosystem.
Sand cat (Felis margarita): Least Concern
The black-footed cat is Africa’s smallest wild cat species and is considered the most vulnerable of the sub-Saharan small cat species by the IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group. Despite this, the black-footed cat has received very little attention from the conservation community. Critical information such as the species’ current distribution and the existence of distinct sub-species is still unknown.
Panthera’s Research Associate, Dr. Alexander Sliwa, currently leads the longest-running black-footed cat research study. Working primarily in the Benfontein Nature Reserve, to date Dr. Sliwa has captured 72 individual cats over 140 times and has tracked them via telemetry for a number of years to understand their basic ecology and behavior. This research will also help identify diseases capable of affecting populations. Furthermore, surveys are conducted on two game and sheep farms to compare black-footed cats’ ecology and survival on farms with judicious management practices.
These black-footed cat surveys were indispensable for informing the species’ IUCN Red List Assessment in 2016, which ensured the species remained classified as “Vulnerable” internationally, and was increased to the same designation, nationally, on the South African Redlist assessment in 2015.
The bobcat is a cryptic middle-sized carnivore widespread in the USA, and a species few people have studied or monitored in any detail. Bobcats are widely exploited for their pelts, which are sourced to international markets for spotted furs. Volatile fur markets can lead to unpredictable harvesting of bobcats, making management of the species difficult and at times impossible.
Panthera is currently investigating puma-bobcat coexistence on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, as well as their economic benefits to people. We partner on this simultaneous research on bobcats and pumas with the indigenous Lower Elwha-Klamath Tribe to assess the competition and coexistence of the two cat species. Panthera directors Dr. Wai-Ming Wong and Dr. Mark Elbroch collaborate with researcher Cameron Macias of the Lower Elwha-Klamath. The project also hopes to expand research on the economic benefits of maintaining these species on tree farms, where they are currently heavily persecuted. By documenting their kill rates on mountain beavers, elk, and deer, who routinely cause tree damage, we can model the economic benefits of each bobcat and puma for the local tree farmers and encourage coexistence.