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Leopard Cat - Prionailurus bengalensis

By: C.M.Shorter

The Leopard Cat is one the most common of the smaller of the Wild Cats and shares territory with our Siberian Tiger ranging through the Ussuri region of Southeastern Siberia on throughout southeastern Asia and into India where the mighty Bengal Tiger roams. Known to inhabit over 21 countries, the Leopard Cat is widely distributed through this area extending as far as Indonesia. Preferred territory is forests and jungles, found both in the low country and hilly, even mountainous areas of these ranges.
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This medium size cat has a beautiful coat and markings with fur coloring from a light almost fawn color to red, grey and brown. Markings are black rosettes covering both sides of the body, elongated on the sides, with four prominent facial stripes. The center two often join into one stripe and extends down the back. It is unfortunate that these same markings put this cat at great risk making them one of the most sought out modern day Wild Cat for the fur trade.
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They have been persecuted in untold numbers and harvested for their fur, much like the baby Harp Seal for their pelts. Although current day regulatory intervention is in place with no new export permits allotted since 1993, it is estimated in the last decade between 80,000 to 150,000 skins alone were exported to Russia. Japan is the major consumer of these pelts importing as many as 50,000 skins annually. China recently asked that their quota be increased by 500% and they view these cats as a natural revenue resource. The Leopard Cat is also consumed as a food item in these areas. Domestic breeders looking to profit have also polluted the Leopard Cat gene pool purchasing them from unscrupulous dealers and crossing this species with domestic cats to establish new breeds sold at "bengal cats".

Well one good thing - the Leopard Cat has adapted to areas with human encroachment and disturbance of their territories. Often found near villages they den in tree hollows, small caves, under shelter of fallen branches on the ground and high on rock ledges and overhangs. Mainly nocturnal they are excellent swimmers like our Fishing Cat and Flat Headed Cats. Both arboreal and terrestrial, hunting in trees and on the ground respectively, prey consists of hares, rodents, small deer, birds, reptiles, snakes and fish.

Widely held in Asian and European zoos, less than 30 Leopard Cats are in breeding programs worldwide. A large number of Leopard Cats are owned by private individuals although there is no actual captive count. Lacking field studies, present day wild population count is unknown. We do know that population is declining placing the Leopard Cat on CITES Appendix II, with one subspecies Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis already placed on CITES Appendix I.

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Scientific Name: Prionailurus bengalensis
Common Name(s): Leopard Cat
Range: Southeast Asia, India, Indonesia. Known in over 21 countries from Manchuria to Sumatra, Java, and into the Philippines.
Average Weight: 2.5 - 7kg (5.5 - 15 lbs)
Length: 89 - 96cm (35 - 38")
Diet: Carnivorous. Hares, rodents, small deer, birds, reptiles, snakes and fish.
Gestation Period: 66 - 70 Days
Cub Maturity: 6 - 8 Months
Cubs Per Litter: 1 - 4 Kittens
Lifespan: 10 -12 Years. Captive individuals recorded lifespan up to 18 years.
Predators: Man. Threats: Extremely exploited for the fur trade.
Social Structure: Solitary
Territory Size: 30 - 120 (17 - 68 miles)
Conservation Status: Placed on CITES Appendix II, Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis placed on CITES Appendix I.

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