Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute Texas A&m university-Kingsville




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THAILAND CAT PROJECT

Final Report


Submitted to:

Cat Action Treasury



Prepared by:

Lon I. Grassman Jr.
Feline Research Program

Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute

Texas A&M University-Kingsville


Kingsville 78363

Texas

USA


e-mail: kslig01@tamuk.edu September 8, 2003
INTRODUCTION

The carnivore community of Southeast Asia remains largely unstudied and widely misunderstood. To date, most of the ecological information on carnivores in this region comes from anecdotal and captive accounts. Thailand supports a diverse carnivore community in central Southeast Asia, partly because it bridges the Indochinese and Sundaic zoogeographic subregions (Lekagul and McNeeley 1988). Of the 39 threatened and 21 endangered mammals in Thailand, 15 carnivores are listed as threatened and 8 as endangered (Humphrey and Bain 1990). Only 14 of the 36 carnivore species in Thailand have been scientifically studied. In contrast, the majority of carnivores in the United States are well represented in the scientific literature. The natural history and ecological requirements of this diverse and important Order are necessary to understand if effective conservation and management practices are to be implemented (Nowell and Jackson, 1996; Humphrey, 1996).

Nine wild cat species occur in Thailand. Of these, natural history research using radio telemetry exists only for the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), (Rabinowitz 1990; Grassman 2000, Austin 2002), leopard (Panthera pardus) (Rabinowitz 1989; Grassman 1999) and clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) (Austin 2000). The other 6 species, tiger (Pathera tigris), golden cat (Catopuma temmincki), fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata), jungle cat (Felis chaus), and flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps), prior this study, had not been studied in the wild. Clearly, there is a substantial deficiency in baseline ecological data for the felids of Thailand.

This report describes the findings of a field study on the ecology of 4 wild felid species conducted from February 1999, through March 2003 in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand. These species were: clouded leopard, Asiatic golden cat, marbled cat, and leopard cat.

The objectives of this study were to gather information on cat movements as pertain to home range size and intraspecific overlap, activity, daily movements, and to determine prey selection. Radio-telemetry, camera trapping, and fecal analysis were the primary vehicles used to gather these data. Secondary objectives included the collection and analysis of chemical immobilization data and the identification of ectoparasites collected from the study animals.

In this report I present the results of a > 4 -year field study of wild felids in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand. For brevity I present tables and figures only for clouded leopard, golden cat and marbled cat. I also have not included a discussion section, but do comment on the conservation of felids. Complete analysis of the ecology of species mentioned in this report will be made available in scientific publications during the next 6-12 months.
OBJECTIVES
Specific study objectives included:
1. To determine interspecific and intraspecific spatial patterns.

2. To assess activity patterns and temporal segregation.

3. To identify environmental and biological factors related to the observed temporal patterns.

4. To determine habitat use of the targeted species.



  1. To determine prey selection and diet of targeted species.


STUDY AREA

This study was conducted in northeastern Thailand in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (PKWS) (lat. 165’-1635’ N, long. 10120’-10155’ E) (Fig. 1). Established in 1972, PKWS encompassed 1,560 km2 of forests within the larger 4,550 km2 Western Issan Forest Complex (Kumsuk et al. 1999). It was the largest protected area within the northeastern region and 1 of only 3 protected areas in Thailand that did not contain a permanent human settlement (Kekule 1999).

PKWS was dominated by a mixed evergreen forested plateau at 800-1,100 m elevation. Topography consisted primarily of forested hills rising into mountains westward. The habitat was composed of dry and hill evergreen (75%), mixed deciduous (13%), dry dipterocarp (4%), bamboo (4%), grassland (3%), and forest plantation (1%) species (Anonymous 2000). Pine forest (Pinus keysia) was not uncommon between 800-900 m (Kumsuk et al. 1999).

The climate of PKWS was strongly influenced by the seasonal monsoons. There were two distinct seasons: April to October (wet season) and November to March (dry season) (Fig. 2). Mean annual precipitation was 140.7 cm, with 90.0% occurring during June through September (Kumsuk et al. 1999). Annual mean temperature was 21.2 ° C (range -3.0° to 37.0° C).

Vertebrate species presence lists indicated the occurrence of 413 birds, 109 mammals, 75 reptiles and 28 amphibians (Kumsuk et al. 1999). The Order Carnivora was particularly diverse, numbering 30 species. Some of the larger mammals present in PKWS included: elephant (Elephas maximus), gaur (Bos gaurus), sambar (Cervus unicolor), muntjak (Muntiacus muntjak), tiger (Panthera tigris), and dhole (Cuon alpinus). PKWS was thought to be the only location in Thailand where the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) may have occurred (K. Kreetinyutanont pers. com).

The study area was located in the north-central portion of the sanctuary. Encompassing approximately 200 km2, the area consisted of forested hills of 700-1,100 m elevation, 3 permanent reservoirs and a 2.0 km2 grassland area. The main park road, Thung Kha Mang Headquarters smaller trails, the Phrom River, and several permanent streams also were included within the area.

This site was chosen due to its central location, abundant carnivore sign and low number of visiting tourists in the area. In addition, steeper terrain to the west would have rendered the logistics of a radio-telemetry study difficult, whereas the lower elevations within the study site were more conducive for radio-telemetry.

MYANMAR

N


LAOS



VIETNAM

ChiangMai



Khon Kaen

Bangkok

CAMBODIA

MALAYSIA

Landsat TM 453 RGB 2-9-99

0

20 km

10








Study site







FIGURE 1. Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand.

FIGURE 2. Climate diagram for Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand 1998-2002 (temperature data for 2000 not available) (Courtesy A. Koenig and C. Borries, SUNY Stony Brook University and Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary).





METHODS

Trapping Procedure

Trapping for carnivores began September 1998 - November 2002, and lasted intermittently throughout this period. Five wooden log (250 x 90 x 100 cm) and 45 steel mesh (150 x 40 x 50 cm) box traps were used to capture and radio collar the animals used in this study. All traps consisted of a single door opening, which was tripped by a foot treadle. Trap timers (Stouffer Technologies, Inc., South Bend, IN, USA) were fixed to traps to record the time an animal was captured. Live domestic chickens and were used as bait.

Traps were set along the main road, trails, and riverbanks where carnivore sign occurred in the form of tracks, feces, or scrapes. Carnivore scents were periodically applied to increase the attractiveness of the set. Traps were visited daily to feed and water the bait chickens and check for captures. Traps were moved to a new location if no captures occurred after ca 2 months.

Captured carnivores were anesthetized with an intramuscular injection of Zoletil (tiletamine hydrochloride) at 10 mg/kg, or Calypso (ketamine hydrochloride) and Rompun (xyzaline hydrochloride) at 25 mg/kg and 2 mg/kg respectively. Sedated animals were sexed, aged, measured, weighed, ectoparasites collected, genetic material collected (hair and blood), radio-collared, and photographed. Subadults were fitted with additional space in the collar to allow for growth, but juveniles were not collared. All animals received a multi-vitamin injection of Biocatalin to counteract stress. Individuals were aged using tooth wear, eruption, body size, evidence of sexual development and previous births, and overall body condition. Four age classifications were assigned: juvenile, young adult, prime adult, and old adult.

Ectoparasites were stored in isopropyl alcohol and later identified. Blood samples were stored in 15 ml Falcon tubes at 2 ml blood/10 ml Longmire buffer solution. After data collection and collaring, leopard cats were returned to the trap for recovery, and were released when all reflexes and natural behavior returned (ca 1-2 hours).

Radio Telemetry


Adult animals were fitted with a 55 – 120 g, collar-mounted radio transmitter at 148-149 MHz (Advanced Telemetry Systems) to obtain information on movements and activity patterns. Each transmitter contained an activity switch activated by animal movements. An internal lithium battery provided a constant pulse signal for 8-16 months. A mortality signal following death enabled recovery of the carcass.

All tracking was done on the ground, with either a hand-held 3-element antenna, or a large, vehicle mounted null antenna. Hilltop stations were frequently used for establishing first bearings when a radio signal could not be received at lower elevations. A helicopter was used occasionally for determining the general location of difficult to locate animals, but not for triangulation. Signal range varied from 1-15 km depending upon the obstruction of the terrain such as dense forest and hills, and the elevation at which the signal was received.

Radio telemetry error was tested by locating 20 radio transmitters placed in known locations within the forest. Mean distance between triangulated locations and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) location was recorded (Blankenship 2000).

Spatial Patterns


Home range size was calculated using the total number of radio locations for each animal. Independence of locations was assumed by using only one location per 24-hour period. Location data was collected intermittently throughout this study. Animal locations were determined using the LOAS® (ESS Inc.) software program. Home ranges were analyzed using the 100% and 95% minimum convex polygon (MCP) method (Mohr, 1947) and the 95% fixed kernel (FK) method (Kie et al. 1994). These estimators were generated with the ARCVIEW® (ESRI Inc.) Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software program Animal Movement Extension (Hooge and Eichenlaub 2000). Core area was defined as 50% of total locations from the geometric center of the 100% MCP home range. Overlap comparisons were calculated using the 95% MCP estimator for annual ranges. Comparison of spatial patterns was made between animal sex and age, and the climatic seasons. Animal daily movements were calculated by measuring the linear distance between consecutive 24-hour radio locations (Rabinowitz 1989; Bailey 1993). Due to varying topography and a non-linear route the distances covered between consecutive days were actually greater than expressed (Bailey 1974).

Habitat use compared to availability was assessed with a chi-square goodness-of-fit test and Bonferroni Z-test 95% confidence interval (Byers et al. 1984). This method has been used to clarify habitat use by jaguars (Panthera onca) (Quigley 1987) and felids in Thailand (Austin 2002).


Activity Patterns and Temporal Segregation

To assess temporal activity patterns, activity levels for each radio collared study animal was recorded intermittently during 24-hour diels. In addition, activity data was gathered from direct observations, camera-trap results, and trap timers (van Schaik and Griffiths 1996; Scott Henke pers. com.). I assumed that 15 minutes satisfied independence of observation for the duration between each activity reading, but activity data was also collected during telemetry triangulations (ca ≤ 5 min/reading). Intraspecific activity comparisons were based upon sex, age, and climatic season.

Temporal segregation among study animals was examined under a GIS application overlay of radio-locations, habitat type, and climatic season. Animal locations were compared over time to assess temporal segregation patterns, and the environmental and biological factors potentially responsible for these patterns. Comparison of spatial and temporal patterns between leopard cat sex and climatic season was made with an independent t-test or Mann-Whitney U test (SPSS, v. 11.0). Significance for all statistical analysis was determined at alpha ≤ 0.05.



Food Habits

Examination of diet was accomplished by the analysis of scats. Scats in the field were identified and matched to the species by the presence of tracks in conjunction with a appropriate fecal diameters (Grassman 1997). Scats were collected along trails, roads, and occasionally from trapped carnivores. Scats were washed over 1 mm wire mesh with tap water, and hair, bone and other contents separated and dried. Hair samples were mounted on microscopic slides for examination of the cuticular and medullar characteristics to compare and match with known specimens in a reference collection (Baker 1991; Reynolds and Aebischer 1991). The number of each prey species found in a fecal sample was recorded based upon particular body parts or hairs consistent with that species, although this number represented a minimum estimate. Prey selectivity was compared to the wet and dry seasons and focused on frequency of occurrence (Emmons 1988; Rabinowitz 1989).



Camera Trapping
The study area was surveyed using 5 Trailmaster (Lenexa, KS, USA) and 20 Camtrakker (Winder, GA, USA) camera-traps (At the completion of the study only 8 camera traps were operable). Active and passive-infrared camera traps consisted of a small, self-winding camera and infrared sensor housed inside of a plastic box. The units triggered a photograph when an animal crossed in front of the infrared sensor. The units were placed on animal trail intersections where tiger and other cat sign occurred. The units were positioned approximately 40 cm above the ground so that both medium and large animals had the opportunity to be photographed (Lynam et al., 2001). Slide 400 ISO film (36 exposures) was used for greater range at night with the camera flash. The camera-traps were configured to operate continuously so that both nocturnal and diurnal animals were photographed. Each exposure had the date and time printed.

We used a grid system for camera placement where each 1 km2 grid of the study area contained 2 camera-traps. This ensured consistent coverage throughout the study area, however, due to trap failures most of the grids (> 80%) contained only 1 camera-trap. Camera-traps were operated for 1 month per grid, with periodic maintenance to change film and batteries as needed.



RESULTS
Clouded leopard

Between April 2000 and February 2003 two adult male and two adult female clouded leopards were captured, radio-collared and tracked for seven to seventeen months (Table 1). Clouded leopard female CF1 was pregnant when captured and judged to be late term (> 2 mo.). All four animals exhibited complete dentition and were in excellent physical condition upon release after sedation and collaring.

A total of 330 radio locations were recorded for these four animals to calculate home range size (HRS). The overall HRS (95% MCP) for male clouded leopards CM1 and CM2 were 45.1 km2 (n = 62) and 29.7 km2 (n = 70) respectively, while females CF1 and CF2 showed an overall size of 25.7 km2 (n = 133), and 22.9 km2 (n = 70) (Fig. 3, Table 2). All home ranges encompassed small core areas (= 6.0 km2, ± 2.1, range 3.6-8.8 km2). There were marginal shifts in HRS during the wet and dry seasons with the largest sizes occurring during the wet season (increase = 24.3%). All of the clouded leopard home ranges overlapped, with the greatest range of overlap occurring between males and females (= 30.9 %, ± 28.0, range 11.0-83.2) (Fig. 3, Table 3). However, intrasexual male overlap also was considerable (31.4% and 47.5%).

Radio collared clouded leopards were located on consecutive days 110 times, of which 1 showed no movement from the previous days location. The remaining 109 times when movement occurred a mean one-day movement of 1,932.0 m (± 1,497.0, range 122.8-7,724.4,) was recorded (Table 4). The mean daily movement of male CM1 was 2,795.3 km (n = 15, ± 1,927.0, range 206.0-7,724.0), and 1,655.4 km (n = 13, ± 1,013.0, range 123.0-3,067.0) for CM2. Females CF1 and CF2 showed a mean daily movement of 1,397.0 km (n = 55, ± 1,085.0, range 125.0-4,255.0), and 2,738.8 km (n = 27, ± 1,621.0, range 428.0-7,179.0) respectively.

All four clouded leopard home ranges encompassed three habitat types: closed forest (83.9% coverage), open forest/grassland (15.7% coverage), and abandoned orchard












FIGURE. 3. Clouded leopard annual home ranges (MCP 95) in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand.




FIGURE. 4. Asiatic golden cat and marbled cat annual home ranges (MCP 95) in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand.


(0.4% coverage), in addition to major streams and the main road. Female clouded leopards were located in habitat types in proportion to its occurrence (X2 = 2.1, df = 2,



p > 0.10), however male clouded leopards did not use habitat proportionally (X2 = 18.4, df = 3, p < 0.001). Male CM1 used closed forest proportionally more than open forest/grassland (X2 = 6.0, df = 1, p < 0.02; Bonferroni Z-test 95% confidence interval 0.945 < p1 < 1.000, expected: 0.881). Male CM2 was located in open forest/grassland habitat significantly more than was expected (X2 = 12.4, df = 2, p < 0.01; Bonferroni

Z-test 95% confidence interval 0.290 < p2 < 0.544, expected: 0.238). All recorded locations of CM2 in open forest/grasslands were at night, presumably for hunting hog deer and muntjak, which were observed to bed-down en masse after sunset.

Clouded leopards were active 1,421 (58.2 %) of 2,441 activity readings

(1 observation, 5 camera trap photographs, 2 trap timer readings, and 2,433 telemetry readings) (Fig. 6). There were no significant differences between male (56.7) and female (59.5) activity patterns (p > 0.05), nor was there significant seasonal variation between the wet (59.8%) and dry (56.7%) seasons (p > 0.05). The highest average monthly activity (70.9%) was recorded during October, while the lowest (50.0%) recorded during January. Diel activity patterns indicated that clouded leopards exhibited arrhythmic activity dominated by crepuscular and nocturnal tendencies with peak activity occurring between 08:01-12:00 h (= 70.5%) and 18:01-20:00 h (69.0%). Nocturnal peak activity was observed between 20:01-22:00 h and 00:01-02:00 h (= 66.0%).

Fig. 6.Clouded leopard (n = 4) and Asiatic golden cat (n = 2) cumulative diel activity patterns in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand (February 1999-February 2003).



Asiatic golden cat

Between February 1999 and November 2000 one adult male and one adult female Asiatic golden cat were captured, radio-collared and tracked for twelve to sixteen months (Table 1). The pelage of these two cats differed remarkably, demonstrating the polymorphism noted for this species (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). The female exhibited a high degree of melanism being very dark brown, while the male was light brown. The female was blinded in one eye from a previous trauma, but both cats appeared otherwise healthy.

A total of 154 radio locations were recorded for these two animals to calculate HRS (Table 2, Fig. 4). The overall HRS (95% MCP) of male GM1 and female GF1 were 47.7 km2 (n = 85), and 32.6 km2 (n = 69) respectively. Fifty three percent of male GM1’s home range encompassed 77.6% of female GF1’s range (Table 3). There was a slight shift in HRS during the wet and dry season for GM1 with an increase of 16.5% during the wet season. Female GF1’s HRS did not change appreciably between seasons.

Golden cats were located on consecutive days 55 times and traveled an average of 1,597.0 m (± 1,674.1, range 55.9-9,276.7) between these days (Table 4). The mean daily movement of GM1 was 2,321.0 m (n = 22, ± 2,278.4, range 638.8-9,276), while for female GF1 the mean was 1,114.7 m (n = 33, ± 850.1, range 55.9-3,006.7). Golden cats utilized home range habitat (closed forest 95%, open forest/grassland 5.0%) in proportion to its occurrence (X2 = 0.3, df = 2, p > 0.10).

Golden cats were active 569 (55.9 %) of 1,018 activity readings (1 observation, 2 camera trap photos, and 1,015 telemetry readings) (Fig. 6). Daily activity levels indicated that golden cats exhibited arrhythmic activity dominated by crepuscular and diurnal tendencies with peak activity occurring between 08:01-10:00 h and 16:01-18:00 h

(= 69.0%). The greatest concentration of inactive periods were scattered throughout late night (00:01-02:00 h and 04:01-06:00 h, = 40.5%) time periods. The highest average monthly activity (78.8%) was recorded during July, while the lowest (46.0%) recorded during March.

Diet

Analysis of 21 scats and 2 observations indicated that clouded leopards and golden cats consumed a minimum of nine species (Table 5). The diverse prey base consisted of terrestrial and arboreal mammals and was dominated by murids (39.1% frequency of occurrence). Small mammals (≤ 2.5 kg) constituted 78.2% frequency of occurrence. No scats were attributed to marbled cats.
Marbled cat

Between May 2001 and June 2001 one old adult female marbled cat was captured, radio-collared and tracked for one month (Table 1). This cat, trapped in a mixed hill evergreen/bamboo forest, appeared healthy but was underweight. Her nipples revealed no evidence of previous suckling.

A total of 23 radio locations resulted in an overall HRS (95% MCP) of 5.3 km2 (n = 23) (Table 2, Fig. 4). This cat expressed a mean one-day movement of 477.0 m (n = 18, ± 180.3, range 200.0-726.7) (Table 4), and was located in hill evergreen habitat in proportion to its availability (X2 = 0.5, df = 1, p > 0.10). After capture this cat moved consistently westwards towards mountainous terrain until the radio signal could not be received. Subsequent helicopter radio tracking failed to locate this cat again.

The marbled cat was active 84 (45.9%) of 183 activity readings (2 observations, and 181 telemetry readings). Data were insufficient to chart diel patterns, but a general trend of increases in activity during nocturnal and crepuscular time periods was observed.

Leopard cat

Between June 1999 and February 2003 eighteen adult male and eight adult female leopard cats were captured, radio-collared and tracked for one to twenty months. A total




of 1,739 radio locations were recorded for 23 animals to calculate HRS. The average overall HRS (95% MCP) for leopard cat males (n = 15) was 11.9 km2, (n = 1,211 locations, ± 7.2, range 2.2-28.9 km2), while female home ranges (n = 8) averaged 13.2 km2 (n = 528 locations, ± 10.4, range 4.4-37.1). Male core areas (50% MCP) averaged 2.2 km2 (± 1.1, range 0.3-3.9), while females ranged within an average core area of 1.8 km2 (± 0.8, range 0.7-2.7). Male and female HRS and core areas were not significantly different (p > 0.5). One female showed a shift in her initial home range of 7.9 km2 (n = 14) to a second home range of 8.5 km2 (n = 57). All other cats occupied single home ranges throughout the course of this study.

Seasonal HRS increases were observed during the wet and dry season for 18 of 23 leopard cats. Increases in HRS during the wet season averaged 63.7% (n = 8, ± 53.4), while wet season increases averaged 79.7% (n = 10, ± 58.3). These differences were not statistically significant (p > 0.5).

Home range overlap utilizing the 95% MCP occurred between 136 leopard cat pairs. Male-male overlap averaged 41.3% of the paired home range area (n = 48 pairs,

± 32.2, range 0.3-100%). Female-female overlap averaged 42.4% (n = 38, ± 26.2, range 0.8-94.0%). Intersexual overlap averaged 43.4% (n = 69, ± 29.1, range 0.7-99.8%). Intra- and intersexual overlap were not significantly different (p > 0.5).

Radio collared leopard cats were located on consecutive days 631 times, of which 2 showed no movement from the previous days location. The remaining 629 times when movement occurred a mean one-day movement of 1,298.8 m (± 981.7, range: 35.3-8,653.2 m) was recorded. The mean daily movement of male leopard cats was 1,369.9 m (n = 451, ± 1,025.6, range 70.2-8,653.2), while female leopard cats expressed a mean daily movement of 1,118.8 m (n = 178, ± 836.4, range 35.3-4,361.3).

Leopard cats utilized home range habitat relatively uniformly throughout the entire area (X2 = 31.8, df = 21, p > 0.05). However, two male cats did not use habitat in proportion to its occurrence. LM2 was located in closed forest habitat more than expected (X2 = 4.3, df = 1, p < 0.05, Bonferroni Z-test 95% confidence interval: 0.883 < p1 < 0.993, expected use: 0.865). LM14 used open forest/grassland habitat proportionately more than expected (X2 = 6.0, df = 1, p < 0.05, Bonferroni Z-test 95% confidence interval: 0.255 < p2 < 0.523, expected use: 0.192).

Leopard cats were active 5,960 (52.3%) of 11,393 activity readings (25 trap timer readings, 1 camera trap reading, 18 observations, 11,349 telemetry readings). Male and female annual activity patterns were similar (52.8 and 51.0%). Daily activity levels indicated that leopard cats exhibited arrhythmic activity dominated by crepuscular and nocturnal tendencies with peak activity occurring between 06:01-08:00 h and 20:01-23:00 h (= 60.2%). The highest average monthly activity (59.0%) was recorded during September, while the lowest (45.9%) recorded during February.



Mortality

Four leopard cat deaths were confirmed during this study. All four deaths occurred during a three-month span from March 2002 through June 2002.

LF6: This 2.0 kg prime adult female was tracked for 3 months prior to her death. No carcass was recovered, but her collar smelled strongly of carrion, indicating that decomposition of an intact body likely occurred. Death may have been due to sickness, injury or starvation.

LF7: This 2.6 old adult female was tracked for 2.5 months prior to her death. At her capture her canine teeth were well worn and her ears were scarred and tattered, but her weight and other physical condition indicated a healthy animal. Upon recovery of her collar there was no smell of carrion and the collar had several large nicks and crush marks likely caused by a large predator (i.e. dhole, bear or big cat).

LM16: This 3.3 kg prime adult male was tracked for 5 months prior to his death. This cat was recaptured 1.5 months prior to his death and was observed to have a heavy ectoparasite load and his weight was down 2.9 kg. Recovery of his carcass revealed scattered bones and a strong smell of carrion on the collar.

LM18: This 2.5 kg prime adult male was tracked for 2.5 months prior to his death. This cat was trapped ca 3.0 km from the headquarters and his home range included the sanctuary housing for forest rangers. This cat shortly became a problem livestock raider killing free ranging domestic chickens and ducks. At the request of the sanctuary staff I trapped this cat and translocated him ca 15 km away in the central portion of the sanctuary. Five weeks later his collar was recovered near the edge of a large river near the release site.


Diet

A total of 53 leopard cat feces revealed that leopard cats utilized at least 7 prey species. Murids, identified only to the generic level, dominated frequency of occurrence (84.9%). Rattus spp. was the most common prey item found in leopard cat diet (54.7%), followed by Mus spp. (30.1%). Other prey items included the Indochinese ground squirrel Menetes berdmorei (3.7%), lesser mouse deer Tragulus javanicus (3.7%), unidentified bird (3.7%), unidentified mammal (13.2%), and insects (20.7%).

CAMERA TRAPPING


A total of 1,224 trap nights yielded 389 photographs of 33 wildlife species (Table 6). Carnivores were represented by 12 species, including 4 cats: tiger, clouded leopard, Asiatic golden cat, and leopard cat. The study goal of >5,000 trap nights was not met due to technical difficulties (i.e. rain and elephant damage) decimating the number of units from >20 to <10. Camera trapping data provided data on cat activity patterns, and habitat use, but data were insufficient to incorporate capture-recapture analysis. Only one resident tiger was photo trapped repeatedly on 3 occassions (Fig 5).

TABLE 6. Camera trapping results from PKWS (n = 1,224 trap nights).



Species Scientific name No. of photographs

Asiatic black bear

Ursus thibetanus

7

Bamboo rat

Rhizomys spp.

1

Muntjak

Muntiacus muntjak

83

Bat

Chiroptera

2

Binturong

Arctictis binturong

3

Unknown bird




1

Blue magpie

Urocissa erythrorhyncha

2

Bush-tailed porcupine

Atherurus macrourus

3

Chinese crested heron

Ardeola bacchus

1

Clouded leopard

Neofelis nebulosa

2

Common palm civet

Paradoxurus hermaphroditus

4

Dhole

Cuon alpinus

11

Elephant

Elephas maximus

41

Gaur

Bos gaurus

35

Asiatic golden cat

Catopuma temmincki

2

Ground cucko

Carpococcyx renauldi

1

Unknown raptor




1

Hog badger

Arctonyx collaris

3

Jungle fowl

Gallus gallus

17

Large Indian civet

Viverra zibetha

18

Leopard cat

Prionailurus bengalensis

4

Tiger

Panthera tigris

3

Pig-tailed macaque

Macaca nemistrinaq

8

Malayan pangolin

Manis javanica

1

Malayan porcupine

Hystrix brachyura

7

Malayan sun bear

Helarctos malayanus

3

Lesser mouse deer

Tragulus javanicus

4

Rat

Rattus spp.

4

Sambar

Cervus unicolor

36

Siamese fireback pheasant

Lophura diardi

35

Water monitor

Varanus salvator

5

Wild pig

Suc scrofa

40

Yellow-throated marten

Martes flavigula

1

Fig. 5.-Tiger camera trapped in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary 2002 (note similar stripe


pattern indicating the same individual). This individual was camera trapped by A.
Lynam (upper right) several years previously).

Conservation


Wildlife conservation is invariably based around habitat and species protection (Seidensticker et al. 1980; Nowell and Jackson 1996; Duckworth et al. 1999; Sunquist et al. 1999), and by maintaining ecological processes (Balmford et al. 1998; Weddell 2002). The conservation of felids in Phu Khieo is no different. The main threats affecting the future of carnivore populations in Phu Khieo are hunting of the carnivores and their prey species, and habitat encroachment.

Hunting in Phu Khieo appeared to follow three forms: (1) Local consumptive: Where individuals or small groups of local villagers opportunistically shot easily observed diurnal game (i.e. birds, squirrels and monkeys) for consumption. This type of hunting occurred generally within the buffer zone, but also within the interior of the sanctuary. These hunters were usually in the forest for short periods. (2) Local profit: Where local hunters killed or captured live wildlife for sale. These hunters could be in the forest for several days. (3) International profit: Where large groups of foreign nationals (usually Cambodian) collected aloewood (Aquilaria crassna) for sale outside of Thailand. These people could be in the forest for one week or more. Hunters from all three of these groups also killed game for subsistence while in the forest.

Local consumptive and local profit hunting has always occurred in Phu Khieo since data were first recorded for the region (Seidenfaden 1920). However, aloewood collecting is a relatively new threat that increased every year during the length of this study (RFD unpublished data). Processed aloewood aromatic oil can eventually reach a price of $5,000-10,000 /kg on the market (Barden et al. 2000) and is very popular among the upper class Asia and the Middle East. Phu Khieo forest rangers operated consistent patrols within the forest and often were successful capturing offenders. However, it was not known how many offenders escaped for every capture. When non-Thai offenders were captured they were merely sent back to their country, thus avoiding imprisonment. It is clear that for Phu Khieo to maintain the status quo in wildlife conservation, ranger patrol intensity must at the very least remain at current levels, but should be increased to be more effective. This would require more funds from the RFD, an office that historically suffers from fiscal mismanagement (Rabinowitz 1991; Young 2001; L. Grassman personal observations).

Wildlife conservation education in Thailand has been ongoing for over two decades with programs by World Wildlife Fund Thailand, Wildlife Fund Thailand and Wildlife Conservation Society. The Huai Khum Education Centre outside of the Phu Khieo buffer zone has educated school children and the general public on conservation issues since 1981 (C. Molson personal communication). In addition, a recent European Union supported project on sustainable use of the buffer zone of Phu Khieo was initiated in 2001 to mitigate the effects of deforestation and unchecked hunting along the sanctuary periphery. These programs must continue into the foreseeable future to educate and offer alternatives for villagers surrounding Phu Khieo.

Since the 1960’s forest cover in Thailand has decreased from 53% to 22%, with just 12% remaining in the northeast (Elliott 2001). Throughout northeast Thailand most forested land has been converted into agriculture. The Western Issan Forest Complex, Khao Yai National Park and Pang Sida National Park are the only large remaining forested blocks remaining in the region. These areas represent the last habitat for clouded leopard and other rare felids in the northeast. While a preservationist policy of non-use, rendering Phu Khieo inviolate to human activities would clearly benefit wildlife populations (Rabinowitz 1991; Weddell 2002), it does not represent a realistic, working management paradigm. Shutting villagers out of the forest for the reason of preserving a wild place simply for the intrinsic value, while philosophically agreeable to the Western mindset, will likely only provoke contempt among locals. Villagers must be taught and encouraged to use a sustainable-use ethic in certain rigidly controlled areas within the buffer zone for the long-term conservation of Phu Khieo. Only if this management is shown to be unsuccessful should a preservationist policy be considered.


This project yielded original natural history information on clouded leopard, marbled cat and Asiatic golden cat, and added to our knowledge of leopard cat ecology. To this end it was necessary to capture, radio collar and track these felids over a long period, and only after an exhaustive live trapping effort. A study of shorter duration with fewer resources would likely have failed to uncover the data gathered from this study. Future studies throughout the world may follow a similar position where felid densities are low (either naturally or artificially) and only a thorough and time-consuming effort will ultimately be successful. It is thus essential that to gain the knowledge conservationists need to conserve wild felids long-term, comprehensive studies must be encouraged and supported. Time is short for many wild cats and the time for action is now.

ADDENDUM

This project concluded March, 2003. Copies of subsequent publications, including the conservation manual will be forwarded to the Cat Action Treasury upon completion. I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank the CAT and the Bosack and Kruger Foundation for their support.



Lon I. Grassman Jr.

Kingsville, Texas

September 8, 2003



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