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Asian Golden Cat
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Catopuma[2]
Species: C. temminckii
Binomial name
Catopuma temminckii
(Vigors & Horsfield, 1827)

The Asian Golden Cat (Catopuma temminckii), also called the Asiatic Golden Cat and Temminck's Golden Cat, is a medium-sized wild cat of Southeastern Asia. In captivity this species can live up to 20 years, but its average lifespan in the wild is likely far shorter. While the fur is mostly foxy red or golden brown, black or grey color variants are also found. Normally, the coat is plain, save for some spots on the underside, and sometimes very faint spotting on the rest of the coat. However, one of the Chinese subspecies has a color variant with leopard-like spots, which causes the cat to resemble a Leopard Cat. This spotted fur is a recessive characteristic.

The Asian Golden Cat inhabits the forests of Southeastern Asia. Habitats range from tropical rainforest to temperate broadleaf and mixed forests up to an altitude of 2,517 metres (8,258 ft). [3] Little is known about this enigmatic felid in the wild, due to the lack of research programs relating to this species. It is threatened by poaching and habitat destruction, and its overall population is classified as near threatened by the IUCN. There are perhaps two dozen of these cats in captivity.

The Asian Golden Cat's taxonomic name is derived from the Dutch zoologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck, who first described the species. This cat is the subject of myths and legends of the local people.

Contents

Taxonomy

The Asian Golden Cat bears a great resemblance to the African Golden Cat, but it is unlikely that they are closely related because the forests of Africa and Asia have not been connected in over 20 million years. Their similarity is more an example of convergent evolution.

The Asian Golden Cat is similar to the Bay Cat of Borneo in both appearance and behavior. Genetic studies revealed that the two species are very closely related. The Asian Golden Cat is found in Sumatra and Malaysia, which only separated from Borneo about 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. These observations led to the assumption that the Bay Cat is an insular subspecies of the Asian Golden Cat.

Genetic analysis has shown that the Asian Golden Cat, along with the Bay Cat and the Marbled Cat, diverged from the other felids about 9.4 million years ago, and that the Asian Golden Cat and Bay Cat differed as long as four million years ago, suggesting that the Bay Cat was a different species long before the isolation of Borneo. Because of the evident close relationship with the Marbled Cat, it has recently been suggested that all three species should be grouped in the genus Pardofelis. [4]

Three subspecies have been recognized[5]:

  • Catopuma temminckii temminckii found in the Himalayas, Southeast Asian mainland and Sumatra
  • Catopuma temminckii dominicanorum found in southeast China
  • Catopuma temminckii tristis found in southwest China

These Latin trinomials do not yet reflect above-mentioned recent genetic studies.

Description

The Asian Golden Cat has a cat-like appearance, but is more similar to a small leopard in size and behavior. Its height is 56 cm (22 in) at the shoulder, and the length from nose to tail is 75 to 105 cm (30 to 41 in). The weight ranges from 9 to 16 kg (20 to 35 lb), which is about two or three times the size of a domesticated cat. The long and flexible tail is about 50 cm (20 in) long.

The coat is usually foxy red or golden brown, with some gray and even black individuals. The coat is usually plain with some black markings, although individuals with faint spots are not uncommon. Golden cats with leopard-like spots have been found in China, resembling a large leopard cat. Transitional forms among the different colorations also exist.

Distribution and Habitat

The Asian Golden Cat lives throughout Southeast Asia, ranging from Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India and Bangladesh to Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Southern China to Malaysia and Sumatra. It prefers forest habitats interspersed with rocky areas, and is found in deciduous, subtropical evergreen, and tropical rainforests. The Asian Golden Cat is sometimes found in more open terrain. It ranges from the lowlands to altitudes of up to 3000 meters in the Himalayas.

In May 2009 a camera trap survey yielded the first photographic record of a melanistic Asian Golden Cat in Makalu Barun National Park, Nepal [3].

Behavior

Asian Golden Cat.

Not much is known about this rather elusive predator, and most of what is known about it has been learned in captivity. Its vocalizations include hissing, spitting, meowing, purring, growling, and gurgling. Other methods of communication observed in captive Asian Golden Cats include scent marking, urine spraying, raking trees and logs with claws, and rubbing of the head against various objects, much like a domestic cat.

Female Asian Golden cats are sexually mature between 18 and 24 months, while males mature at 24 months. Females come into estrus every 4 months, at which times they leave markings and seek contact with the male by adopting receptive postures. During intercourse, the male will seize the skin of the neck of the female with its teeth. After a gestation period of 78 to 80 days, a litter of 1 to 3 kittens are born in a sheltered place.

The Asian Golden Cat is a territorial and solitary species. Previous observations suggested that it is primarily nocturnal, but a field study on two radio-collared specimens revealed arrhythmic activity patterns dominated by crepuscular and diurnal activity peaks, with much less activity late at night. The male's territory was 47.7 km2 in size and increased more than 15% during the rainy season. The female's territory was 32.6 km2 in size. Both cats traveled between only 55 m to more than 9 km in a day and were more active in July than in March. [6]

The Asian Golden Cat prefers to be on the ground, although it can climb trees when necessary. It hunts small ungulates such as muntjacs and young sambar deer, as well as birds, large rodents and reptiles. It is capable of bringing down prey much larger than itself, such as a buffalo calf.

Conservation

The Asian Golden Cat is found in some of the fastest developing countries in the world, where destruction of habitat is a constant threat, along with the decline of prey. This felid is poached for its fur and bones; latter are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a substitute for tiger bone. Since it attacks livestock it comes in conflict with farmers, who poison or shoot it on sight.

The Asian Golden Cat was previously regarded as vulnerable, but surveys have found that this cat is more common than sympatric small cats, suggesting that it is more numerous than previously believed. [7] However, surveys in other countries revealed fewer numbers. [8][9][10] It is protected in all of its range except Bhutan, where it is protected only within the boundaries of protected areas. [11]

The population size of the Asian Golden Cat is unknown and difficult to estimate. It was regarded as abundant in many countries until the later part of the last century, where poaching shifted away from tigers and leopards to this species. In China it is reported to be the next rarest cat apart from tigers and leopards.

There are a few dozen Asian Golden Cats in captivity, and they do not breed well. It is found in a few zoos in Asia, Europe, and Australia. The only specimens held in North America are old and genetically impoverished individuals.

Mythology

In some regions of Thailand, the Asian Golden Cat is called Seua fai ("fire tiger"). According to a regional legend, the burning of an Asian Golden Cat's fur drives tigers away. Eating the flesh is believed to have the same effect. The Karen people believe that simply carrying a single hair of the cat will be sufficient. Many indigenous people believe this cat to be fierce, but in captivity it has been known to be very docile and tranquil.

References

  1. ^ Hearn, A., Sanderson, J., Ross, J., Wilting, A., Sunarto, S., Ahmed Khan, J. & Mukherjee, S. (2008). Pardofelis temminckii. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 18 January 2009. Database entry includes justification for why this species is near threatened
  2. ^ http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3/browse.asp?id=14000004
  3. ^ a b Ghimirey, Y., Pal, P. (2009) First camera trap image of Asiatic golden cat in Nepal. Cat News 51: 17 download pdf
  4. ^ Johnson, W. E., Eizirik, E., Pecon-Slattery, J., Murphy, W. J., Antunes, A., Teeling, E., O'Brien, S. J. (2006) The late miocene radiation of modern felidae: A genetic assessment. Science 311: 73-77. download pdf
  5. ^ Grubb, Peter (16 November 2005). Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M. (eds). ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd edition ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3/browse.asp?id=14000025. 
  6. ^ Grassman Jr., L. I., Tewes, M. E., Silvy, N. J., Kreetiyutanont, K. (2005) Ecology of three sympatric felids in a mixed evergreen forest in North-central Thailand. Journal of Mammalogy 86: 29-38. download pdf
  7. ^ Holden, J. (2001) Small cats in Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia. Cat News 35: 11-14.
  8. ^ Rao, M., Myint, T., Zaw, T., Htun, S. (2005) Hunting patterns in tropical forests adjoining the Hkakaborazi National Park, north Myanmar. Oryx 39(3): 292.
  9. ^ Lynam, A. J., Round, P., Brockelman, W. Y. (2006) Status of birds and large mammals of the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, Thailand. Biodiversity Research and Training Program and Wildlife Conservation Society, Bangkok, Thailand.
  10. ^ Mishra, C., Madhusudan, M. D., Datta, A. (2006) Mammals of the high altitudes of western Arunachal Pradesh, eastern Himalaya: An assessment of threats and conservation needs. Oryx 40: 29-35.
  11. ^ Wang, S. W. (2007) A rare morph of the Asiatic golden cat in Bhutan's Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park. Cat News 47: 27-28.

External links

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