World Wildlife Day falls on 3rd March every year, and it’s a day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The theme for World Wildlife Day in 2018 is “Big cats: predators under threat”. Big cats, and their smaller relatives, are among the most widely recognized and admired animals across the globe. However, today these charismatic predators are facing many and varied threats, which are mostly caused by human activities. Overall, their populations are declining at a disturbing rate due to loss of habitat and prey, conflicts with people, poaching and illegal trade.
In Singapore, both the Tiger (Panthera tigris) and Leopard (Panthera pardus) were wiped out, but the Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) still survives. However, it too is threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The roads that run along and through our forest fragments take their toll. For example, it was feared that the Leopard Cat had become extinct in mainland Singapore, until 2001, when a roadkill was found in Mandai, on the fringes of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Another roadkill was reported from Jalan Bahar, along the edge of the Western Catchment, in 2007.
Roads also threaten Leopard Cats and other wildlife in Peninsular Malaysia – even big cats are not spared. There are two notable recent incidents: in February 2016, a Malayan Tiger was hit by a car as it crossed the East Coast Expressway Phase 2 in Terengganu, which cuts through a forest reserve. A necropsy revealed that it was a pregnant tigress. And in June 2017, a melanistic Leopard (typically called a ‘black panther’) was found dead along Jalan Sungai Yu-Merapoh in Pahang, not far from an eco-viaduct that serves as a wildlife crossing.
Over the past century we have been losing wild cats, among the planet’s most majestic predators, at an alarming rate. World Wildlife Day 2018 gives us the opportunity to raise awareness about their plight and to galvanize support for the many global and national actions that are underway to save these iconic species.
To get to Wehea forest, PROFAUNA’s activists have to pass Kelay forest where carcasses of wild animals struck by palm oil trucks are a common sight. Often times our activists stopped and buried the remains to prevent people from taking advantage of the remaining body parts. So sad!
Please drive carefully everyone especially during the night. Most animals are nocturnal and they become active in the evenings. They are not as vigilant as humans so we have to be extra careful while driving.
Dead Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) / Kuching Hutan on Jalan Labi.
Photo by Matthew
This is a Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), Singapore’s last surviving wild cat.
Bukit Regency Condominium is located across the road from Bukit Timah Nature Reserve; although Leopard Cats have not been recorded from this area in recent years, it’s not surprising that a population might still survive in the forests. On the other hand, it’s also not impossible that this particular individual was an illegal exotic pet.
Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis)
Sungei Buloh, 9th June 2015
This Leopard Cat carcass was first found by Halilah Ahmad (1st photo), and was subsequently donated to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. This subadult male was found to have no visible external or internal injuries, except for a small wound on his right hind ankle.
Leopard Cats have been occasionally detected on camera traps set up within the core area of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and this find in the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Extension, although tragic, is evidence that Leopard Cats likely occur in this area of the Nature Reserve as well.
We thank the team of NParks Conservation Division staff who passed us this locally rare Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) that was found dead at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 9 Jun 2015.
The male sub-adult Leopard Cat was dissected and was found to have no visible external or internal injury except a small wound on his right hind ankle. Further tests are being conducted, and may give us more information about the animal. The carcass would be preserved in the museum for scientific research and education.