Prionodon pardicolor 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Prionodontidae

Scientific Name: Prionodon pardicolor
Species Authority: Hodgson, 1841
Common Name(s):
English Spotted Linsang
Taxonomic Notes: The two Asian linsang Prionodon species, formerly classified as part of the civet family (Viverridae), are now known to comprise their own separate family, the Prionodontidae (see Gaubert and Veron 2003, Gaubert and Cordeiro-Estrela 2006, Barycka 2007).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-03-03
Assessor(s): Duckworth, J.W., Lau, M., Choudhury, A., Chutipong, W., Timmins, R.J., Willcox, D.H.A., Chan, B., Long, B. & Roberton, S.
Reviewer(s): Schipper, J.
Contributor(s): Wozencraft, C, Coudrat, C.N.Z. & Lyngdoh, S.J.
Spotted Linsang is listed as Least Concern because it is implausible that it could be declining at levels anywhere approaching sufficient for categorisation even as Near Threatened, and its range and population are too large for it to qualify as anything other than Least Concern under any other criterion. It is widely, though usually sparsely, recorded. Recent records come from throughout the known historical distribution and from many new areas. It has generally been thought to be rather rare, but the advent of camera-trapping has shown that the relatively few records from much of its range has arisen because it is not well recorded by direct sighting, and cannot be confirmed by indirect means such as sign surveys. Even camera-trapping is likely to be under-recording the species, probably a reflection of typical camera-trap setting style in relation to this species's spatial use. While habitat encroachment is no doubt leading to some declines, its wide altitudinal usage means that a large proportion of the population is outside the zone of major forest clearance (level lowlands) and currently a significant population reduction (i.e. sufficient to trigger even a Near Threatened listing) through habitat factors cannot be inferred. The species does not need non-degraded habitat: it is one of the more commonly recorded small carnivores in camera-trap surveys of southern China, where a combination of hunting and habitat encroachment have pushed small carnivore populations to the worst community conservation status yet found anywhere in tropical Asia, and recent records from Lao PDR also indicate high resilience to the regionally typical mix of human pressures (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2014). There is no specific market known for it in any part of its range, and it is only an occasional part of the general trade in small carnivores. Although it lives in an area of heavy, non-specific, hunting pressure, it evidently has lower susceptibility to trapping, dogs and direct projectile hunting than do most other sympatric carnivores, presumably stemming from aspects of its natural history.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Spotted Linsang inhabits most of non-Sundaic South-east Asia, southern China (western Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Xizang, Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangdong, and Guangxi provinces), Bhutan, North-east India and Nepal (west to the central region). In Myanmar it has been recorded south to Magway, at 20˚08′N; in Thailand south to Ta Phraya and Pang Sida National Parks, both at about 14°07′N; latitudinally throughout Lao PDR; in Cambodia south to Kirirom National Park at about 11˚18′N; and in Viet Nam, its southern extent is unclear. The species has a confirmed wide distribution in southern China, North-east India, Myanmar, Lao PDR and Vietnam, but in Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand and Cambodia it is so far known from only a few localities (Sunquist 1982, Van Rompaey 1995, Walston 2001, Roberton 2007, Than Zaw et al. 2008, Gyeltshen 2010, Lau et al. 2010, Mahar and Kaul 2012, Choudhury 2013, Willcox et al. 2014: Table SOM3, Chutipong et al. 2014, Gray et al. 2014, Jennings and Veron 2015, J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2014). As of late 2014, there are no records from Bangladesh (Hasan Rahman pers comm. 2014), although it seems likely to occur in the evergreen forests of the north-east.

Van Rompaey (1995) gave an elevational range from 150 m (in Nepal) to 2,700 m (in Myanmar). There are, however, several specimens with recorded altitudes considerably higher, up to nearly 4,000 m (in Sikkim; Pocock 1939); presumably because of the risk that these were locations not where the animal originated, the highest altitude Choudhury (2013) accepted for India was 2,700 m. A recent camera-trap record from Gaoligongshan, Yunnan, China, validates occurrence up to 3,308 m (Bosco P.L. Chan pers. comm. 2015).
Countries occurrence:
Bhutan; Cambodia; China; India; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Myanmar; Nepal; Thailand; Viet Nam
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):NoExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):150
Upper elevation limit (metres):3308
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Spotted Linsang is rather rarely recorded, and was formerly generally assumed to be uncommon to rare throughout its range (e.g., Van Rompaey 1995). However, this view is likely to be an artefact of typical survey techniques. In, particular, camera-trapping has greatly clarified its status. There were, for example, few historical specimens or modern sight records from Lao PDR, whereas Bergmans (1995) speculated that it would be found to be common in the country. Subsequently it has indeed been camera-trapped, often multiple times, in all evergreen survey areas in the country (Gray et al. 2014, J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2014). It seems not to be found readily by direct observation: one of the most intensive direct observation surveys of carnivores in its range, that of Duckworth (1998), did not record it during the main survey, although it was found incidentally during bat survey at the same site, and subsequent camera-trapping also found it (Gray et al. 2014). The survey of Duckworth (1998) was in almost pristine habitat far from human habitation in the heart of its range, where various key quarry species (e.g. diurnal primates) showed little fear of people and even heavily decreased species such as Tiger Panthera tigris and Gaur Bos gaurus were observed directly. This implies that low contact rates through conventional survey methods could be the natural state of affairs for this species. Similarly, whilst Pham-chong-Ahn (1980) found the species only rarely in northern Viet Nam, judging from sales in markets, it seems to have been common there in 1988 (Schreiber et al. 1989); a more comprehensive collation of small carnivore records from the country confirms this impression (Roberton 2007), although the most recent synthesis of camera-trap results from Viet Nam revealed it had been found in only a minority of survey areas (Willcox et al. 2014: Table SOM3). It is among the more commonly detected small carnivores in an intensively over-hunted area of southern China (Guangdong and Guangxi) (Lau et al. 2010, Bosco P.L. Chan pers comm. 2014). Although relatively rarely recorded in North-east India (Choudhury 2013), "it may be common also as, owing to its size and habit, it is not often seen". Even historically there were indications that the rarity of specimens belied the species’s real status. Hodgson (1841) stated that it is “sufficiently common in the mountains of Nepal”, and in 1847 he found “the species very numerous in the eastern half of Nepal and Sikkim”. In the 1880s it was not considered rare in Sikkim (Blanford 1888-1891). A high proportion of direct sighting records involve individuals sat low within the vegetation column, mostly within dense undergrowth tangles where they are readily overlooked (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2014). It remains known by surprisingly few records in Thailand, given recent extensive camera-trapping, and might therefore be genuinely localised in the country (Chutipong et al. 2014). In Cambodia there are also few known records (D.H.A. Willcox pers. comm. 2014), and it is likely that the species is genuinely localised and mostly scarce there, given the high proportion of forest that is deciduous and probably unsuitable for the species.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Spotted Linsang has been recorded in lowland, hill and mountain forest, bamboo forest, secondary growth, dense grassland and along rivers (Pham-chong-Ahn 1980, Van Rompaey 1995, Tizard 2002, Chutipong et al. 2014, Gray et al. 2014, Jennings and Veron 2015). All South-east Asian records known to J.W. Duckworth (pers. comm. 2014) with precise locality come from evergreen biomes, in or near forest (albeit sometimes highly degraded), and always, or nearly so, in or near hills and mountains. Given the bias of survey effort in non-Sundaic South-east Asia towards less degraded, less fragmented, forest at the expense of heavily encroached areas, let alone non-forest habitats, the number of records from edge and highly degraded forest is startlingly high: it suggests the possibility that, as suggested by Lim (1973) for the allied Banded Linsang Prionodon linsang, Spotted Linsang might be more common in edge and degraded forest. A series of records from Nepal (Sunquist 1982) came from a mosaic of lowland riverine forest, tall dense grassland and deciduous Sal Shorea robusta forest interspersed with dense grasses. This contrasts strikingly with the lack of South-east Asian records from deciduous biomes. It seems to require some forest in the landscape, evidently being absent from, for example, coastal Guangdong and Hong Kong where only the few most tolerant small carnivore species, such as Masked Palm Civet Paguma larvata and Yellow-bellied Weasel Mustela kathiah survive (Bosco P. L. Chan pers. comm. 2015).

It is partly arboreal but the extent is unclear. The many recent camera-trap records from ground-level cameras indicate that much activity is on the ground. Similarly, all direct sightings known to J.W. Duckworth (pers. comm. 2014) of animals moving about are on or near the ground; those of animals above the understorey seemed to be of resting individuals. Similarly, based on captive observations, Kuznetzov and Baranauskas (1993) suggested that it mainly inhabits the lower shrub layer. It is clearly not arboreal to anything like the same extent as the sympatric Small-toothed Palm Civet Arctogalidia trivirgata. It preys mostly on small vertebrates (Hodgson 1847, Lekagul and McNeely 1977, Pham-chong-Ahn 1980, Van Rompaey 1995) but has also been observed feeding at a kill of a Tiger Panthera tigris, indicating that it is an opportunistic scavenger (Sunquist 1982).

Each litter consists of two young (Lekagul and McNeely 1977), twice a year, breeding in February and August (Hodgson 1847).
Generation Length (years):4.3
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Hunting by non-specific methods is heavy over much of Spotted Linsang's geographic range. While there is no evidence that it is specific quarry, animals which come in as part of the general take are probably used for a mix of consumption and ornament. There are relatively many records of animals in local markets but, given the survey effort for carnivore pelts, few from international trade or even in national trade for urban markets. The low prices in local markets (more comparable, per animal, to small squirrels than to palm civets) observed in Nagaland (India) by Bupathy et al. (2013) and n Lao PDR (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2014) indicate that, at least in those regions, urban trade demand and targeted hunting are both evidently negligible. This is corroborated by the several records of animals consumed in village rather than sold (e.g., Lyngdoh et al. 2011, Mahar and Kaul 2012).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Spotted Linsang was previously considered to be threatened by habitat loss and degradation, hunting, and trade across much of its range (Schreiber et al. 1989), based presumably primarily on the scarcity of historical records. The number, and, particularly, the locations relative to human activity of various recent records, notably from China (Lau et al. 2010, Bosco P.L. Chan pers. comm. 2014) and Lao PDR (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2014) strongly indicate that the former qualitative assessments of threat levels were inaccurate. In both China and Lao PDR there are records from landscapes where hunting has been sufficiently intensive to have removed most of the mammals of similar size and larger. Moreover, detection rates are not noticeably different in areas otherwise broadly comparable that have significant control of hunting (e.g. Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area, Lao PDR) (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2014). The survival of this species in heavily hunted areas may in part reflect its natural history, but it appears to be genuinely resilient given the number of records of animals from snare-lines and other hunting sources (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2014). There has been an increased demand for small carnivore meat in Chinese and Viet Namese markets (Bell et al. 2004), but this species does not seem to be specifically sought in the trade: extensive examination of trade seizures through Viet Nam (the main route to China) hardly ever found the species (U. Streicher pers. comm. 2009), nor is it sought in trade within China (M.W.N. Lau pers. comm. 2006). Nor is it preferentially sought at the local, subsistence level, although throughout its range when it is caught it is likely to be eaten. The low price at which individuals are sold in markets (see 'Use and trade') further indicates low demand relative to supply. The highly degraded and fragmented nature of the habitat in some Lao localities suggests that ongoing forest encroachment may have relatively little effect on this species except where it results in landscape-level conversion to non-forest use. This is proceeding rapidly over large parts of the species range, but is concentrated in level lowlands, not the rugged terrain which probably, now, supports most Spotted Linsangs.

The concern expressed in the IUCN Action Plan for the Conservation of Mustelids and Viverrids (Schreiber et al. 1989), was made at a time when most of its geographic range was out of access to western biologists, through political factors (Viet Nam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, the relevant parts of China, most of North-east India, Bhutan), and capacity-building programmes for national conservation personnel were only just beginning in some areas. Hence, there was a very weak information base upon which to make this assessment. In the intervening quarter-century, most of this area has opened up, and there have been many records of this species, the vast majority unpublished (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2014), indicating that this 1989 assessment was unduly pessimistic.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Spotted Linsang is listed on CITES Appendix I, and in Category II of the China Wildlife Protection Law (1988) (Li et al. 2000). It is totally protected in Myanmar, on the list of protected species in Nepal, and protected in Thailand (by the Wild Animals Reservation and Protection Act [WARPA] of 2003), Viet Nam and India (Van Rompaey 1995, Than Zaw et al. 2008, Chutipong et al. 2014). It is categorised as nationally ‘Endangered’ on the Nepal Red List (Jnawali et al. 2011). There are recent records from many protected areas (Duckworth 1997, Walston 2001, Roberton 2007, Than Zaw et al. 2008, Gyeltshen 2010, Lau et al. 2010, Mahar and Kaul 2012, Choudhury 2013, Chutipong et al. 2014, Gray et al. 2014, J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2014, Jennings and Veron 2015). A good proportion (over 15%, as assessed by Jennings and Veron 2015) of habitat assessed as suitable  in its large range is already within declared protected areas, indicating a low degree of short-term risk. However, many of these protected areas have little long-term security, forest conversion is occurring in many, and if this continues into the longer term, then the species might become threatened through habitat loss. Although not a priority species of mammal for research in South-east Asia, a better understanding of natural history (particularly those facets that would help in the interpretation of survey results for local status assessment) would improve confidence in assessing its global conservation status.

Citation: Duckworth, J.W., Lau, M., Choudhury, A., Chutipong, W., Timmins, R.J., Willcox, D.H.A., Chan, B., Long, B. & Roberton, S. 2016. Prionodon pardicolor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41706A45219917. . Downloaded on 30 July 2016.
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