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Felis chaus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CARNIVORA FELIDAE

Scientific Name: Felis chaus
Species Authority: Schreber, 1777
Common Name(s):
English Jungle Cat, Reed Cat, REED CAT, Swamp Cat, SWAMP CAT
French Chat De Jungle, CHAT DE JUNGLE, Chat Des Marais, CHAT DES MARAIS
Spanish Gato De La Jungla, GATO DE LA JUNGLA, Gato De Los Pantanos, GATO DE LOS PANTANOS
Taxonomic Notes: Once thought to be closely related to the lynxes, which share its characteristic traits of tufted ears, long limbs and a short tail (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002), the Jungle Cat is actually a close relative of the domestic cat (Eizirik et al. submitted). With a wide range, a number of subspecies have been proposed (Wozencraft 2005 recognized nine), but Corbet and Hill (1992) argue that the pelage characters used by classical designators vary widely. No modern analysis of subspeciation has been undertaken.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Duckworth, J.W., Steinmetz, R., Sanderson, J. & Mukherjee, S.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Justification:
The species is widespread, and common in some parts of its range, particularly India (Mukherjee 1988). However, population declines and range contraction are of concern elsewhere, particularly Egypt (Glas in press) and southwest Asia (Abu-Baker et al. 2003), the Caucasus (IUCN 2007), central Asia (Habibi 2004) and Southeast Asia (Duckworth et al. 2005).
History:
2002 Least Concern

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The jungle cat has a broad but patchy distribution. In Africa, it is found only in Egypt, along the Nile River Valley south to Aswan, and in El Faiyum, Farafara, Dakhla and Kharga oases (Glas in press). Into southwest Asia, it occurs through Israel, southern Lebanon, northwestern Jordan, western Syria, and into Turkey and western Iraq (Abu-Baker et al., 2003). In this region its occurrence is highly localized around riparian vegetation and permanent water sources. In central Asia, it is found in the Caucasus mountains (up to 1,000 m), around the Caspian and Aral Seas and associated river valleys, and through Iran west to Pakistan. It occurs widely in tropical and sub-tropical Asia, including almost all of India as well as Sri Lanka, ranging up to 2,400 m in the Himalayan foothills, and through Southeast Asia to southern China, but absent from Malayan peninsula south of the Isthmus of Kra (Nowell and Jackson, 1996). Its range in Indochina is poorly known, especially in Myanmar. Duckworth et al. (2005) review the few historical distribution records from Indochina and add several recent ones from Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam.
Countries:
Native:
Afghanistan; Armenia (Armenia); Azerbaijan; Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; China; Egypt; Georgia; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Lebanon; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Russian Federation; Sri Lanka; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Thailand; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uzbekistan; Viet Nam
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The jungle cat is considered common in some parts of its range, primarily in India (Mukherjee 1988), but also Pakistan and Bangladesh (Duckworth et al., 2005).

In southern China and southeast Asia (with the exception of northeastern Cambodia), however, it appears quite rare in comparison to sympatric small cats (Duckworth et al. 2005). This rarity appears to be a relatively recent phenomenon associated with unselective trapping and snaring, especially in Lao PDR and Thailand as well, where it was described as common by Lekagul and McNeely (1977) but has since suffered drastic declines and is rarely encountered (Duckworth et al. 2005; Lynam et al. 2006, W. Duckworth and R. Steinmetz, Southeast Asia mammal assessment 2003).

In Europe, it is of marginal occurrence, with small populations in Cis-Caspian region and the Caucasus along the Caspian Sea. The European population has been rapidly declining since the 1960s. There was no records of this species in Astrakhan State Reserve (Russian Federation) since the 1980s. In Northern Ossetia (Russian Federation) only about 150 animals were recorded (Kuryatnikov and Varziev 1983). Marked population fluctuations are characteristic of this species in this region, probably because of absence of adaptations to cold winters. Despite these fluctuations the long-term trend in Europe is of decline in both population and area of occupancy. Data from Russia suggest that there are about 500 animals left in the wild (Prisazhnyuk and Belousova 2007). A very small population persists in Georgia (I. Macharashvili pers. comm. to K. Tsysulina 2007). This species is considered threatened in a number of range states in Europe and the Caucasus, and is included in the Red Books of the Russian Federation, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia (IUCN 2007).

In southwest Asia the species is also considered rare and threatened (Abu-Baker et al. 2003, Habibi 2004).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The jungle cat, despite its name, is not strongly associated with the classic rainforest "jungle" habitat, but rather with wetlands - habitats with water and dense vegetative cover, especially reed swamps, marsh, and littoral and riparian environments. Hence its other common and more applicable name, the swamp cat. Water and dense ground cover can be found in a variety of habitats, ranging from desert (where it is found near oases or along riverbeds) to grassland, shrubby woodland and dry deciduous forest, as well as cleared areas in moist forest (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

Areas with extensive deciduous dipterocarp forest and at least scattered surface water are the species predominant known habitat in Indochina. However, areas such as the Nakai Plateau which support other forms of savanna-like vegetation may support the species. It is probably absent from all closed canopy forests, including rainforest. The species may make use of agricultural areas with a low intensity of human use and which retain patches of scrub (Duckworth et al., 2005).

Jungle cats have adapted well to irrigated cultivation, having been observed in many different types of agricultural and forest plantations throughout their range, such as sugar cane plantations in India. In Israel they can be found around pisciculture ponds and irrigation ditches. Vereschagin (1959) noted that the jungle cat's use of the semi-arid plains of Azerbaijan increased with the development of a local irrigation system and decreased with its abandonment. However, mowing the seasonally flooded riverine tugai vegetation (trees and shrubs with dense stands of tall reeds and grasses) of this region for livestock fodder, as well as plowing it under for agriculture, is known to be associated with the decline of jungle cat populations in the European-central Asian parts of its range (Nowell and Jackson, 1996).

Jungle cats feed mainly on prey that weighs less than one kilogram. Small mammals, principally rodents, are the prey most frequently found in feces and stomach contents. A study in India's Sariska reserve estimated that jungle cats catch and eat three to five rodent per day (Mukherjee et al. 2004). Birds rank second in importance, but in southern Russia waterfowl are the mainstay of jungle cat diet in the winter. With overwintering populations of waterfowl congretating in large numbers on unfrozen rivers and marshes, the jungle cat hunts among reeed beds and along edges of wetlands, searching for injured or weakened birds. Other prey species are taken more opportunistically, including hares, nutria, lizards, snakes, frogs, insects, and fish. In India, they have been seen to scavenge kills of large predators such as the Asiatic lion. In a study in southern Uzbekistan, the fruits of the Russian olive made up 17% of their diet in winter. While jungle cats specialize on small prey, they are large and powerful enough to kill young swine, subadult gazelles, and chital fawns (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002).

Density estimates from natural tugai habitat in central Asia range from 4-15 individuals per 10 km², but where this vegetation type has declined due to development density does not exceed two cats per 10 km² (Nowell and Jackson, 1996).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Jungle cats can do well in cultivated landscapes (especially those that lead to increased numbers of rodents) and artificial wetlands. However, reclamation and destruction of natural wetlands, ongoing throughout its range but particularly in the arid areas, still pose a threat to the species, as density in natural wetlands is generally higher (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Unselective trapping, snaring and poisoning around agricultural and settled areas have caused population declines in many areas throughout its range (Abu-Baker et al. 2003, Duckworth et al. 2005). India formerly exported large numbers of jungle cat skins before the species came under legal protection (over 300,000 were declared as being held by traders there when export was banned in 1979), and some illegal trade continues there (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002), as well as in Egypt (Glas in press) and Afghanistan (Habibi 2004).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The jungle cat is listed on CITES Appendix II. It is protected from hunting in some range states (India), but in many receives no legal protection outside protected areas (Nowell and Jackson 1996). The species now receives legal protection from all hunting and trading within Afghanistan after being placed on the country’s 2009 Protected Species List. Furthermore, given the amount of habitat loss occurring in riparian and wetland areas in Afghanistan, this species should be considered a research priority.

The ecology and status of the jungle cat is poorly known (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). In Southwest and Southeast Asia, where it is considered rare and declining, more research needs to be undertaken to gain knowledge of current distribution, both in and outside of protected areas (Abu-Baker et al. 2003, Duckworth et al. 2005). Some farmers consider the jungle cat a pest which takes poultry (Abu-Baker et al. 2003), and conservation measures should include better protection for domestic fowl and halting of indiscriminate poisoning and trapping. The jungle cat would also benefit from improved protection of natural wetlands and reedbeds, particularly in the more arid parts of its range, and improved legislation prohibiting fur trade.

Citation: Duckworth, J.W., Steinmetz, R., Sanderson, J. & Mukherjee, S. 2008. Felis chaus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 01 October 2014.
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