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Felis chaus 

Scope: Global
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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Felidae

Scientific Name: Felis chaus
Species Authority: Schreber, 1777
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Jungle Cat, Swamp Cat, Reed Cat
French Chat de jungle, Chat des Marais
Spanish Gato de la Jungla, Gato de los Pantanos
Taxonomic Notes: Taxonomy is currently under review by the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group (2014). 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. 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: 2016
Date Assessed: 2014-06-04
Assessor(s): Gray, T.N.E., Timmins, R.J., Jathana, D., Duckworth, J.W., Baral, H. & Mukherjee, S.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Hunter, L., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Lanz, T. & Breitenmoser, U.
Contributor(s): Steinmetz, R. & Sanderson, J.
Justification:
Jungle Cat remains probably the most common cat species in South Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh), where the majority of the global population occurs and despite likely extensive declines in mainland Southeast Asia, where the species is now extremely scarce and largely restricted to remote lowland deciduous dipterocarp forest (Duckworth et al. 2005, Gray et al. 2014), it is unlikely that globally averaged declines are sufficient to merit Near Threatened status. Population declines and range contraction are also of concern elsewhere in the species’ range particularly in Egypt (Glas 2013), southwest Asia (Abu-Baker et al. 2003), the Caucasus (IUCN 2007), central Asia (Habibi 2004) and parts of Turkey (Ogurlu et al. 2010). However, very little new information has been obtained from these regions since the previous assessment. Nevertheless, ongoing collation of records, particularly from South Asia, is needed and evidence of declines, particularly outside protected areas may merit reassessment.

In India, there is evidence of continued, and likely accelerating, habitat loss and ongoing poaching for both skins and, potentially, as a result of conflict with farmers (Choudhury 2010, Chowdhury et al. 2015, S. Mukherjee in litt. 2014, H.S. Baral in litt. 2014, D. Jathana in litt. 2014). The Jungle Cat's preference for open scrub and grassland in South Asia makes the species more susceptible to habitat loss than cat species which also utilise denser evergreen forests.

The majority of the suitable Indian habitat is classified as ‘wasteland’ which legally eases conversion into any other form of use particularly industrialisation and urbanization – the latter has been identified as a particular threat in India given the pace of urbanisation of agricultural and unprotected forest areas (S. Mukherjee in litt. 2014, D. Jathana in litt. 2014). Hybridisation with domestic cats is also a potential, although unproven, threat. There remains uncertainty as to how the species will respond to habitat loss, and potential interactions with hunting and persecution. Therefore, further research is recommended, particularly in the Indian subcontinent, in order to gather additional data for a more thorough future assessment of the species' likely trends in response to habitat loss. Generally, more information on the species' ecology and status is needed across its range.
Previously published Red List assessments:

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 2013). In Southwest Asia its occurrence is highly localized around riparian vegetation and permanent water sources. It occurs through Israel, southern Lebanon, northwestern Jordan, western Syria, Turkey, Iraq and into Iran where it is found in the north, from the provinces of Golestan and Mazandaran westwards along the Caspain Sea coastline and Hyrcanian forests to the West Azarbaijan Province (Abu-Baker et al. 2003, Sanei et al. 2016). In Turkey, the Jungle Cat has a fragmented distribution and seems to be quite widely distributed in the south of the country but to be restricted especially to wetland areas (Gerngross 2014). Jungle cat presence was recently recorded around the Büyük Menderes Delta, Aydin Province, in the Akyatan Wildlife Conservation and Development Area, Akyatan Lagoon, Adana Province, and close to Manavgat, Antalya Province (Avgan 2009, Gerngross 2014). However, its status in Turkey is not known (Avgan 2009). The Jungle Cat is found in the Caucasus mountains (up to 1,000 m) including Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. It occurs west and south of the Caspian Sea as well as south and east of the Aral Sea and associated river valleys, In Central Asia, it is found in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, possibly Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. Its distribution extants into South Asia from western Pakistan through almost all of India as well as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal ranging up to 2,400 m in the Himalayan foothills. The Jungle Cat occurrs through Southeast Asia including Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos PDR and Vietnam, to southern China, but is 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) reviewed the few historical distribution records from Indochina and added several recent ones from Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam.
Countries occurrence:
Native:
Afghanistan; Armenia (Armenia); Azerbaijan; Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; China; Egypt; Georgia; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Lebanon; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Russian Federation; Sri Lanka; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Thailand; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uzbekistan; Viet Nam
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):4178
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:In Europe, the Jungle Cat 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). In the Republic of Dagestan (Russian Federation), the number of Jungle Cats was estimated at 105 animals in 2009, at 216 in 2010, at 177 in 2011, at 110 in 2012 and at 307 animals in 2013, showing population fluctuations (Yarovenko 2014). 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 considered rare and threatened (Abu-Baker et al. 2003, Habibi 2004). However, the Jungle Cat is considered common in some parts of its range, primarily in India (Mukherjee 1998, Patel 2011), but also in Pakistan and Bangladesh (Duckworth et al. 2005). Nevertheless, in southern China and southeast Asia, 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). There are a number of recent camera-trap records from the Eastern Plains Landscape protected area complex in eastern Cambodia (Gray et al. 2014) and this area likely remains the stronghold of the species outside South Asia.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

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 - scrubland, and deciduous dipterocarp forest (Gray et al. 2014). 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). In Iran, the Jungle Cat was found in a variety of habitats such as from plains, agriculture lands and mountains but was mostly found in shrub lands and woodlands (Sanei et al. 2016). In the Republic of Dagestan (Russian Federation), the favourite habitat of it was reed thickets, thorn bush thickets and thick lowland forests near water bodies (Yarovenko 2014). An analysis of habitat preferences, from camera-trap photographs, in eastern Cambodia demonstrated a strong preference for deciduous dipterocarp forests with no encounters (c.f. Leopard cat) in other forest types (Gray et al. 2014).

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 ploughing 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).

In India, in a study in the Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, the Jungle Cat was mostly active in the night hours (Majumder et al. 2011), whereas in Cambodia, Jungle Cats were found to be more active during the day (Gray et al. 2014). 

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 (Adhya 2014, Majumder et al. 2011). 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 reed 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 (Majumder et al. 2011, Ogurlu et al. 2010, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002, Patel 2011). 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 it does not exceed 2 cats per 10 km² (Nowell and Jackson 1996).
Systems:Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Some illegal trade (and killing) continues in India (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002, Choudhury 2010) and elsewhere in South Asia.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The biggest threat to Jungle Cat is habitat loss particularly industrialisation and urbanisation of low intensity agricultural areas and scrubland in the Indian subcontinent. Habitat destruction for agricultural purposes and infrastructure development are also issues in Turkey and Iran (Ogurlu et al. 2010, Sanei et al. 2016). In Turkey, wetlands are mainly threatened by dam constructions and irrigation projects (Avgan 2009, Gerngross 2014). Additionally, environmental pollution and illegal hunting are threatening the Jungle Cat in Turkey too (Ogurlu et al. 2010). Also in Iran, illegal killing of Jungle Cats by shooting or trapping is a threat (Sanei et al. 2016). 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). Nevertheless, the species' response to urbanisation and degradation of low intensity agricultural landscapes is unclear and merits further research.

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 (and killing) continues there (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002, Choudhury 2010), elsewhere in South Asia (Chowdhury et al. 2015, H.S. Baral in litt. 2014) as well as in Egypt (Glas 2013) and Afghanistan (Habibi 2004). The scarcity of Jungle Cat in mainland Southeast Asia is likely the result of high levels of hunting in open and accessible deciduous dipterocarp forest (Duckworth et al. 2005).

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 it 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.

The Jungle Cat was recorded in 13 protected areas in Iran (Sanei et al. 2016). There are recent Jungle Cat records from protected areas in India as from Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve, Andhar Pradesh, Dihang-Dibang Biosphere Reserve, Biligri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve, Mundumalai Tiger Reserve and from Mana National Park (Behera and Borah 2010, Borah et al. 2012, Choudhury 2010, Kalle et al. 2013, Kumara et al. 2014). In 2013, its presence was recorded in Chitwan National Park, Nepal (Lamichhane et al. 2014). There are also a number of recent records from protected areas from eastern Cambodia such as from the Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary and Mondulkiri Protected Forest (Channa et al. 2010, Gray et al. 2014) as well as from Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand (Borries and Koenig 2014) and from the Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary, Myanmar (Linnell et al. no date). However, all protected areas in Cambodia are insufficiently managed and threatened by habitat loss, degradation, and hunting.

Citation: Gray, T.N.E., Timmins, R.J., Jathana, D., Duckworth, J.W., Baral, H. & Mukherjee, S. 2016. Felis chaus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T8540A50651463. . Downloaded on 25 September 2016.
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