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WHAT IS A LEOPARD CAT?

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Prionailurus
Species: bengalensis

Though many call them "Asian Leopard Cats", the correct species name is "Leopard Cat" prionailurus bengalensis and they come in many sub-species that range from just over 3 pounds pounds to twenty pounds in size. Being a small cat, they are  very shy of humans and are predatorized by larger cats, birds of pry, and other large predators including humans. They are known to eat small birds, rodents, insects, fish and vegetation in the wild.

The p. bengalensis euptilura subspecies are often more than twice as large as many southern Asian subspecies, with a dense coat, heavy bone and  muscling, and thick tail. These  traits are necessary for survival in the cold northern regions where they live. 

The p.b.euptilura Leopard Cat has been confused with the "Amur Leopard" panthera pardus orientalis, a completely different, large, and very endangered species of it's own. This has lead to p.b.euptilura being mistakenly called an "Amur Leopard Cat" and has even lead to people confusing the two species scientific names calling them "p.b. euptilura", "p.b.orientalis" a completely made up subspecies name that does not exist in Leopard Cats.

The confusion started because these two completely different species  of felines both live in the Amurian river region of Russia and while doing research, people have confused the two different species with one another. Unfortunately, this has lead to a lot of false information being published about p.b.euptilura sub-species and has put all their publications and reaserch in the wild in question.

P.b. euptilura is a recognized non endangered subspecies of "Leopard Cat" and the "Amur Leopard" panthera pardus orientalis is a large very endangered species, the two should never be confused with one another. Unfortunately, because of the confusion, many people have published on websites that p.b.euptilura is endangered, when actually p.b. euptilura is one of the most populated subspecies with the largest known range of the Leopard Cat species. There range starts as far south as Korea and expands up through a large part of eastern China where they are commonly called Asian Leopard Cats, then north throughout the Amurian River region and may be found as far north as eastern Siberia. For more infomation and pictures on the p.b.euptilura subspecies please see their webpage.

The LC is not an aggressive feline and will flee rather than fight. The Leopard Cat is a beautiful spotted feline which is similar in size to a domestic cat. Their coats are generally pale brown/tawny yellow, but this coloring is extremely variable, and may be bright reddish or gray. Under parts are usually bright white and they are marked with dark spots, bands, blotches, and rosettes. There are usually four longitudinal black bands running from the forehead to behind the neck. The ears of a Leopard Cat are wide and rounded and well cupped, with a white spot known as ocelli on the black backs of their ears. Two whitish stripes run up from the internal corners of the eyes and there are one or two white streaks across the cheeks. 

The tail is spotted at the base and in some subspecies, ringed indistinctly toward the tip. The pads of the feet are eggplant to dark brown, with the carpal pad (little upper pad on the front feet) are very light pink. Their legs are relatively long. Cubs are born with all pads light pink, and usually have bright white bellies at birth. 

Characteristically, the Leopard Cat has a small head and narrow muzzle with puffy whisker pads and nose. The skull is short and rounded and the orbits of the eye sockets are open at the back. Usually the anterior upper premolar is present.

Leopard Cats are usually classified in the genus Felis, but Wozencraft (1993) in his recent review of cat taxonomy put them in the genus Prionailurus. This reflects that the Leopard Cat's relationship with the other members of the genus (the Flat-Headed Cat P. planiceps; Rusty-Spotted Cat P. rubiginosus; Fishing Cat P. viverrinus) is closer than it is to the other cats.

At one time there was thought to be over two dozen sub-species, but after much debate in the early and mid 1990's many of these sub-species  were reclassified as belonging to another sub-species. These debates continue, but it is now generally accepted there are no more than seventeen actual separate Prionailurus bengalensis subspecies. Highlighted are the currently endangered subspecies.

 

SUBSPECIES NATIVE LAND
P. b. alleni  Hainan Island, off China
P. b. bengalensis  Northeastern India, Indo-China, Yunnan
P. b. borneoensis Borneo
P. b. chinensis  Central China and Taiwan
P. b. euptilura South & North Korea, Eastern China, Eastern Russia, Eastern Siberia
P. b. heaneyi Philippines: Palawan
P. b. horsfieldi Kashmir to Sikkim
P.b. iriomotensis Iriomote, Ryukyu Islands
P. b. javanensis Java and Bali
P. b. manchurica Manchuria
p. b. rabori Philippines: Negros, Cebu, and Panay
P.b. scripta Northern Yunnan, Western Sechuan, Southeast Tibet, Southern Gansu
P. b. sumatranus Sumatra
P. b. tingia Singapore, Malaysia
P. b. trevelyani North Kashmir, South Baluchistan, Pakistan
P. b. tsushimansis Tsushima Island only
P.b. wagati Southeastern India
The Tsushima cat p.b.tsushimansis which was only recognized by biologists in 1988 when it was given species status has only about 100 individual specimens living in the wilds of Tsushima (a small Island between Korea and Japan). Recent genetic testing has shown that it is indeed a variety of the Leopard Cat (see Leopard Cat Research). It is smaller and much darker than the typical mainland Leopard Cats and its population appears to have been separated from the mainland Leopard Cats for a very long time. One article in the newsletter of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, Cat News, stated that the Tsushima Cat was a member of the Siberian subspecies, P. b. euptilura (More on the Tsushima Cat. Cat News 12, 1990, p. 23). Previously, Professor P. Leyhausen stated that specimens from the island of Tsushima “clearly belonged to the subspecies P. b. manchuricus” (New Cat Not New? Cat News 11, 1989, p.18). This debate will continue, but for now they are listed as a seperate new subspecies called P.bengalensis tsushimansis.

These subspecies and those of many other animals are the subject of much taxonomic debate, and many are still being disputed. 

The Sumatran subspecies has fewer and smaller markings than the typical mainland forms. In contrast to the bright and quite rufous Bornean subspecies, the Javanese and Balinese Leopard Cats have rather dull brown coloration. The Pakistani leopard cat is rather gray. The India Leopard cat p.bengalensis bengalensis has a golden coat, with dark longated spots, seldom rosetted. The central Chinese Leopard Cat chinensis is thought to be the most striking of Leopard Cats, with light golden coat and beautiful two-tone paw print rosettes. The Chinese refer to them as the money cat, because their chaining rosettes resemble Chinese coins. 

The largest subspecies euptilura sometimes reaching over 20 pounds, is the one which occurs the farthest north and has a thicker coat, usually rosetted and are less distinctly marked than the other subspecies. 

There has also been much confusion over the Philippine subspecies of Leopard Cat. The Philippine sub-species was also mistakenly called p.b. minuta, probably confused with another animal species or plant found in the Philippines. Recent reviewed in 1997 by Groves, of the Philippine subspecies pointed out that the Philippines have two distinct subspecies named  p. b. rabori , are light tan in color and found in Negros, Cebu, and Panayand and p.b. heaneyi  are dull gray in color and found in Palawan. Both subspecies have small oval and round spotting without any rosetting. These subspecies are the smallest of its race (adults in captivity weighs only about 1.4 to 1.9 kg or about 3.1 to 4.2 pounds). 

Research has never been done on this subspecies prior to 2005, when, in July 2005, an ethnobiological survey was started in the known range of the p. b. rabori and results show that this Philippine subspecies has been extirpated from at least 80% of its former range, with loss of forest cover, except possibly in Negros Occidental, where p. b. rabori  seemingly thrive in sugarcane farms. 

    Principal dimensions

 

  Overall Size
Head and Body lengths 17"-42" 
44-107cm
Tail lengths 6"-17"
15-44cm
Total Weight 5-20 lbs.
2.25-9kg

Distribution and Habitats

 
Leopard cats are one of the most  widely distributed felids, from the dense tropical forests of Sumatra to the Manchurian and Siberian taiga. They are not restricted to primary forests, being found in scrublands, second-growth woodland, semi-deserts, and even agricultural regions, especially near water. They are tolerant of human activity, often being found close to villages, in which they will hunt for rodents and raid poultry houses at night.

Distributed as far north as Eastern Siberia, down through the Amur basin and Korea and as far south as Bali, the Leopard Cat's range extends through China towards Pakistan through northern India, the southern Himalayas, Bangladesh, Burma, and Indo-China. They are found on the Philippines, Borneo and Java and several islands near Japan.

The island of Tsushima is about 270 square miles, with steep mountains and ravines. On the map it appears as a tiny dot just off the south coast of Korea. The map shows the distribution of Leopard Cats in red. The map is based on information in the Wild Cats Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan published by the IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group in 1996.

Diet

Leopard Cats are, like most felids, opportunists, and they will prey on hares, rodents, reptiles, moles, insects, amphibians, game birds, fish, mouse deer and even the fawns of roe deer. Northern subspecies are known to prey on hares. Grass and eggs may supplement their diets as well. They are known to raid poultry and to tackle aquatic prey in the water and are excellent swimmers, very willing to dive to catch aquatic prey.

Behavior

Primarily first thought to be nocturnal, radio transmitters has revealed that Leopard Cats hunt both in daylight and at night on the ground and in trees.  A male's average home range has been measured at 3.5 miles. Unlike most felids, the southern or Asian Leopard Cats usually pair for life and the males participate in rearing their young. The northern P.b. euptilura subspecies are sometimes solitary and males may breed several females a year over a large range, but have also been known to pair and help in the rearing of their young as well.

Many cats delineate their territories using their feces and spray urine as scent markers, but many adult Leopard Cats urinate and defecate in water to mask their traces. This behavior has also been noted in LCF's captive Leopard Cats. In the wild, juveniles have been known to bury their feces near the den. This avoids drawing attention to themselves and when supplied a litterbox in captivity, they usually do the same. In fact they are very easily trained to use a litterbox even as adults. It is believed that the large Leopards take significant numbers of Leopard Cats each year as well as Eagles, tigers, wolves, lynx and other predators.

Reproduction

One to six (usually two or three) cubs are born, usually in May, but Leopard Cats have been known to breed at any time in warmer regions and in captivity. The young are usually born in a hollow tree or rock cavity. Gestation takes about 56 to 72 days. At birth the cubs weigh about 75 to 130 grams. They are born with their eyes closed and open their eyes when they are about ten days old, and start to eat regurgitated meat by 23 days. If the kittens are removed from the mother or lost to predators, she is sometimes able to have another litter that same year. Unlike most felids, Leopard Cats usually pair for life and cubs are raised by both parents and usually remain as a family unit for 7-10 months until the next breeding cycle. 

Full sexual maturity is reached at 18 months, but males have been known to successfully breed as early as 7 months and females at 10 months of age in captivity. Because the males mature earlier, they are much more likely to seek mates outside of their family units, helping to eliminate interbreeding with siblings.

Life span

Because of the dangers in the wild, a Leopard Cat's life span is estimated at only about 4 years. Captive Leopard Cats with proper care and nutrition have lived for as long as 19-20 years. Unfortunately, many don't live  but a couple of years in captivity because so many are being purchased by pet owners and Bengal cat breeders without proper nutritional and care knowledge. 

Many cubs and adults are still illegally being taken from the wild and exported to other countries including the USA to be sold as pets or to be used in hybrid programs. Being taken from the wild, many of these cubs are unable to adjust to the stress of captivity, shipping, and change of diets and are lost during or shortly after they arrive to their new homes. 

It should be noted, that only about one of ten Leopard Cats will ever breed a domestic cat and many of those that don't breed end up being neglected, mistreated, or even illegally released into the wild to die of starvation. This is why it is very important that responsible Leopard Cat programs like LCF do not market their Leopard Cats they raise into non-Leopard Cat breeding programs. 

All Leopard Cat subspecies have been put on the CITES protection list with P. b. bengalensis and p.b. iriomotensis already being placed on the endangered species list. Every year countless valuable, unique Leopard Cat genes are lost. It is LCF's belief that no one should own Leopard Cats unless they are legally produced in captivity or acquired by special permits and are to be used in a Leopard Cat breeding programs. 

Bengal breeders should not purchase Leopard Cats to be used in domestic Bengal cat (Leopard Cat x domestic cat hybrids) programs unless their main goal is to use them in Leopard Cat breeding programs to avoid exploiting the species and losing their valuable genes. LCF has raised Leopard Cat young from all it's Leopard Cats used to produce Bengal cats.

Mutations

Though very rare, color mutations do occur in Leopard Cats. Melanistic (solid black) mutations of Leopard Cats have been reported in both the wild and in captivity. There has been a female melanistic (black) Leopard Cat living in a Tailand zoo for a number of years. 

Pink-eyed albino (white) Leopard Cats have also occured, mature male photographed in 2002, by Musa Kiana, Chelmsford, UK. 

Unknown Subspecies:

Leopard Cats of undocumented subspecies. It is believed that many of the Leopard Cats in captivity without subspecies documentation is a result of importers and breeders discarding their documents in an effort to hide their status of endangered subspecies. Basically making them of unknown origins just to allow easy import/export and sales of these valuable endangered cats. This practice is causing their endangered gene pools to be lost forever, adding to the endangerment of the subspecies.

US Fish and Wildlife has cracked down in recent years by only allowing the importation of Leopard Cats of known documented subspecies to enter the US. Many  undocumented Leopard Cats are being confiscated by USFW at Ports of Entry and it's only the beginning. 

It is my understanding USFW will also start to crack down on all undocumented Leopard Cats in captivity. The Endangered Species Act does not allow the sale or transportation of endangered species or subspecies across state lines without an ESA special permit. Because of this requirement, Leopard Cats of unknown or of known endangered subspecies that are sold through interstate transactions can also be confiscated. Basically, if you cannot prove a Leopard Cat is not of an endangered subspecies, USFW can consider them endangered and can confiscate them. 

Be warned that dealing with Leopard Cats of undocumented subspecies may lead to their confiscation and heavy finds even within US boarders. Also, dealing with undocumented subspecies will encourage the future exploitation of the endangered Leopard Cat subspecies. 

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The following articles were published in Newspapers or made available on the internet for public viewing and are available here under the 
US Freedom of Information Act..

Man Pleads Guilty to Cat Smuggling
Published on 5/10/2007

The head of small cat organization could receive up to  five years in prison for smuggling endangered subspecies of Leopard cats.

The American head of a Europe-based small cat organization has pleaded guilty to federal charges of illegally selling and transporting two endangered Asian  leopard cats to Miami.

At the time of his arrest, David G. Sparandara was director of the Czech Republic-based organization European-American Consortium for Small Felines. Authorities said Sparandara shipped one Asian leopard cat through Miami International Airport in January 2005.

Another Asian leopard cat that he tried to ship through the Miami airport in December 2005 was intercepted and submitted to federal authorities. Investigators learned that proper Endangered Species Act permits were not in order for the transactions.

Paperwork showed that the first Asian leopard cat was being sold to an importer for more than $4,000.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Sparandara could receive as many as five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release and an order of restitution at his July 20 sentencing.

 US Citizen Sentenced For Illegally Selling Asian Leopard Cat - US Attorney 

  Prosecutions 
 North America 
 Source: US Department of Justice, US Attorney's Office 


US Citizen Sentenced For Illegally Selling Asian Leopard Cat - US Attorney
Posted on Friday, July 20, 2007

LAWFUEL - The Law Newswire - R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and Eddie McKissick, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced today that David G. Sparandara, 46, a U.S. citizen residing in Prague, Czech Republic, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Miami in connection with the illegal sale and transportation from the Czech Republic to Miami of a live Asian Leopard Cat, Felis (Prionailurus) bengalensis bengalensis, an endangered species, in violation of the federal Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372 and 3373.

United States District Court Judge Adalberto Jordan sentenced Sparandara to a term of six (6) months of home confinement, a fine of up to $1,500.00, and five (5) years of probation. Additionally, the leopard cat involved in the commission of the offenses charged in the Indictment was forfeited to the United States.

The feline involved in this matter, is of a taxonomic sub-species specifically listed as an endangered species of wildlife, pursuant to the list of such species promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 17.11. It was first listed in June 1976. A small wild spotted cat, weighing about 10 pounds, the nocturnal feline is generally solitary and prefers brush and forest habitat. Asian Leopard Cats are prized by afficionados for their rarity and color pattern. However, they also have substantial commercial value in the pet trade due to their susceptibility to hybridization with domestic cats, which produces the “Bengal cat” pet species. According to statements in Court, the organization run by Sparandara in fact was little more than the feline version of a “puppy mill” which sold leopard cats to private breeders in the United States to produce Bengal cats for the high end pet trade.

According to the case records and statements in Court today, in January 2005 a Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Inspector in Texas became aware that the defendant, and a Prague-based entity known as the European-American Consortium For Small Felines of which he was the Director, was preparing to ship two Asian Leopard Cats to the United States. Investigation by the Inspector revealed that no one associated with Defendant, the Consortium, or the named recipients held valid Endangered Species Act (ESA) permits for the importations as required by law. 

Defendant was specifically advised of the restriction by the Inspector, but made no effort to acquire the necessary ESA permits, and re-routed one of the leopard cats through Miami International Airport on February 2, 2005. Paperwork accompanying the bengalensis indicated that it was being sold to the importer for in excess of $4,000. A subsequent effort by Sparandara in December 2005 to ship another bengalensis into Miami resulted in the interception and seizure of the feline.

The Division of Management Authority, within the Fish & Wildlife Service administers the ESA permit program and issues permits in accordance with as strict set of regulatory guidelines. Permits related to species designated as endangered are only issued to bona fide scientific and research facilities with the specific goal of enhancing the propagation or survival of the wildlife under consideration. The ESA list is a compilation of species which have been determined to be so depleted in numbers that they are in danger of extinction.

Mr. Acosta commended the coordinated investigative efforts of the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service Agents and Inspectors The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas Watts-FitzGerald and Certified Legal Intern Courtney R. Berman. 

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov. 

Source: http://lawfuel.com/show-release.asp?ID=13677


U.S. CITIZEN SENTENCED FOR ILLEGALLY SELLING AND TRANSPORTING AN ASIAN LEOPARD CAT
July 20, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and Eddie McKissick, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced today that David G. Sparandara, 46, a U.S. citizen residing in Prague, Czech Republic, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Miami in connection with the illegal sale and transportation from the Czech Republic to Miami of a live Asian Leopard Cat, Felis (Prionailurus) bengalensis bengalensis, an endangered species, in violation of the federal Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372 and 3373.

United States District Court Judge Adalberto Jordan sentenced Sparandara to a term of six (6) months of home confinement, a fine of up to $1,500.00, and five (5) years of probation. Additionally, the leopard cat involved in the commission of the offenses charged in the Indictment was forfeited to the United States.

The feline involved in this matter, is of a taxonomic sub-species specifically listed as an endangered species of wildlife, pursuant to the list of such species promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 17.11. It was first listed in June 1976. A small wild spotted cat, weighing about 10 pounds, the nocturnal feline is generally solitary and prefers brush and forest habitat. Asian Leopard Cats are prized by afficionados for their rarity and color pattern. However, they also have substantial commercial value in the pet trade due to their susceptibility to hybridization with domestic cats, which produces the "Bengal cat" pet species. According to statements in Court, the organization run by Sparandara in fact was little more than the feline version of a "puppy mill" which sold leopard cats to private breeders in the United States to produce Bengal cats for the high end pet trade.

According to the case records and statements in Court today, in January 2005 a Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Inspector in Texas became aware that the defendant, and a Prague-based entity known as the European-American Consortium For Small Felines of which he was the Director, was preparing to ship two Asian Leopard Cats to the United States. Investigation by the Inspector revealed that no one associated with Defendant, the Consortium, or the named recipients held valid Endangered Species Act (ESA) permits for the importations as required by law.

Defendant was specifically advised of the restriction by the Inspector, but made no effort to acquire the necessary ESA permits, and re-routed one of the leopard cats through Miami International Airport on February 2, 2005. Paperwork accompanying the bengalensis indicated that it was being sold to the importer for in excess of $4,000. A subsequent effort by Sparandara in December 2005 to ship another bengalensis into Miami resulted in the interception and seizure of the feline.

The Division of Management Authority, within the Fish & Wildlife Service administers the ESA permit program and issues permits in accordance with as strict set of regulatory guidelines. Permits related to species designated as endangered are only issued to bona fide scientific and research facilities with the specific goal of enhancing the propagation or survival of the wildlife under consideration. The ESA list is a compilation of species which have been determined to be so depleted in numbers that they are in danger of extinction.

Mr. Acosta commended the coordinated investigative efforts of the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service Agents and Inspectors The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas Watts-FitzGerald and Certified Legal Intern Courtney R. Berman.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Technical comments about this website can be e-mailed to the Webmaster. PLEASE NOTE: The United States Attorney's Office does not respond to non-technical inquiries made to this website. If you wish to make a request for information, you may contact our office at 305-961-9001, or you may send a written inquiry to the United States Attorney's Office, Southern District of Florida, 99 NE 4th Street, Miami, Fl. 33132.

Source:  http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls/PressReleases/070720-02.html


Please Note: LCF has been in continued contact with the US Citizens that claim they sent David G. Sparandara, residing in Prague, Czech Republic  of the European-American Consortium For Small Felines, approximately $5000.00 plus shipping expenses for a legal Leopard Cat cub. They have stated in recent emails that they still to this day (September 20, 2008) have not received a legal Leopard Cat cub nor a full refund of the money they sent. If you are also a victim of this, please contact LCF as soon as possible. 



References:
Bamboo Cattery website
Leopard Cat Foundation, Mike Bloodgood
Animal Diversity Web: Prionailurus bengalensis 
Big Cats Online: Leopard Cat 
Cat Survival Trust: Leopard Cat 
ISEC Canada: Leopard Cat 
IUCN Cat Specialist Group: Leopard Cat 
Wild Cats of the World. Blandford: United Kingdom 
Fieldmuseum, philippine,bengalensis
USFW
Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Programme 
Negros Forests & Ecological Foundation, Inc. 


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