The Visayan Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis rabori) is a newly described subspecies. The basis of its description was morphological analysis, although genetic analysis is necessary to authenticate its taxonomic characteristic. It is included here provisionally; the West Visayan faunal region (the Philippine islands of Cebu, Panay and Negros) is separated from the Sunda shelf islands (including the Philippine island of Palawan) by deep water channels. There is possibility that it may have undergone a long period of isolation and the region shows a high degree of endemism in mammals.
This cat is listed as Vulnerable as its extent of occurrence is estimated to be less than 20,000 km², with fewer than 10 subpopulations and a continuing decline in extent of occurrence, number of mature individuals, area of occupancy and habitat quality. On Panay Island it survives in the left over forest fragments of Northwest and Central Panay Mountain Range. Its presence was also reported from Sicogon, an island off the northeast coast. On Negros, its occurrence was reported from the forests of the Mt. Talinis-Twin Lakes Natural Park, North Negros Natural Park and Mt. Kanlaon National Park. It is believed that it may also be found in forest fragments of southern Negros Occidental (i.e. Sipalay-Hinobaan-Candoni area). In addition to this the cat also inhabits sugarcane farms. In Cebu, it was reported to be present only in two areas, namely Barangays San Jose and Santican in Catmon.
Available data – including former (i.e. late Pleistocene land bridges connecting all the West Visayan as a single land mass), coupled with animal’s recent known distribution and their evident tolerance to a varied variety of habitat types – suggest that there was a time when leopard cats were widely distributed through the ‘West Visayan (or ‘Negros-Panay’) Faunal Region’. Now they have been extirpated from at least 90-95 per cent of their presumed former range and their number is still declining. The West Visayas has also suffered greatly in terms of deforestation. In Philippines total forest cover has been reduced to less than 180,000 ha and 4 (of the 6) main islands now have less than 0.01 per cent of remaining forest cover. Whatever little forest is surviving is also highly fragmented, often degraded and usually subject to further attrition and other disturbances through the illegal collection of timber and other forest products. Hunting pressure also poses an additional serious threat in some areas. Although these cats are seldom specifically targeted by hunters, yet they are often ensnared in traps set for other species and/or captured on an opportunistic basis. Outlying subpopulations inhabiting sugar cane farms on Negros Occidental are also subject to opportunistic hunting pressure (especially during sugarcane harvesting) or probable widespread use of rodenticides and other agro-poisons.
Difficulties in raising litter
Visayan leopard cats often give birth to their young ones in sugarcane fields. It is presumed that they get attracted to these fields either due to dense cover or ample supply of rats and other agricultural pests or both. What is not known is whether the pregnant cats migrate into the cane fields from neighboring forest patches to give birth, or they permanently inhabit agricultural areas. In either case, the harvesting of sugarcane has disastrous consequences for females rearing litters, which they are usually forced to abandon.
Most kittens orphaned like this die before or shortly after they reach the rescue centers, probably from dehydration or other factors relating to their age and the length of time between their capture and arrival at the center (often several days). Situation can be changed and chances of their survival can be made better by improving personnel training, access to expert advice, better equipment, better milk substitutes and imported vaccines.