Leopard cats in Singapore

The leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) is a small spotted wild cat (up to 106.5 cm total length; 0.5–7.1 kg) found in South and East Asia. They are solitary, living in forest, wooded areas and rural plantations. Though fairly widespread and common in other parts its range, little is known about it regionally. In Singapore, leopard cats are so rarely sighted that they were once thought to be locally extinct on the main island and likely to be at the brink of national extinction. But this did not always use to be the case.

From the 1800s till 1920s, leopard cats were not uncommon in the jungles of Singapore. However, due to rapid development and forest loss after World War II, their numbers declined and the last sighting on the main island occurred in 1968.

For a long time, there were no confirmed sightings until 1997, when one leopard cat was found trapped in a fishing net on Pulau Ubin. Their presence on Pulau Tekong, another off-shore island, was confirmed by an NUS researcher, Norman Lim, in 2005. On the main island, however, their occurrence were sadly only recorded from two road kills in 2001 and 2007.

A leopard cat on the cover of the Singapore Red Data Book (second edition).

Today, the leopard cat is the only native wild cat alive in Singapore and is nationally critically endangered. This project aims to find out more about the ecology of the cat where it still exists, with the hopes of ensuring its long term survival in the country.