The camera traps set by the Wildlife Conservation Division (WCD) under the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) have captured the most elusive and rarely-sighted marble cat.
According to the WCD’s section head of biological corridor, Sangay Dorji, the cat has been captured by the camera-traps set as part of an on-going biodiversity survey in biological corridors for developing the management plan.
“This particular cat was spotted in the biological corridor number 8, which connects Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP) and Wangchuck Centennial Park (WCP),” said Sangay Dorji.
Forests, preserved to ensure and develop continual flow of wildlife genetic from one protected area to another in Bhutan is entitled as the Biological corridor. Bhutan today has nine biological corridors connecting different protected areas which constitute 8.61% corresponding to 3,307.14 square kilometers of the country’s land.
As per the field guide to the Mammals of Bhutan, the Marbled Cat is rarely seen in the wild because of its elusive habits, avoiding direct confrontation with humans which is why its behavior, habits, habitats and conservation threats is yet to be understood clearly.
The marble cat bears resemblance to a smaller clouded leopard due to its similar coat and can be recognized from its less distinct black-edge blotches on the sides of its body but more numerous black spots on the limbs.
The marble cat has stripes on the crown, neck and back that merges into irregular dorsal stripes and they are little smaller than that of the domestic cat. The marble cat has a short head with one black stripe merging up from the upper margin of each eye.
The cat is said to have couple of black stripes on the cheek and small spots on the forehead. But its underside of the limbs and tail comes with numerous spots. Its long and thick tail is spotted on the tip and colored dull black on its upper side.
The book says that the cat has 77 to 82 days of gestation period and known to live about 12 years. The cat is purely arboreal and primarily nocturnal. Its diet comprises mainly of small animals such as squirrels and birds.
Usually the cat measures 40 to 61 cms and comes with a tail 35-55 cms long. The cat on average weighs 5 to 6 kgs. The cat as per the guide book is best seen in the Royal Manas National Park. Pertaining to its conservation threats, it faces habitat loss and poaching globally.
However, in Bhutan, the species is not said to face any threats since it does not interfere with human settlements. The IUCN status of the cat is rated as vulnerable.
The current biodiversity assessment activity has reached the third phase and is scheduled to complete by end of March this year.