Unique Facts of Forest Cats, Not Afraid of Water and Swimming Standards

  • The jungle cat or leopard cat is a type of wild cat that is good at swimming.
  • This leopard cat belongs to the same genus as the away cat [ Prionailurus planiceps ] and also the fishing cat [ Prionailurus viverrinus ] so it is good at swimming.
  • One study in Cianjur Regency, West Java, explained that jungle cats can swim across the Cisokan River.
  • In Indonesia, this cat is a protected animal. Internationally, even though its status in the IUCN is still considered stable, the jungle cat is included in CITES Appendix II, which is potentially endangered if traded without regulations.

For the general public, cats are considered animals that are afraid of getting wet or afraid of water. However, many people don't know that several types of wild cats actually have good swimming abilities.

Of course, this cat is different from the type of domestic cat that is familiar with the human environment. Meanwhile, wild cats, in general, have very elusive behavior or are difficult to find because of their forest habitat and have a tendency to avoid humans.

Globally, there are around 40 types of wild cats and 11 types of them can be found in Indonesia and are specifically distributed on certain islands, namely Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Bali and Nusa Tenggara. However, two types have become extinct, leaving only 9 types. Sadly, this condition is in line with the limited information about wild cats in Indonesia, both research and conservation.

The type of wild cat that has the ability to swim is the jungle cat or also known as the leopard cat. Jungle cats are the type of wild cat that most often interacts with or meets humans. In English it is called the Sunda Leopard Cat or Mainland Leopard Cat with the scientific name Prionailurus bengalensis.

Based on previous interviews with Erwin Wilianto , founder of  Save Indonesian Nature & Threatened Species [SINTAS Indonesia] as well as member of  the Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance  and member of the Cat Specialist Group – IUCN SSC, it was explained that there are two subspecies of forest cats in Indonesia; which used to be one, namely Prionailurus bengalensis , was then separated.

"The two subspecies are Kalimantan and Sumatran [ Prionailurus javanensis sumatranus ] separated from the subspecies in Java [ Prionailurus javanensis javanensis ] ," said Erwin.

Based on the explanation of researchers at the Cat Specialist Group , ecologically and behaviorally, the bobcat is a species that lives alone, but has been observed in pairs or with small children, and is described as a nocturnal and crepuscular animal [transition from day to evening]. However, there are also those who observe during the day, when males are more active than females.

In fact, this type uses a wider range in the rainy season than in the dry season, and uses forests and bushes as a place to rest and breed.

“This cat is a great climber and is often seen resting in trees. "In fact, this species is also an excellent swimmer, having colonized offshore islands throughout its range," wrote researchers at the Cat Specialist Group.

There is very little research on bobcats, especially regarding their swimming abilities. One of the studies on the existence of forest cats, related to feces and footprints, used camera traps , carried out in the Cisokan non-conservation forest area, Cianjur Regency, West Java [ Journal of Biodiversity, 2018 ] .

In the research, especially at the Bedil and Cirumanis Market locations, researchers found bobcat feces. Pasir Bedil and Cirumanis themselves are separated by the Cisokan River, but according to researchers, jungle cats can swim across the Cisokan River.

Regarding this swimming ability, quoting from science direct , it can be seen in the physical characteristics of the genus Prionailurus which has a curved back with short legs; some of the soles of its feet and nails can be pulled as an adaptation to the semi-aquatic environment in which it lives and because its diet consists of a lot of fish.

"So it is not surprising that jungle cats are excellent swimmers and divers, because they often visit swamp forests with mangrove forests or dense vegetation on the banks of rivers and water basins," wrote the researchers as quoted from science direct .

The jungle cat itself belongs to the same genus as the away cat ( Prionailurus planiceps ) and also the fishing cat [ Prionailurus viverrinus ] which is known as a wetland specialist . So it's not surprising that jungle cats or leopard cats also have excellent swimming abilities, no less than mangrove cats and away cats.

Physical characteristics

For body size, researchers at the Cat Specialist Group say that forest cats weigh 1.6 – 8 kg, body length between 45-65 cm, tail length around 20-30 cm, life span of up to 13 years, and are capable of having 2 children. 3 tails.

The main prey are rodents such as mice. However, this cat also preys on rabbits, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, eels and fish. Jungle cats can be found in various habitats, for example in unspoiled tropical forests, swamp forests and bush habitats.

However, according to research, bobcats are more tolerant of deforestation and habitat change than other wild cat species. Jungle cats have been found several times through camera traps in degraded forests and habitats that have been modified into oil palm plantations. However, the population is decreasing due to loss of habitat or hunting.

Still in this research, in 2010, the results of investigations on the island of Java, it was estimated that the total number of forest cat trade reached 600 individuals per year. Meanwhile, the selling price increased. All individuals traded come from the wild, most of which are juveniles. Currently, the trade in jungle cats can be traced on social media, which are kept as pets because they are considered exotic animals.

Internationally, even though its status in the IUCN is still considered stable , the jungle cat is included in Appendix II of CITES, which is potentially endangered if traded without regulations.

The researchers recommend conducting further research to determine the taxonomic and conservation status of bobcats. Although, it is suspected that this species is tolerant of various types and levels of habitat disturbance, the level of tolerance is currently unknown and requires in-depth research.

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