The Leopard Cat

Spotted Saturday @ Sakaerat Najas Project

The Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) is a small felid species with a range spanning India to the Far East of Russia and Indochina. It is a solitary animal, living mostly in tropical evergreen forests. One of our field researchers was lucky enough to spot one crossing the road here at Sakaerat SERS recently.

Leopard Cats hunt at night, and feed mainly on prey such as small mammals, lizards and birds as well as large insects. Here in Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve they share their environment with the Asian Golden Cat (Catopuma temminckii) which is larger and able to predate even on deer species, therefore direct competition is rare.

(Not) Fun fact: The Leopard Cat has been mated with domestic cats since the ‘60s to produce hybrid offspring known as the Bengal cat. Since these hybrids are often sterile, the demand for pure Leopard Cats is high and the species continues to be hunted throughout most of its range for fur, food, and as pets.

This image shows a Leopard Cat in front of the shelter of a radiotracked Monocled Cobra (Naja kaouthia).


Photos By Trail Camera

Spotted Saturday

Our work focuses on the spatial ecology of the Monocled and Indochinese Spitting Cobra. Our field assistants track the snakes and gather data on the micro-habitats that are utilized. As such, on rare occasions, we will have a visual and witness the snakes (and their behaviour) in their natural environment. We aim to disturb the snakes as little as possible and great care is taken during data gathering to achieve this.
Just yesterday, our tracker Lichy Pulman was locating our longest tracked Monocled Cobra: NAKA012. Through use of radiotelemetry, the snake appeared to be stationery within the Dry Dipterocarp Forest. Once carefully and slowly located, the snake was found basking on an outcrop of stone within the forest. Once spotted, our tracker monitored from 10 meters until the snake started to move in his direction. Movement was therefore necessary resulting in the snake sensing human presence. Although not visibly panicked, NAKA012 turned slowly and repositioned 20m away.
The video was captured on a mobile phone, therefore the quality is not great, but the content is superb.

Naka014 capture

On 29th May 2016 Monocled Cobra Naja kaouthia Nakao14 was noticed by Tyler who went jogging to the forest. Snake was crossing main road. Tyler, as he did not carry any handling tools, followed snake to very old termite mound. Once snake sheltered he blocked entrance with the stone and run like Forest Gump for back up. We dig the snake out and now Naka014 is part of  our radio telemetry project. This snake is only female of Monocled Cobra that we currently radio track and second in history of our project. She is 1.56 m long and 870 g body weight.  Unfortunately snake wasn’t a good model and she book it straight after release.

Naka015 capture

On Sunday 12th of June, Tyler with bird team noticed another Monocled Cobra crossing main road in the reserve. Snake retreated to the animal burrow. Lucky for us it was shallow and easy to access. After 15 minutes of chasing snake in different openings we pull him out. Naka015  is adult male 1.55 m and 1041 g. Snake was implanted with radio transmitter and release at capture site. This snake was captured  within home range of Naka012, our longest radio tracked snake. Unfortunate this individual wasn’t happy to be a model and moved straight to the dense vegetation on release. This is only image I menage to take.



Naka016 capture

Our most recent N. kaouthia was noticed in the Dry Evergreen Forest forest by the bird team on 24th June 2016. Snake was crossing main road in the forest. Once encounter snake move off the road and hide in tree roots. On our arrival, after snake was left alone for about 15 minutes, we noticed that snake was sitting stil just next to the road. One of the easiest capture I remember. Naka016 is 1.65 m male. He weight just over a kilogram.

Naka016_25.06.16 (3)_wmNaka016_25.06

He has very distinguish hood mark, where mark is incomplete on top.


We are happy to add this snake to our study, especially that this snake will potentially share his home range with Naka015 and Naka014.


Naka003 capture


Bart’s been quite concerned for a while about the number of snakes we are tracking on the project, obviously the more snakes tracked the more data we have to play with. We’ve been stuck at 3 for quite a while now….but all that changed yesterday morning!

The day started as just another day! If ever there is such a thing on the Sakaerat Conservation and Snake Education Team. It looked as though it was to be a busy one. First we had to check our plots in which we hope to catch more Naja’s for our common cobra project. Then we had to check both Nasi003 and Nasi009 in the outlying villages, before back to the station and off into the dry evergreen forest to track Naka012. All before lunch, as the afternoon would be taken up by completing the construction of a third plot that we are building in a streambed near to the station.

The morning was going well the two Nasi’s were behaving, no big moves to take up our time with long tracks. A small repair job on one of the snake traps a mammal had chewed its way through the previous day, we were on schedule.

Heading back, just 200m from the station I noticed a strange looking stick by the side of the road. As we approached I noticed the stick was also hissing and hooding at some unseen offending incident or individual further along the road ahead of us. Naja kaouthia! Curtis slammed on the bike brakes as he and I exploded off the bike, frantically trying to call Bart and assemble tracking equipment to verify it was a new snake. Sure enough we got no signal from the kaouthia. Now past the snake and in its eye line the snake’s attention was well and truly on us. For three or four minutes it hooded at us before becoming bored watching the two over excited buffoons fumble about with equipment, and started to move slowly into the forest. Curtis took off in hot pursuit following the snake into the forest which eventually hid under a pile of cut vegetation by the side of the road.

At that moment, Bart (who had been woken from a deep slumber by our call) came sprinting round the corner, shirt unbuttoned, snake tongs in hand like a herpetological superhero! We got the snake surrounded and Bart moved in for the capture. The snake hooded and hissed and struck out at the snake tongs but was eventually subdued without incident.

The rest of the day consisted of snake processing and surgery. Turns out that this isn’t this snakes 1st run in with the snake team. Our kaouthia is non other than NAKA003, a snake which was caught FOUR TIMES in 2013. The transmitter was implanted, and the snake was recovered and ready for release within a few hours. At 5 pm the snake was released about 20m from its capture site a little further into the forest away from the road. As he was emptied out the box it seems he had a score to settle with his captor and took a disliking to Bart. For the next 30 minutes he hooded and hissed at him (ignoring the other team members). Eventually however with a little encouragement he slinked off back into the forest.

So after a hectic day we officially got our 4th snake! Looking at his previous capture data it seems he has a healthy sized home range, though most of his captures have been around the station. However, he hasn’t been captured for almost two years to the day. It does make you wonder where he has been, how he has avoided detection for so long, and what has led to him being so exposed and captured now? We will keep you posted!

Snake is male 1540 mm long and 732 g heavy.

Here are some pictures from release.

Sami and Curtis