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The Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis is thought to be Asiaâ€™s most abundant wild cat. Yet, the speciesâ€™ status is poorly known due to a lack of rigorous population estimates. Based on the few studies available, Leopard Cats appear to be more abundant in degraded forests, potentially due to increased prey availability. We conducted camera trap surveys, rodent live-trapping, and spatially-explicit capture-recapture analyses to estimate the density of Leopard Cats within a degraded tropical forest fragment (148km2) in northeastern Thailand. A total effort of 12,615 camera trap nights across 65km2 of trapping area resulted in at least 25 uniquely identified individuals. Average rodent biomass (the main prey of Leopard Cats) was highest in the dry evergreen forest (469.0g/ha), followed by dry dipterocarp forest (287.5g/ha) and reforested areas (174.2g/ha). Accordingly, Leopard Cat densities were highest in the dry evergreen forest with 21.42 individuals/100km2, followed by the reforested areas with 7.9 individuals/100km2. Only two detections came from the dry dipterocarp forest despite both an extensive survey effort (4,069 trap nights) and available prey. Although the dipterocarp supported the second highest average rodent biomass, it lacked a key prey species, Maxomys surifer, possibly explaining low encounter rates in that habitat. Our results provide important baseline information concerning the population status of Leopard Cat in southeastern Asia. Further, our findings corroborate with other studies that found a tolerance among Leopard Cats for degraded forests, highlighting the potential for forest fragments to serve as long-term conservation areas for the species.
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