Zoological Studies

Vol. 60, 2021

(update: 2021.04.12; 07.05)

Spatial Distribution and Dietary Niche Breadth of Leopard Cats (Prionailurus bengalensis) Inhabiting Margalla Hills National Park, Pakistan

Hira Fatima1, Tariq Mahmood1,*, Lauren Mae Hennelly2, Muhammad Farooq1, Faraz Akrim3, and Muhammad Sajid Nadeem4


1Department of Wildlife Management, PMAS Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi 43600, Pakistan. *Correspondence: E-mail: tariqjanjua75@uaar.edu.pk (Mahmood). Tel: +923215105689.
E-mail: hira_fatima202@hotmail.com (Fatima); farooq378@gmail.com (Farooq)
2Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA. E-mail: lmhennelly@ucdavis.edu (Hennelly)
3Zoology Department, University of Kotli, Kotli, Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan. E-mail: farazakrim@hotmail.com (Akrim)
4Department of Zoology, PMAS Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi 43600, Pakistan. E-mail: sajidnm@hotmail.com (Nadeem)

Received 21 December 2020 / Accepted 1 April 2021
Communicated by Jian-Nan Liu

The leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) is distributed throughout the Himalayan foothills in Pakistan and occurs in moist temperate and dry coniferous forests. However, the cat species is categorized as “Data Deficient” in Pakistan. In the current study we aimed to investigate the leopard cat distribution and dietary niche in the Margalla Hills National Park, the lowest part of the Himalayan foothills in Pakistan. We recorded direct (field observations, camera trapping) and indirect signs (scats) of the species on 23 trails / tracks in the study area. The leopard cat was recorded at 13 different sampling sites in the park, with an altitudinal range between 664–1441 m asl. The diet composition of the species was investigated through scat analysis, with the species identity of the scats confirmed through the mitochondrial cytB region. The species’ diet comprised both animal and plant matter. The animal-based diet (in terms of frequency of occurrence) contained wild (51.75%) as well as domestic prey (7.69%), and plant species (31.47%). Wild prey included small mammals (rodents, two mongoose species, Asian palm squirrel, and Cape hare), birds, insects and snails. The domestic prey were poultry birds, sheep, goats and dogs. Consumption of wild prey was higher in summer (n = 31 scat), whereas intake of domestic prey was higher in winter (n = 37 scats). The dietary niche breadth was wider 14.84 in summer than winter 10.67. A chi-square test showed a significant difference in seasonal dietary intake of the leopard cat. The study concludes that the leopard cat feeds mainly on wild animal prey and plant species; however, in winter consumption of domestic prey increases.

Key words: Spatial distribution, Seasonal diet, Dietary composition, Prey species, Niche breadth.

Citation: Fatima H, Mahmood T, Hennelly LM, Farooq M, Akri F, Nadeem MS. 2021. Spatial distribution and dietary niche breadth of leopard cats (Prionailurus bengalensis) inhabiting Margalla Hills National Park, Pakistan. Zool Stud 60:34. doi:10.6620/ZS.2021.60-34.