Mainland S'pore home to fewer than 20 leopard cats, those discovered have been roadkill

The last wild cat of Singapore.

Belmont Lay | February 11, 2021, 12:58 PM

Mainland Singapore is home to fewer than 20 leopard cats, the last wild cat species on this island having outlived tigers and leopards.

A new 13-minute documentary about its conservation premiered on YouTube on Feb. 8, 2021.

The video produced by the Singapore Wildcat Action Group (SWAG) contains intriguing footage of the elusive wild cat, which is almost never seen by people on the island.

This has led to talk that they have become completely extinct.

But according to Marcus Chua, a mammal researcher who has been studying leopard cats in Singapore, there are about 20 to 21 of these wild cats on Pulau Tekong, and fewer than 20 on the mainland.

Small amount of forested areas left

Chua's research is on where the leopard cats are located and how to conserve them.

Leopard cats are critically endangered in Singapore.

According to him, the small number of leopard cats left on mainland Singapore is due to the small forested areas.

The encroachment on the leopard cat's habitat has resulted in the movement of the animals leading to dire consequences.

Chua said: "Unfortunately, a lot of leopard cats that we see, are only as a result of carcasses, and these were killed on the roads, on Mandai Road, Changi and Lim Chu Kang as well."

The most recent high-profile death was a 2018 leopard cat roadkill in Mandai.

Forest clearing to create a eco-tourism hub was thought to have driven these animals to move around, the video said.

Chua said more links between forested areas have to be established to allow the safe passage of wild animals, which otherwise, might not make it alive across man-made areas.

If not, speed-calming measures have to be taken to force motorists to slow down in areas with animal crossings.

With mitigation methods in place, leopard cats have more of a fighting chance.

They have been observed to have returned to reclaimed parts of Pulau Tekong.

Characteristics of a leopard cat

The leopard cat is about the same size as a domestic cat.

It can grow up to 56cm long with a 27cm-long tail.

The adult cat weighs about 2kg.

The leopard cat has yellow or reddish brown fur, white underparts and black spots all over.

It also sports white spots on its ears, and distinct black stripes on its head and the back of its neck.

All photos via Singapore Wildcat Action Group