Last year, I introduced you to seven threatened cats you may not have heard of. Now here's one more:
Flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps)
Lives in: Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Thailand
Habitat: tropical forest near rivers, lakes and swamps
Eats: small mammals, birds, amphibians, fish
Physical features: about the size of a house cat, flat head, short tail, webbed paws
The flat-headed cat is one of the least-known kitties in the world. There are, at most, only 2,500 mature individuals left in the wild, and that number is likely decreasing; in 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature changed the flat-headed cat's status from "threatened" to "endangered."
Southeast Asia has the world's highest rate of deforestation, and, like many animals there, the flat-headed cat's main threat is loss of habitat. A new study in PLoS One estimates that 54 to 80 percent of the cat's suitable habitat has been lost, with much of that turned into cropland or oil palm plantations. (There had been some suggestions that the cats may be able to live and breed on these farms, but the new study argues that there is no evidence that the cats can be found there.) Pollution from gold mining and agriculture, over-fishing of the cats' prey, and hunting of the cats may also be affecting the species' population numbers.