A leopard cat was repatriated to Palawan and released back to the wild in Barangay Tagabenit after quarantine last week.
The release was made possible by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC), local Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Philippine television travelogue show Born to be Wild hosted by veterinarian Dr. Nielsen Donato.
The repatriation and release of the feral cat was the first documented in the province, according to the PCSDS.
PCSDS spokesperson Jovic Fabello said Friday that the GMA Network travelogue show released the leopard cat in the forest of the outlying village of Tagabenit.
“May nahuling leopard cat sa Laguna, and then nag-report ‘yong Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) sa Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) at na-call ‘yong attention nila Born to be Wild, nila Doc Nielsen. I-tra-traffic ‘yong leopard cat. Iba ito sa musang, ha? Iba ito sa Palawan civet cat. Ito akala mo talaga leopard na may spots, spots siya,” he said.
He said along with the repatriated wild cat was also a Palawan hill mynah that was rescued from trafficking.
Fabello said the Palawan leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) is about the size of the domestic cat, but leaner and willowy, has longer legs, and its body is marked with black spots.
He said the PCSDS assisted in the documentation of the wildlife while the PWRCC helped in quarantining to ensure the entry of infectious diseases is prevented.
“Inayos namin ‘yong mga papeles, we turned over muna sa PWRCC and then sinamahan namin ‘yong team nila para i-release dito sa Barangay Tagabinet. And why Tagabinet? Because it will maybe become part of Cleopatra’s Needle or part of the Puerto Princesa Underground River and there is a possibility na may population ng Palawan leopard cat doon,” Fabello said during a USAID Protect Wildlife Project event on March 15.
During the March 10 airing of Born to be Wild, Nielsen said the Palawan leopard cat was found in Laguna in a small cage.
Nielsen, who specializes in soft-tissue and orthopedic surgery and is also an avian and exotic animal specialist, said he does not know if the owner bought it or asked for it from a neighbor in Laguna.
He added further that leopard cats are often trapped in the wilds to be sold in the pet trade.
“Masigla pa at mailap ang leopard cat, puwede pa siyang pakawalan, pero ang tanging lugar kung saan sila puwedeng ibalik ay sa Palawan kung saan sila talagang nakatira,” Nielsen said in the program.
He said “Palawan is very rich in biodiversity, it has very unique wildlife, and nowhere in the whole country will you find such unique animals” like the leopard cat.
Nielsen brought the animal to his clinic to be examined as a protocol before it is released to prevent infecting the wild population.
He said it is hard to repatriate wild animals because airline companies will only allow it if they are placed inside wooden crates that follow international standards.
“Ayon sa PWRCC, ito ang unang pagkakataon na may repatriation ng leopard cat pabalik ng Palawan. Itong mga animals na ganito, high-strung sila kaya mabilis silang mamamatay in captivity,” he said.
According to studies, as predators, leopard cats prey upon numerous small animal species such as rodents, helping control the pest population in agricultural areas.
Although they are identified as “least concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, restrictions on their capture and trade are being increased.