Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata)

As we all know, sightings of wild cats are particularly rare in Thailand and sightings of some cats are rarer than others. 

In our camera trapping exploits, with the staff of the Kaeng Krachan National Park, a capture of any felid is always an occasion for celebration. The animal, its behavior and habitat are always working against us. All one has in the quiver is a mix of 10% equipment, 10% knowledge and 80% of sheer unadulterated luck.

But with enough time, luck becomes a more reliable ally. And so, there we sat, Paul, Ed and Sudat on a rainy hillside, removing a camera from a trial set that we had decided to try on an impulse. There had been discussion before placing the camera as the animal track was just a small depression in the hillside, it had no valid start and no valid end – it just existed in limbo. We had no idea if it was a remnant track or still used, or by what.

Two months after the decision to place the camera trap, we were sat in the mud with the trap disassembled around my legs, scrolling through the pictures captured using the screen on the back of the camera with the other two peaking intensely over my shoulders. The conditions for viewing the screen were not great but one frame had something strange in it, something small and dark, I zoomed in.

We all realized at the same time, and 3 shouts emitted simultaneously. Our 6th wild cat species from Kaeng Krachan National Park.

This was our first ever “glimpse” of the elusive and rarely photographed marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata marmorata) in three and a half years of our camera trap photography project in the park.

a Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata)


The marbled cat is similar in size to a domestic cat, but with a thickly furred tail that is one of its standout characteristics, and is an adaptation to its arboreal exploits, where its tail is used as a counterbalance. As you can see from the photographs, its coat pattern is extremely well suited to the forest and in the uncropped version of the photograph one has to concentrate to see the cat on the forest floor.


The Marbled Cat has never been intensively studied, but Grassman et al. (2005) report a preliminary home range estimate of 5.3 kmฒ for an adult female who was radio-collared and tracked for one month in Thailand's Phu Khieu National Park. There is no detailed information regarding Marbled Cat diet, but it probably preys primarily on rodents, including squirrels (Nowell and Jackson 1996), and birds. [1]

a Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) 2

More information on this fascinating species can be found at

[1] Ross, J., Brodie, J., Cheyne, S., Hearn, A., Loken, B., Lynam, A., McCarthy, J., Phan, C., Rasphone, A., Singh, P. & Wilting, A. 2015. Pardofelis marmorata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T16218A50661236.

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onflipflops's Avatar
onflipflops replied the topic: #3803 01 Jun 2016 17:09
By far the most beautiful of the small wild cats.
Congratulations with this capture!
I wonder how 'common' they are. Indeed they are not frequently camera trapped, but that might have to do with its arboreal behaviour.
It would be very interesting to know how much time they spend up in the trees.

Did you get a higher capture rate of this species during your previous project in Thailand's eastern forest complex?
WT admin's Avatar
WT admin replied the topic: #3806 01 Jun 2016 19:47

Did you get a higher capture rate of this species during your previous project in Thailand's eastern forest complex?

We got none of the previous project - but keep in mind we are a photographic project not a research project or presence/absence survey, so we do things in a non scientific manner.
onflipflops's Avatar
onflipflops replied the topic: #3807 01 Jun 2016 20:31
I understand, it is hard to draw conclusions with a limited amount of gear.
I read on the IUCN page that besides very low capture rates anywhere in its range, that there were also low recapture rates. So even getting an individual to show up for a second time in front of a camera trap on a previously successful spot is apparently uncommon.
In other words, like you said, it's just pure luck. Makes your image even more special.

And it makes me realise again how fortunated I have been to see AND stand just 1 metre next to this elusive cat in the wild in Khao Yai.

"Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius." > Edward O. Wilson

"An understanding of the Natural World and whats in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment." > Sir David Attenborough

“Climb up on some hill at sunrise.  Everybody needs perspective once in a while, and you’ll find it there.” > Robb Sagendorph


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