Ecol Evol. 2022 Jul 5;12(7):e9067. doi: 10.1002/ece3.9067. eCollection 2022 Jul.
In Southeast Asia, conservation of ‘Vulnerable’ clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) and ‘Endangered’ tigers (Panthera tigris) might depend on the management of their preferred prey because large felid populations are limited by the availability of suitable prey. However, the diet of clouded leopards has never been determined, so the preferred prey of this felid remains unknown. The diet of tigers in the region has been studied only from one protected-area complex in western Thailand, but prey preferences were not determined. To better understand the primary and preferred prey of threatened felids, we used DNA-confirmed scats and prey surveys to determine the diet and prey selection of clouded leopards and tigers in a hilly evergreen forest in northern Laos. For clouded leopards, the primary prey was wild pig (Sus scrofa; 33% biomass consumed), followed by greater hog badger (Arctonyx collaris; 28%), small rodents (15%), and mainland serow (Capricornis sumatraensis; 13%; hereafter, serow). For tigers, the primary prey was wild pig (44%), followed by serow (18%), sambar (Rusa unicolor; 12%), and Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus; 10%). Compared to availability, serow was positively selected by both clouded leopards (D = 0.69) and tigers (0.61), whereas all other ungulate species were consumed in proportion to the availability or avoided. Our results indicate that clouded leopards are generalist predators with a wide prey spectrum. Nonetheless, mid-sized ungulates (50-150 kg) comprised nearly half of their diet, and were the preferred prey, supporting a previous hypothesis that the enlarged gape and elongated canines of clouded leopards are adaptations for killing large prey. Because serow was the only ungulate preferred by both felids, we recommend that serow populations be monitored and managed to help conservation efforts for clouded leopards and tigers, at least in hilly evergreen forests of Southeast Asia.