Madagascar does not have native wild felid species; however, distinct populations of free-ranging “forest cats” of unknown species are known throughout the island, including at Ankarafantsika National Park, Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve, Makira Natural Park and the Masoala peninsula. Malagasy “forest cats” are commonly considered invasive lemur predators and competitors with endemic carnivores as well as a nuisance exotic species that kill poultry. These cats may be descendants of African wildcats, European wildcats and/or domestic cats; however, no research on their genetic origin has been published. To determine their taxonomic status, genetic data from short tandem repeat markers was assessed for three wild-caught “forest cats” from the Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve (BMSR) and 27 “forest cats” from Ankarafantsika National Park. Bayesian analyses comparing the Malagasy “forest cats” to approximately 1900 domestic and wildcat sub-species suggest the Malagasy cats are descendents of domestic cats from the Arabian Sea region, including the islands of Lamu and Pate, Dubai, Kuwait and Oman. Additional genetic influences may descend from India and Pakistan. Combined with cultural and historical information, these data suggest that these felid populations are likely descendents from cats that immigrated to the island on trade ships, particularly along early Arab trade routes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics