MP Sighting ‘Rare’ Desert Cat Is Not Uncommon After All, Independent Wildlife Experts Say

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Sighting the cat in the jungles is not unusual, say experts with ‘photographic evidence’ captured as recently as 2018

The Indian Desert Cat was photographed by a tourist during a night safari on December 14, 2021. Photo: Rupesh Kukade

The Indian Desert Cat has been catapulted into the spotlight since being spotted in the Akola buffer zone of Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh during a night safari on December 14.

The Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR), while sharing the news on the microblogging platform Twitter, said it had only been spotted four times in the past between 1999 and 2006 in the Thar Desert.

The species is mentioned in the official list of animals found in the reserve but has not been sighted or captured recently in camera traps, said PTR field director Uttam Sharma. Down to earth. “So this last photo-proof is a big thing, even for us. “

The fact that the Desert Cat was found in a jungle surprised many wildlife enthusiasts, but the sighting may not be as rare as it is claimed, especially in arid areas, said Yadvendradev Jhala, Dean and Scientist “G” at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

He added that he had photographic evidence of the cat spotted in the PTR in 2018. “It has also been spotted several times in other parts of central and western India.”

There were 541 sightings of the cat in 2018-19 alone, according to Status of Leopards, Co-predators and Megaherbivore-2018 compiled by Jhala.

The species is highly adaptable and can be found in forests as well as arid and semi-arid regions, he said.

It feeds on small rodents and reptiles and is primarily a nocturnal creature, the expert added.

The reason why it is found more abundantly in deserts than in jungles is the presence of the Indian jungle cat in the latter habitat. The Indian jungle cat is a larger and more dominant species in the forests.

Jhala said:

The presence of Indian jungle cats in the jungles may be the reason why desert cats are mostly spotted in Rajasthan and the Thar Desert of India. But that doesn’t mean he can’t live in dense jungles. He was also seen in the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan.

The reserve’s field director said the photos WII took had not been shared with him, nor had they published a story about it. “They work in PTR. If they have photos, they should have shared them with us.”

The Indian Desert Cat was not reported in the PTR 2002-03 to 2011-12 management plan, the director added. “Someone needs to authenticate the photo. Until they share the photos with us, we can’t comment on it because it’s not in our records.”

The species has sandy brown fur and small round spots covering the upper part of its body. The cat has a long, slender, and tapered tail with a black tip and spots at its base, according to the Status of leopards, co-predators and megaherbivores in India 2018.

The animal belongs to the “Least Concern” category of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan also tweeted in December 2021 that “noews of an Indian desert cat first spotted in the state of #PannaTigerReserve is encouraging. “

Restricting human activities in the PTR buffer zone may have allowed the desert cat to venture into the jungle, according to Sharma. The PRT buffer zone includes deciduous forests and weaker vegetation than that of the central zone, he said.

The movement of herbivores and carnivores has increased in the region since restrictions on human activities were put in place in 2013, he added.

The Indian Desert Cat has also been spotted in the Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh in the past, wildlife experts have informed. Both PTR and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary are in Bundelkhand region in MP and climatic conditions and vegetation are similar to semi-arid regions – low vegetation, high temperatures and water scarcity, a said Sudhanshu Yadav, divisional forestry officer at Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary. “The cat may have adapted to the environment for this reason.”

Felis silvestris (Indian desert cat) has pug markings similar to those of feral cats. Thus, neither the PRT nor the Nauradehi WS team could determine its population.

“We need direct evidence like sightings or pictures on camera traps to keep a record of the population,” Yadav said.

IFS Gobind Sagar Bharadwaj, author of the book Ranthambhore Tiger Tracking, has spotted the Asian wildcat 26 times in his life. The species was more common in Rajasthan and parts of Gujarat in the past, he said based on anecdotal evidence.

“I spotted it 18 times in Jaiselmer Desert National Park, three times in Sariska Tiger Reserve, twice in Tal Chappar Blackbuck Sanctuary, once in Barmer, once in Gujarat and I have saw a corpse in Jodhpur “, added the expert.

Sightings have become less frequent now due to road accidents and shrinking habitat, he added.



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