Small cats are often ignored in comparison to big cats

Sanjay Gandhi National Park Entrance

By Karthik Nair

“Big cats especially tigers are often spoken about when it comes to tourism and the media, however small cats are rarely ever talked about,” said Mr Mayur Kamath, a Wildlife Warden at a lecture on small cats of Maharashtra organised by Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) yesterday.

The lecture was delivered by Mr Mayur Kamath and Ms Neha Panchamia, President at RESQ Charitable Trust. The lecture was free to attend via Google Meet for everyone interested. The links for such lectures are available on the SGNP Facebook events page.

A jungle cat in the wilderness. Photo credit: Soumyajit Nandy, Creative Commons licence

The session was started by Mr Kamath who introduced small cats such as the jungle cat, leopard cat, rusty-spotted cat and fishing cat which were common in Maharashtra. He stated that the four cats were all endangered and that is the reason why conservation efforts were required to save the species.

The four cats are also nocturnal to avoid conflicts with the bigger cats during the day. This also makes them hard to spot and photograph in the jungle. The rusty-spotted cat is one of the smallest cats in the world and very difficult to spot. The small cats have similar behaviours except the fishing cat which lives in wetlands and marshy regions and primarily eats fish.

Fishing cat looks on. Photo credit: Cliff, licensed for public use

Mr Kamath also showed two videos which were camera traps of the leopard cat which can be seen hunting a rodent.

Ms Panchamia’s efforts try to help small cats outside of the Protected Forest areas and rehabilitate them when required. She states that a lot of small cats live in agriculture lands as well.  Road kills and kitten discovery is what makes it evident that small cats do reside in human-dominant areas. However, this makes them vulnerable to being attacked by domestic animals and also contracting disease from these animals.

Leopard cat in the jungle. Photo credit: Soumyajit Nandy, Creative Commons licence

Ms Panchamia went on to show a video of a jungle cat being rescued from an open well. It was rescued and released into the wild when it had calmed down.

She said: “My organisation tries to reunite kittens with their mother. However, this is time sensitive as it needs to be done in eight to ten hours or the chances become slim. If the mother is not spotted, we rehabilitate the kittens in our centre in Pune.”

Ms Panchamia took in a rusty-spotted kitten last year. The kitten is now undergoing rehab in the centre. Ms Panchamia states that it is essential that the kitten is fed just right and sometimes not fed at all to imitate its jungle environment. Water scarcity is also introduced to imitate the summer season. It is introduced to all seasons including monsoon so that it is able to survive in the wild when released.

Rusty-spotted cat is one of the smallest cats. Photo credit: Cloudtail the Snow Leopard, Licensed for public use

The kitten is not yet released but will be released when its hormones kick in. This is because it is being released in an environment where other rusty-spotted cats are abundant and this will allow it to stand a chance when it comes to territorial fights.

The session was a short and easy to follow. It was meant to educate the public on small cats and even children can participate and understand what is being taught. SGNP is going to continue these online lectures during the pandemic.

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