Mangrove loss endangers the Rusty-Spotted cat

Rusty-Spotted Cat Kitten

The Times of India reports a couple of international and national wildlife and nature conservation organizations have taken up a first-of-its-kind study exclusively focusing on the conservation of the highly endangered lesser known Rusty-Spotted Cat in Andhra Pradesh. The species of the felidae or cat family are fast depleting due to mangroves and forest loss.

The Rusty-Spotted Cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is considered the smallest cats in the world and included under Schedule-I of Indian Wildlife Act, 1972, as well as categorized as ‘near threatened’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

These cats, which is endemic to the Indian subcontinent, play an important role in the ecology and connects the food chain both as predators and prey.

The project to study the population distribution and prevailing threats to the species in northern Andhra Pradesh was initiated by Murthy Kantimahanti, president of Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society (EGWS), with financial support from UK-based Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation.

“The northern Eastern Ghats that passes through AP are fragmented patches of dry deciduous forests providing a potential habitat for the Rusty-Spotted Cat to inhabit. Information on ecology and conservation status of the species is completely lacking in this region. We have documented few road kills and incidental captures of the species lately, which call for detailed studies on the conservation status of the species. We also noticed the awareness levels among general public very low owing to the fact that no work has been carried out on the species and very few are even aware of the existence of such cats,” Murthy said.

Elaborating on the project, the wildlife conservationist said, “It envisages understanding the bio-geographical distribution of these cats in human-dominated landscapes and unprotected forest areas of the Eastern Ghats and the implications of proposed developmental activities on their native habitat through GIS-based habitat modelling, camera trapping, sign surveys, interviews and assessment of threats to survival of the species. We have been using camera traps, sign surveys, spotlight surveys and conducting informal interviews as part of the project activities. We also intend to develop a potential habitat map for rusty-spotted cats, which will aid in future studies by identifying the probable sites of occurrence of the cats across the range of Eastern Ghats.”

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