Meet SGNP's smallest felines

Eight years after the authorities of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) introduced a captive breeding programme of rare Rusty-spotted cats, there’s reason to cheer. At present, there are two males and three female rare Rusty-spotted cats in captivity.

“The good news for wildlife lovers is a female Rusty-spotted cat gave birth to a litter of kittens two months back, and another female gave birth to a kitten two weeks ago,” said SGNP Director and Chief Conservator of Forest, Sunil Limaye.

A new enclosure usings sticks of the Karvi plant are being made for the just-born kittens

Rescued and raised
Since 2005, the SGNP authorities have been hand-raising two Rusty-spotted cats, which are world’s smallest feline and a rare species, after they were rescued from the park. After taking proper care of the kittens through their infancy, the authorities managed to breed three more rusty spotted cats. However after the initial success, the officials were unable to breed more of the species.

In order to successfully breed the Rusty-spotted cats, the authorities shifted them to new enclosures last year. Now, plans to build custom-made enclosures using sticks from the Karvi plant to simulate their habitat and specific breeding requirements are underway. Plans to install CCTV cameras inside the enclosures are also being discussed. “The veterinary doctors at the park are taking proper care of the kittens with regular medical check ups. Both the kittens are surviving well,” added Limaye.

Rusty-spotted cats
The Rusty-spotted cat or the Prionailurus rubiginosus is the smallest member of the cat family, found only in India and Sri Lanka. The cat was listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2002. The Rusty-spotted cat is 35 to 48 cm in length, with a 15 to 30 cm tail, and weighs only 0.9 to 1.6 kg. The short fur is grey over most of the body, with rusty spots over the back and flanks, while the underbelly is white with large dark spots.

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