Rare 'rusty spotted cat' sighted in Ratnagiri village

Dec 02, 2018, 08:09 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Cub's photo was flashed on WhatsApp groups, identifying it as young one of a leopard or tiger

Rare 'rusty spotted cat' sighted in Ratnagiri village
The Rusty Spotted Cat cub

Villagers travelling through Ratnagiri were unsure of a tiny cat they spotted close to a forested patch near Sakharpa village, wondering if it was a leopard or tiger cub. They quickly took pictures and flashed it on a WhatsApp group for identification.

Honorary wildlife warden of Sindhudurg, Nagesh Daptardar told mid-day that his team was delighted to note that it was a rare rusty spotted cat. This breed of cat is among the smallest and rarest and is found in India and Sri Lanka; they are also very difficult to spot. Daptardar said, "It is a good thing that the villagers left the kitten exactly where they spotted it. There have been sightings in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, too."

Pictures of the cat had gone viral on social media with people calling it a tiger cub. In Mumbai, there have been records of this rare and elusive cat being spotted at Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Wildlife photographer Nayan Khanolkar is assisting principal investigator and small cat expert Dr Shomita Mukherjee of Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Coimbatore, on an ongoing project on small cats in the park. The duo will be studying the animal's habitat, its movement, lifestyle and food preferences.

The rusty spotted cat or the Prionailurus Rubiginosus is the smallest member of the cat family. It was listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2002. The cat is 35-48 cm in length, with a 15-30 cm tail, and weighs only 0.9 to 1.6 kg. Its short fur is grey with rusty spots over the back and flanks, while the underbelly is white with large dark spots.

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