Maharashtra: World's smallest wild cat caught on camera in Murbad

Updated: Jun 25, 2019, 18:18 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav | Mumbai

The area where the cat was spotted is also said to be a wildlife corridor but faces high anthropogenic pressures such as increasing agriculture, grazing, and hunting

Rusty spotted cat
Rusty spotted cat

The Corbett Foundation (TCF) on Tuesday got the first photographic record of the rare Rusty-spotted cat in the camera trap. The rusty-spotted cat is one of the smallest wild cat in the world and its arboreal behavior makes the species hard to detect. The area where the cat was spotted is also said to be a wildlife corridor but faces high anthropogenic pressures such as increasing agriculture, grazing, and hunting. The location where the rare cat was spotted is close to the place where a leopard was shot dead in Murbad three years back for killing humans.

Zeenal Vajrinkar, Wildlife Biologist along with TCF, did the camera trapping in the Murbad landscape in 2018. The brief surveys were done in Thitbi and Sonavale areas in Murbad area that comes under the jurisdiction of Thane Forest Division. The Rusty-spotted cat was spotted in camera trap in Thitbi area. The report that has been submitted to Deputy Conservator of Forest (DCF) Dr. Jitendra Ramgaonkar contains findings and observations about these areas.

Talking to mid-day , Kedar Gore, Conservationist, and Director, The Corbett Foundation said, "The Thane Forest Division (TCF), which is close to Mumbai and has habitat connectivity with Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary, Harishchandra-Kalsubai Wildlife Sanctuary and other forest areas of the Western Ghats, holds tremendous biodiversity potential that is largely unexplored. Due to its non-PA status, the forest areas of TFD are under tremendous anthropogenic pressures that will have severe negative impacts on biodiversity conservation of this region. These forests act as catchment areas for several streams and rivers that sustain wildlife species and human habitations across the landscape. Unless appropriate long-term conservation measures are planned and implemented, we run a huge risk of losing some of these lesser-known species that live in these forests."

"Presence of such lesser-known species in non-PAs of TFD should be taken very seriously and immediate appropriate efforts must be taken to protect their habitat and protect them from any kind of human intrusions. Detailed surveys and studies are needed to understand their distribution across Thane Forest Division and its surrounding areas. In addition to Rusty Spotted Cat, several other species that were found during our surveys such as mouse deer, four-horned antelope, southern tree shrew, ruddy mongoose, Indian crested porcupine, and small Indian civet among others. None of these are commonly seen and therefore the utmost need to protect the forests in these areas added Gore.

In the camera trapping exercise that was done in Sonavale area, the animals that were photographed were Indian Crested Porcupine, Mouse Deer, Small Indian Civet, Southern Plain Langur, Bonnet Macaque, Wild Boar, Ruddy Mongoose, Malabar Tree Shrew, and one unidentified rodent. Researchers also found that few domestic dogs were also captured.

Muntjac or barking deer

In the camera trapping exercise that was done in Thitabi- Tokawde, no leopards were spotted but other animals like Indian Crested Porcupine, Small Indian Civet, Southern Plain Langur, Wild Boar, Ruddy Mongoose, Madras Tree Shrew, Rusty Spotted Cat, Barking Deer, Indian Peafowl, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Red Spurfowl, and a few domestic dogs were captured.

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