Home Flora & Fauna ATTENTION REQUIRED: Rusty-Spotted Cat!

ATTENTION REQUIRED: Rusty-Spotted Cat!

by Team TrickyScribe
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Bhuwan Singh Bista | The TrickyScribe: Prionailurus rubiginosus, colloquially known as Handun Diviya or Kola Diviyais or Khiyathopale Biralo, is one in all the smallest cat species in the world. They’re endemic species of Indian sub-continent.

Distributed amongst India, Sri-Lanka and Nepal in discrete habitats, Rusty-Spotted Cat is desolately exhibiting a declining population trend. Also known as the hummingbird of ‘wildcat world’, they have relatively restricted distribution with the main occurrence in moist, dry deciduous forest as well as scrub, grassland, savanna and desert with highest elevation record up to 2,480 m. They prefer dense vegetation and rocky areas.

Physical Appearance

Almost the size of domestic kitten, its length varies between 35 cm and 48 cm weighing only 0.9 kg to 1.6 kg. On each side of head poses six streaks, rusty spots over the back and flanks, short grey fur over most of the body besides white and dark spots in underbelly. The tail is thick, dark with less distinct spots, being half the length of body (15 cm to 30 cm).

Ecology and Behaviour

With deficit knowledge on Ecology and Behavior of Rusty-spotted cats in the wild, the cat remains one of the least studied ones in Asia. With captive ones being mostly nocturnal, they are briefly active during the day period. In the wild, the feline member poses arboreal mode of life venturing and hiding in trees and caves to escape from their larger predators. As the species belongs to carnivora, it preys and feeds mainly upon rodents, birds, lizards, frogs and insects hunting on the ground with continuous rapid darting movements to catch their prey. With the gestation period of 65–70 days, the species gives birth to one or two kittens at a time. They weigh around 75 g by the time they are born.

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Like the other feline species, they mark their territory by spraying urine. The behavior is common in the family of cats which is the same with captive Rusty-spotted cats, as the observation suggests. They have been observed to have a lifespan of around 12 years in captivity while their life in the wild remains to be unknown.

Threats

Being fully-protected over most of its range nations with the prohibition in trade notwithstanding, it is marked as Near-threatened in IUCN Red List; CITES Appendix-II facing an abrupt decline in population. Its population is subjected to increasing elusiveness with the peer pressure from anthropogenic intrusions, habitat fragmentation, the toll of linear infrastructure in the critical habitats leading to extirpation of the last remaining population of these elusive creatures.  Given the increasing threats with limited conservation programs to the species survival, it won’t be a wonder if the future generation could have a glance on it stamped on the books and magazines only.

(Bhuwan Singh Bista is wildlife conservation professional and researcher stationed at School of Forestry, Dean’s Office, Kritipur, Nepal)

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