Monthly Wild Cat News
A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
On Aug 5, 2012 the Berlin Zoo celebrated their first Rusty Spotted Cat births. The two healthy kittens, which likely weighed 2.0 – 2.7 ounces (60 – 77 g) each at birth, are now venturing out of the den to explore their habitat.
Rusty Spotted Cats (Prionailurus rubiginosus) are slightly smaller than Black Footed Cats and Kodkods and are the world’s smallest wild cats. Adult weights are estimated at 2.0 – 3.5 lbs (0.9 – 1.6 kg) as compared to the average overfed house cat which ranges from 5 – 20 lbs (2.3 – 9 kg)! They are closely related to the Fishing Cat and Leopard Cat with the main distinguishing feature being it’s tail which averages about 50% of head to body length and is unmarked. In the wild, births usually occur in the spring in a secluded den. The gestation period is approximately 67 days with a litter size of one to three kittens.
Rusty-Spotted cats are found exclusively in Sri Lanka and India. They are threatened by habitat loss due to the conversion of wild lands to farms. The Indian population is listed as CITES Appendix I and the Sri Lankan population as CITES Appendix II. There is some encouraging news from World Wildlife Fund camera trapping studies over the past few years which discovered Rusty Spotted Cats in the Terai Arc landscape which was a previously unknown distribution area.
Very few zoos display and breed this species so these kittens are a vital and important addition to the captive population. To see these cats in action watch the video of Rusty Spotted Cats from the Wildlife Heritage Foundation.
For more information on Rusty Spotted Cats and other small wild cats please visit the ISEC website at: http://www.wildcatconservation.org/
Wild cats can’t be saved without knowing what they need to survive in their natural habitat. What kind of habitat do they use? What are their activity patterns & social organizations? Without data collected by field biologists, conservation programs can’t be put in place. To further our educational efforts, we are posting regular Monday summaries of a paper written by wild cat field biologists, which briefly outlines their findings.
Range Expansion to the Indian Terai
Little is known about the northern most distribution of the rusty-spotted cat Prionailurus rubiginosus. During camera trapping to estimate the tiger population in Pilibhit forest division, this cat was photo captured four times at three different trap stations. Camera trapping was carried out in an area of 150 sq km over 30 trap stations for 40 trap days. This is the first record of rusty-spotted cat from the Indian Terai region. A species targeted study is recommended to generate information for the conservation of this vulnerable cat in its range.
Meraj Anwar, Harish Kuman, Joseph Vattakavan
New Distribution Data from Central India
A record of rusty-spotted cat Prionailurus rubiginosus is reported from Magzira wildflife sanctuary in Maharastra, India. This is the first record not only for the wildlife sanctuary, but also for central India.
Rusty-spotted Cat More Common Than We Think?
The rusty-spotted cat is the smallest wild cat species that occurs only in India and Sri Lanka. Available information relies on a few sightings across its range and the species is thought to be rare. In this short note, I report a breeding population of rusty-spotted cats from a human dominated agricultural landscape in W. Maharashtra. I propose that we should also focus on agricultural landscapes, which are likely to have high rodent densities, to study some of the smaller wild cat species of India.
IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group Cat News newsletter
The Rusty-spotted cat is found only in India and Sri Lanka. They have been described as abundant in some parts of India and Sri Lanka, and have been observed close to and within villages.
These tiny cats are contenders for the world’s smallest wild cat species. Adults weigh just 1-1.6 kg (3-4 lbs), and their total length, including the tail, is only 50-73 cm (20-29″).
Rusty-spotted cats occupy moist and dry deciduous forest as well as scrub and grassland. While dense vegetation and rocky areas are preferred, these small cats have been found in the midst of agricultural and settled areas.
They are highly arboreal and there have been observations of cats pouncing down from tree branches when hunting prey. Most observations have been at night, suggesting they are nocturnal One cat was seen hunting frogs, but small rodents were the main prey reported from a series of observations – seeking out such prey is likely why the cats venture into cultivated areas.
Habitat loss and the spread of cultivation are serious problems for wildlife in both India and Sri Lanka. Although there are several records of rusty-spotted cats from cultivated and settled areas, it is not known to what degree cat populations are able to survive in such areas. Some villagers say Rusty-spotted cats, unlike jungle cats, “keep to the forest” and do not prey on domestic fowl. There have been occasional reports of Rusty-spotted cat skins in trade, and of their being killed for food or as livestock pests.
Like so many of the small wild cats, education may be the key to the survival of the Rusty-spotted cat. Because of their tiny size, these cats are more likely to go after mice than chickens, which should endear them to villagers. If villagers are made aware of just how many mice and rats are eaten by these cats, they will be favorably inclined to co-exist with them, instead of killing them on sght.
One Rusty-spotted cat has was observed mating with a domestic cat and researchers also saw a potential hybrid (“being slightly larger in size, with long legs and exhibiting unusual markings on a paler background”). Feral domestic cats are a threat to many of the small wild cats, as inbreeding with them deletes the gene pool and reduces already endangered populations.
Rusty-spotted cats are one of the least known members of the Felidae family, and even pictures of them are scarce. Terry Whittaker, a nature photographer in Britian, has released a wonderful video of these cats in action, as well as some outstanding photos.
The Rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is often called the hummingbird of the wild cat world given its diminutive stature. The Rusty-spotted cat has large eyes, striking rusty spots on a brownish-grey coat with a white belly and inner legs. They are found in India and Sri Lanka. They are considered vulnerable by the IUCN due to habitat destruction caused by urbanization and increased road networks.
The Rufford Small Grants Foundation is a relatively new foundation providing grants for nature conservation. The foundation provides funding to 900 projects world wide. One such venture is Kunal Patel’s Rusty Spotted-Cat Project. This important project focuses on several key components of studying this elusive cat in the Kevadi Reserve Forest located in Western India. Patel has concentrated on locating source populations for present and future research, determining habitat requirements and threats and helping to foster a community-animal relationship.
As of January 2010, Patel had obtained permission from the local government and set up 4 camera traps. Three individual cats have been identified but no photos have been released. Next, Patel is going to promote education about the Rusty-spotted cat at local schools.
Please visit Kunal Patel’s Project site for updated information about the interesting work he is doing with the Rusty-spotted cat.