As we recently noted India is home to about 40 percent of the wildcat species on Earth. The giant nation is trying hard to protect these animals. India leads the way in tiger conservation, is defending the Gir lion and now has added the caracal and cheetah to its protection goals. But Indian wildcats as a whole face serious risks. The Indian wildcat future is mixed but there is hope.
More information on wildcats by continents and the source of illustration can be found at Wildcats of The World
Herewith is a list of the cats of India and their status in that country.
Asiatic lion (Panthera leo: Also known as the Gir lion. The Gir lion is something of a success story as its numbers have reached over 700 animals. The lion is exceeding the carrying capacity of the reserve it lives in and the possibility or transferring it to other parts of India is being considered. The rise in numbers increases conflict with people.
Asian golden cat(Catopuma temmincki) Numbers are hard to come by but the cats is considered near-threatened in its range which includes India and southeast Asia.
Asiatic wildcat (Felis lybica ornata) is a small Asian wildcat. Numbers in India are unknown but it is thought to be declining. Wildcats worldwide are “least concern.” One unusual threat is mating with domestic cats, diluting the DNA.
Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris) India has prioritized saving the tiger since 1973 and is now believed to have about 3,000 within its borders. That number represents about 60 percent of the world’s wild population. The Indian wildcat future depends in large part on the success of techniques learned from Project Tiger.
Caracal (Caracal caracal) Although the caracal is safe in much of its range it is critically endangered in India and as few as 50 may survive.
Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) – The cheetah is new to this list as it is the focus of an ambitious reintroduction campaign. Project Cheetah plans to bring about 50 cheetahs from Namibia to live in India. There have been deaths among the transplants, despite the efforts of the conservators and the future of the program is not fully certain.
Clouded leopard ( Neofelis nebulosa) – Clouded leopards are considered “vulnerable” and ther numbers worldwide are probably declining. The cats need dense forest cover and high rain. They are present in 9 areas of India, those that have the rain and forest cover. Deforestation is a prime enemy.
Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) Is the largest of the lynx family and is widely distributed from eastern Europe to India and Russia. Worlwide there may be 80,000 of the cats. In India they are confined to a rather small part of the north east bordering Sikkim.
Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus ) Also considered vulnerable these cats subsist primarily on fish. There are an estimated 10,000 worldwide In India they remain close to rivers and swamp and lands such as the Sundarbans. The principal threat is the loss of wetland habitat.
Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) India may have an increasing population of leopards. They are currently estimated at 15,000. One problem Indian leopards face is conflict with tigers. The two cats require different habitats and tiger-centric programs may drive leopards away.
Jungle cat (Felis chaus) These cats are a bright spot in conservation as they are least concern in their extensive range. Opportunistic hunters the cats are comfortable in a range of habitats. They weigh up to 35 pounds. Prey as smal as insects and as large as hares are on the menu.
Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) Are another bright spot. They are widely distributed from northern India into Siberia and south. Current thinking is these cats were domesticated about 5,000 years ago. It is also believed that housecats from the Mediterranean supplanted them. Leopard cats are foundation stock for the modern Bengal cat domestic feline.
Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) Is another small cat whose numbers are not well understood. It is abut 18 pounds in weight and in India is found in the countries northern forests.
Pallas’s cat ( Otocobulus manul) – The number of this small feline is unknown. They are becoming better understood and their genome has recently been mapped fully. Manuls were recently spotted on the slopes of Mt. Everest in nearby Nepal on the border with China.
Rusty spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is a small cat native only to India an Sri Lanka. They face several threats. They are tiny, in the range of three pounds. Although present in much of India are very vulnerable to cultivation of new land and other human activity. They are also hunted. Since there are only about 60 in accredited zoos they are vulnerable to extinction. Currently the estimates are that 10,000 survive.
Snow leopard (Panthera uncia) – About 7,000 of the cats are thought to inhabit the spine of Asia from a level of 6,000 feet up to 18,000. India is reportedly counting its snow leopards which may number about 700.
The Indian wildcat future is mixed but dedicated conservation efforts appear to be aimed at all of the 16 cats in the country