Published On : Mon, May 13th, 2024

Wild delight: Leopard cat spotted for the first time in Pench Tiger Reserve

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Nagpur: In delightful news, a leopard cat, a native of North East India, has been spotted in Maharashtra’s Pench Tiger Reserve for the first time, reports said on Sunday. Leopard cat, with the scientific name Prionailurus bengalensis, belongs to the family Felidae, and is noted for its leopard-like colouring.

The presence of the species at the reserve was found through camera trapping. The image captured is of a site inside a seasonal stream near Narahar village in PTR. This is the first record of this Felidae in Central India. Leopard cat, a most common and widespread species after the jungle cat in India due to its adaptive flexibility, is restricted to North East India, northern Himalayan states, West Bengal, Odisha and pockets of Western Ghats and is absent in Central India.

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A total 15 species of felidae are found in India, constituting more than 40% of global felidae diversity. Of the number of Felidae species present in India, 10 are small Felids, which is also the highest number globally. Though small felids play important ecological and socio-economic roles due to their predation mainly on rodents, the data of these felidaes is deficient.

The area of Pench Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra, is over 740 sq km (257.26 sq km buffer and 483.96 sq km of core) which has 7 ranges, of which 2 are buffer and 5 are core. The Reserve gets its name from the Pench River which halves the Reserve in two parts — east Pench and west Pench — and flows 74 km through the forest. The northern part of PTR is a hilly terrain while the southern part is relatively plain. Forest type is predominantly a Tropical Dry Deciduous and Semi-evergreen forest dominated by teak (scientific name Tectona grandis).

Reserve shows corridor connectivity with Melghat Tiger Reserve to the west, Navegaon Nagzira Tiger Reserve to the southeast, Pench Tiger Reserve (MP) to the north, and Kanha Tiger Reserve (MP) to the northeast.

A leopard cat is about the size of a domestic cat, but more slender, with longer legs and well-defined webs between its toes. Its small head is marked with two prominent dark stripes and a short and narrow white muzzle. There are two dark stripes running from the eyes to the ears and smaller white streaks running from the eyes to the nose.