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Rare species of small cats inadequately protected


The Indian subcontinent is a hotspot for wild felines. A new study headed by Uppsala University now shows that only 6–11 per cent of the areas where three rare cat species have their habitat are protected. Lack of knowledge about these species has been an obstacle to understanding their needs for reserves. The research is presented in the journal Scientific Reports.

Over a third of the world’s cat species inhabit the Indian subcontinent. In the new study, the researchers have explored the situation of the Prionailurus genus. It includes the rusty-spotted cat (P. rubiginosus), found in this region alone, which seems to thrive best in broadleaved forests; the fishing cat (P. viverrinus), a species associated primarily with wetlands, mangrove swamps and coastal areas; and the leopard cat (P. bengalensis), which has been observed mainly in tropical and subtropical forest areas.

“This study is important because it shows that many small, rare and elusive cats in the Indian subcontinent don’t get as much attention as the more spectacular big cats. Nevertheless, the need to protect them is just as pressing, so the number and size of the protected areas must be increased to include more biotopes containing these species,” says Mats Björklund, Professor Emeritus of Zooecology at Uppsala University. MORE

Header image: André P. Silva, Surabhi Nadig and Navya R.