- The Indian Desert Cat was catapulted into the spotlight since it was spotted at the Akola buffer zone of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh during a night safari on December 14.
- Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR), while sharing the news on the microblogging platform Twitter, said it was spotted only four times in the past between 1999 and 2006 in the Thar desert.
- The fact that the desert cat was found in a jungle has surprised many wildlife enthusiasts but the sighting may not be as rare as it has been made out to be, especially in the arid regions.
- It has also been spotted several times in other areas of central and western India.
Indian Desert Cat
- Scientific Name: Felis silvestris ornate
- It is usually a creature of the Thar desert in Rajasthan, and inhabits scrub desert areas.
- The cat occurs in arid and semi-arid zones of western India which includes Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra up to Pune and Nagpur.
- This cat is found in deserts and can survive without water.
- The toes of the species have cushion-like hair which help it balance the fluctuating desert temperatures.
- The reason why it may be found more abundantly in the deserts than jungles is the presence of Indian jungle cat in the latter habitat.
- The Indian jungle cat is a bigger and more dominant species in the forests.
- The presence of Indian jungle cats in jungles may be the reason why the desert cats are mostly spotted in Rajasthan and Thar desert in India.
- But it doesn’t mean it cannot live in dense jungles. It has also been sighted in Sariska Tiger Reserve of Rajasthan.
- It can be found mostly in scrub deserts, up to 2,000-3,000 m elevation, mountainous areas with sufficient vegetation, as well as temperate forests.
- The Asiatic wildcat usually occurs close to water sources but can also live in low-water areas. It does not seem to avoid cultivated areas and human settlements.
- It avoids vast deserts, dense forests and deep snow.
- IUCN Red List: Least Concern
- CITES: Appendix-II
- Wildlife protection Act’s: Schedule-I.
Threats for their Habitats
- It possesses beautiful soft fur, hence, most sought after in the international fur trade.
- Hybridisation with domestic cats can lead to the loss of genetic information and is thought to be one of the main threats.
- Hybridisation was reported from Pakistan and Central Asia and is most likely also a problem in India.
- Another important threat is from poaching related to conflict with humans.
- Habitat destruction and reduced habitat quality remain important issues. The Asiatic wildcat is under heavy pressure due to land use changes.
- Rodenticides and other chemicals may also threaten it.
Panna Tiger Reserve
- It was established in 1981 and is situated in the Vindhya mountain range in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh.
- Ken river (a tributary of the Yamuna River) flows through the reserve.
- The region is also famous for Panna diamond mining.
- Ken-Betwa river interlinking project will be located within the tiger reserve.
- In July, 2021, PTR was awarded the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CAITS) certificate by the National Tiger Conservation Authority for meeting the established international standards for tiger conservation and management.
- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated the Panna Tiger Reserve as a Biosphere Reserve on August 25, 2011.