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India’s rarest wild cat Caracal – Burning Issues – Free PDF Download


Now critically endangered

  • The National Board for Wildlife and Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change included the caracal, a medium-sized wildcat found in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, in the list of critically endangered species.
  •  Though not under grave threat in its other habitats, the animal is on the verge of extinction in India. The recovery programme for critically endangered species in India now includes 22 wildlife species.


  • The caracal (Caracal caracal) is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India.
  • It is characterised by a robust build, long legs, a short face, long tufted ears, and long canine teeth.
  • Its coat is uniformly reddish tan or sandy.
  • It was first scientifically described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1776. Three subspecies are recognised.

  • Typically nocturnal, the caracal is highly secretive and difficult to observe.
  •  It is territorial, and lives mainly alone or in pairs. The caracal is a carnivore that typically preys upon small mammals, birds, and rodents.
  •  It can leap higher than 4 metres (12 ft) and catch birds in midair. It stalks its prey until it is within 5 m (16 ft) of it, after which it runs it down and kills its prey with a bite to the throat or to the back of the neck.
  • Caracals are not declining in most of their range, but there are still threats to their populations. These include habitat destruction due to agriculture and retaliation killing, as caracals will hunt small livestock if given the opportunity.
  • The species is legally protected throughout much of its range. Landowners in Namibia and South Africa are permitted to kill a caracal when it is considered a threat to their property.
  • India, the caracal is found in several dozen countries across Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia.
  • While it flourishes in parts of Africa, its numbers in Asia are declining.

More about Wildcat

  • It has long legs, a short face, long canine teeth, and distinctive ears — long and pointy, with tufts of black hair at their tips.
  • The iconic ears are what give the animal its name — caracal comes from the Turkish karakulak, meaning ‘black ears’. In India, it is called siya gosh, a Persian name that translates as ‘black Ear’.
  •  A Sanskrit fable exists about a small wild cat named deergha-karn or ‘long-eared’.

  • The earliest evidence of the caracal in the subcontinent comes from a fossil dating back to the civilisation of the Indus Valley c. 3000-2000 BC, according to a reference in ‘Historical and current extent of occurrence of the Caracal in India’, one of the few published studies on the animal.
  • Firuz Shah Tughlaq (1351-88) had siyah-goshdar khana, stables that housed large numbers of coursing caracal. It finds mention in Abul Fazl’s Akbarnama, as a hunting animal in the time of Akbar (1556-1605).
  • Descriptions and illustrations of the caracal can be found in medieval texts such as the Anvar-i-Suhayli, Tutinama, Khamsa-e-Nizami, and Shahnameh.
  • The caracal’s use as a coursing animal is believed to have taken it far beyond its natural range to places like Ladakh in the north to Bengal in the east.
  •  The East India Company’s Robert Clive is said to have been presented with a caracal after he defeated Siraj-ud-daullah in the Battle of Plassey (1757).

Decreasing Numbers

  • The caracal has historically lived in 13 Indian states, in nine out of the 26 biotic provinces.
  • In the period before Independence, the animal roamed an estimated area of 7.9 lakh sq km; between then and 2000, however, this habitat shrunk by almost a half.
  •  After 2001, sightings have been reported from only three states.
  • From 2001 to 2020, the reported extent of occurrence further decreased by 95.95%, with current presence restricted to 16,709 sq km, less than 5% of the caracal’s reported extent of occurrence in the 1948-2000 period
  • The caracal could be earlier found in arid and semi-arid scrub forest and ravines in Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh. Today, its presence is restricted to Rajasthan, Kutch, and parts of MP.
  • The caracal is rarely hunted or killed
  • animal being captured to be sold as exotic pets
  •  loss of habitat and increasing urbanisation.
  • The listing of the caracal as critically endangered is expected to bring central funding to conservation efforts.
  •  It is likely to ensure that the animal is studied comprehensively for the first time, including its home range, population, prey, etc
  • A taxon is critically endangered when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of the following criteria:
  • Populations have declined or will decrease, by greater than 80% over the last 10 years or three generations.
  • Have a restricted geographical range.
  • Small population size of less than 250 individuals and continuing decline at 25% in 3 years or one generation.
  • Very small or restricted population of fewer than 50 mature individuals.
  • High probability of extinction in the wild.

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