Sunday, January 03, 2010

Test your leopard cat knowledge

Rare Leopard Cat

by Dr Anand and N Geeta Pereira

Jan 3, 2010

This article is a New Year gift to readers of DaijiWorld who have actively supported us in spreading the message regarding conservation of wildlife. Today, We extend an invitation to both the local and global community to help us celebrate New Year; with a resolution, to protect Nature’s precious resources.

At the outset we would like to profusely thank Kuldeep JayaPrakash and Yashaswini, Coffee Planters, Kukkankumbri Estate, Hanbal, Sakleshpur for permitting us to shoot pictures of the rare wild leopard cat that was spotted in their ecofriendly plantation. Kuldeep and Yashaswini , love nature and are at the forefront of wildlife conservation. Thanks to their efforts, the Leopard cat population is thriving in their area.

Common Name: English -Leopard Cat ; Kannada: India- huli bekku

Scientific Name :Prionailurus bengalensis

Body Length-450-950 (mm)

Weight - 3-7 (kg)

Litter Size - 2-3 average

Gestation Period – 60-70 days.

Life Span - 10-15 years




PHYSICAL APPEARANCE:

A fully grown Leopard cat is slightly larger than a big domestic cat and has a fur coat that ranges from yellow brown to grey brown with black spots. The chest and lower head are white in colour, with one distinct white spot on the tip of the ear. The spots may form stripes on areas of the neck and back. The Leopard cat’s name is derived from the widespread leopard like spots on the fur coat.

One must remember that the leopard cat is no way related to the leopard, as the leopard is a member of a different genus, Panthera.

RANGE:

The Leopard cat has the widest geographical distribution and is found in India, Pakistan, China, Burma, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

HABITAT:

The leopard cat easily blends into new environments and is observed in a broad spectrum of habitats from tropical forests to temperate forest. In India the cat is generally found in tropical coffee forests and wooded areas, but can also be found in adjoining scrub and succession grasslands. However, these cats love to dwell closer to streams and water sources, like ponds and lakes. They may also be found at heights up to 3000meteres M.S.L.

The cat is an outstanding tree climber and, also an excellent swimmer. They are arboreal to some extent and rest on the tree canopy. It takes refuge in the hollow of trees or small openings on rocks, devoid of human habitation.

PREY:

The leopard cat is carnivorous and eats Insects, Amphibians, Small birds, rodents, Fish, snakes, and mammals.

MODE OF OPERATION:

Behavioral patterns suggest that the leopard cat is a solitary nocturnal hunter, except during breeding season; but other evidence points out to the fact that these cats hunt both during the day as well as at night.

CONSERVATION:

In many parts of India, the cat is certainly in trouble and has been hunted to extinction. The beautiful, splendid fur coat is used for making hand bags and other delicate bags. Apart from fur, the species continues to be hunted throughout most of its range for food, and as pets. They are also widely viewed as poultry pests and killed in retribution.

The leopard cat is a protected species under the Wild Life Act. In many parts of the Western Ghats the leopard cat population is dwindling due to fragmented habitat and encroachment of forest land towards agriculture and allied activities.

The Leopard cat has been commercially exploited in China. In 1984 exports from China averaged 200,000 skins annually. In 1989 a survey of major Chinese fur companies revealed estimated stockpiles of over 800,000 pelts. Most of the pelts were exported to European Countries but due to international pressure, the European Community imposed an import ban in 1988 and since then Japan has been the main consumer, importing 50,000 skins.

REPRODUCTION:

Leopard cats usually pair for life and raise their cubs together for about seven to eleven months. In temperate places, the cat breeds around March or April. The estrus period lasts for 5 to 9 days and the gestation period is for nine to ten weeks. The mother gives birth to three to four kittens. New born kitten open their eyes, ten days after birth and start to eat solid food in three weeks time. If the kittens do not survive, the mother can come into heat again and have another litter that year.

http://www.daijiworld.com/chan/exclusive_arch.asp?ex_id=1204

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org

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