Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Indian Desert Cat

Desert Cat
(Felis Silvestris)

  • Asiatic Wildcat (Felis Silvestris Ornata), also known as the Asian Steppe Wildcat or Indian Desert Cat, is a subspecies of Wildcat that primarily inhabits the Rajasthan Desert and in Rann of Kutch in India. It is about the size of a Domestic Cat with a pale yellowish body marked with black spots.

  • The mother chooses a secluded den for having her young. 2-3 Kittens are born after a 65 days gestation period. They nurse for about one month and then begin to follow mother on hunting trips. They are independent at six months, but litter mates may travel together longer.

  • The Indian Desert Cat primarily hunts rodents. Birds such as doves, partridges, peacocks and sparrows are also part of their diet. A mother was observed teaching her kittens to hunt by bringing them injured gerbils.

    • Indian Desert Cats can survive without drinking water, getting moisture from prey.
    • They are known to live near human settlements.
    • This species is so closely related to the Asian Wild Cat and the African Wild Cat, it is thought to be the same species.
    • It is fully protected only in India and Pakistan.The Indian Desert Cat has been poached extensively for its prized skin. In 1979, traders in India declared stocks of 41,845 pelts for an export amnesty. Currently, there is little international trade in these pelts.
    • There is some disagreement as to the status of this little cat. In India, the eastern limit of its range, the Wildlife Institute of India, considers that 90% of the species’ habitat in India has been lost. On the other hand another study in western Rajasthan, noted that the introduced mesquite tree, which provides favorable habitat for the wildcat, was spreading extensively in various regions of the Indian desert allowing for perfect habitat for it.
    • Hybridization with domestic cats has been reported from Pakistan and India. Hybrid offspring are often found near villages.