Indore: Extinction fears: Will caracal go the cheetah way?

“The caracal is probably the most endangered cat in India. If focused conservation efforts are not commenced on the species the caracal is likely to become extinct in India within this decade,” said the latest census reported on wildcats released by govt of India.

Tina KhatriUpdated: Sunday, September 19, 2021, 01:26 AM IST
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Indore

History is on its way to repeat itself; in the 1950s the Asiatic cheetah became extinct in India and soon we will see the last of Asiatic Caracal in the country.

We are celebrating the re-introduction of cheetah. Who knows how long it will take to realise the loss of Asiatic Caracal, a majestic wildcat.

“The caracal is probably the most endangered cat in India. If focused conservation efforts are not commenced on the species the caracal is likely to become extinct in India within this decade,” said the latest census reported on wildcats released by govt of India.

Due to their large home ranges, caracals naturally occur at low density making conservation of large areas necessary to hold viable populations. “Adult mortality caused by humans (poisoning, road kills) is mostly non-compensatory and pushes small populations into the extinction vortex,” said the census report.

Like cheetahs, caracal were captured and trained to hunt for Indian royalty, but although it is capable of taking on the larger ungulates it was mainly used for small game and birds, cites Divyabhanusinh written in 1995.

Meet Asiatic caracal before it becomes extinct

In Pakistan and northern India, it is vernacularly known as ‘Siya Gosh’, originated from a Persian word for ’Black Ear’.

The caracal is a sleek short-haired cat with a reddish-brown coat and long tufts of black hair on the tips of its pointed ears. In Asia, it has been trained as a hunting animal.

Where is caracal found? Same as cheetah!

Since 2001, the caracal’s presence has been reported in three states viz. Rajasthan (areas near Ranthambhore, Sariska Tiger Reserve, Udaipur and Chittorgarh districts), Gujarat (Kutch landscape) and Madhya Pradesh (ravines of Chambal) spreading over an area of 16,709 km2 (Singh et al. 2014, Khandal et al. 2020) making it the most endangered cat in India (Kolipaka 2011).

In Asia, the caracal’s historical range mirrors with that of cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and overlaps with small ungulate species such as blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) in India and chinkara (Gazella gazella bennettii) in Iran and India, as cited in Sunquist and Sunquist 2002, Farhadinia et al. 2007, Ghoddousi et al. 2009, and Moqanaki et al. 2016.

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