Researchers in India have, for the first time, estimated the population density of Leopard Cat, a hitherto little studied wild cat that’s comparable to domestic cats in size. And, the study shows there are scores of them calling the Western Ghats their home.
The research titled ‘Estimating population sizes of leopard cats in the Western Ghats using camera surveys’ provides the country’s first large-scale population estimates for the species, according to Wildlife Conservation Society India.
Wildlife Conservation Society India program’s researchers Arjun Srivathsa, Ravishankar Parameshwaran, Sushma Sharma and Dr. Ullas Karanth analysed camera-trap data from over 2,075 sq.km area covering Bhadra, Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple (BRT), Bandipur and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves.
Utilizing advanced spatial capture-recapture tecnhiques, researchers from found that Bhadra had the highest population density with over 10 leopard cats per 100 sq km area, followed by BRT with over four individuals per 100 sq km, WCS India said.
The survey yielded sparse data from Bandipur and Nagarahole. The authors assign possibility of ‘competitive exclusion’ due to high tiger and leopard densities in these two areas, as a potential reason. That apart, they reiterate the preference of wet areas by leopard cat species, given that Bhadra and BRT receive more rainfall.
“There is increasing amount of work done on leopard cats in southeast Asian countries,” said Arjun Srivathsa, Research Associate, and the lead author of the study. “In India, however, previous studies on leopard cats have generally been limited to documentation of occasional sightings” he added.
The authors state that the study establishes Western Ghats as a potential stronghold for leopard cat populations, and also call for more extensive assessments across the leopard cat’s distribution range. Not to mention, this path-breaking study literally paves the way for more intensive research on the small felid.