Call of the wild: SGNP to take expert help from UK to breed smallest wild cats
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Call of the wild: SGNP to take expert help from UK to breed smallest wild cats

Endemic to India, Sri Lanka and areas along the Indo-Nepal border, the rusty-spotted cats are protected under schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

mumbai Updated: Jan 14, 2019 08:35 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,SGNP,cats
Sanjay Gandhi National Park currently has seven rusty-spotted cats.(SGNP)

The Borivli national park has strengthened efforts for its ambitious captive breeding programme for rusty-spotted cats – the world’s smallest wild cats. In order to train its forest staff, Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) has invited Neville Buck, head of the small carnivore section at the Aspinall Foundation, Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, United Kingdom, to conduct a training programme for staff from January 28 to 30.

“Our attempt is to update this breeding programme to international standards and follow Central Zoo Authority guidelines,” said Anwar Ahmed, director and chief conservator of forest, SGNP (see box).

Endemic to India, Sri Lanka and areas along the Indo-Nepal border, the rusty-spotted cats are the smallest wild cat species in the world protected under schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

SGNP currently has seven rusty spotted cats – four male and three female – kept together in captivity next to the tiger enclosure. Of the seven, three (two females and a male) are two-month-old kittens rescued in December after they were abandoned by their mother at a farm near a village in Mawal area, Pune, and brought to SGNP. The remaining cats are much older, with three males aged 10 and one female aged 11. These cats have a lifespan of 12 to 14 years.

While all the cubs are healthy, the male kitten has a complication related to loss of vision and in coordination due to a nervine disorder, said Dr Shailesh Pethe, veterinarian, SGNP.

“This fresh exercise to improve captive breeding efforts will surely help not only for small cats but tiger, leopard and lion breeding in the future as Buck has expertise in this,” said Pethe.

This is not the first time experts from abroad have come to the park to assist the forest department in their captive breeding programme. Experts from Stuttgart, Germany, had visited the park in 2014 and had suggested that inbreeding practices should be avoided and ensuring the cats were happy was of prime importance. “However, no major results were seen at the time. This is probably the first such programme in the country and we need to have patience to see it through,” said Ahmed.

First Published: Jan 14, 2019 00:46 IST