On the first day of the workshop, the participants deliberated upon evolving a landscape level strategy, involving multiple government departments and local stakeholders. The existing distribution of fishing cats, ongoing studies on their habitats, presence and resilience were also showcased to identify the small wild cat conservation units.
“The project aims to utilise the best practices and experiences gained from the tiger programmes for conserving the meso-predators like small cats and their microhabitats within larger tiger units like the Dudhwa landscape,” said B Prabhakar, field director of DTR.
Prabhakar added that “since the small wild cats were not confined only to the protected forest areas, but also had their presence in buffer forest zones, wild corridors and in the agricultural fields adjoining the forest peripheries, the project would also focus on the improved and diversified livelihood options for the local communities to ensure community based management of small cats’ habitats.”
He further said that “the second day of the workshop scheduled on March 12 would focus on developing a simplified monitoring protocol for the small cat species with a plan to implement it through ‘citizen science’ and community stewardship while bringing multifarious benefits to local people”.
GTF’s head for programme and partnerships, Mohnish Kapoor, said, “Of the 41 wild cat species globally, 15 are found in India of which 11 are small and medium sized cats, referred to as small wild cats. The project includes Pakke-Eaglenest landscape in Arunachal Pradesh, Dudhwa landscape in UP and Ranthambhore landscape in Rajasthan.”
Kappor added, “Exploring ways to remove habitat encroachments, mitigating human-wildlife conflict and effectively curbing poaching and illegal trade in priority landscapes of northern, north-eastern and western India are other salient priorities of the workshop.”
The identified wild cat species found in these landscapes primarily included the jungle cat, leopard cat, fishing cat, marbled cat, Asiatic golden cat, clouded leopard cat, rusty spotted cat, Asiatic wild cat and common leopard cat etc.
“As these are the indicator species providing crucial economic and ecosystem services such as pest and disease control, their conservation is essential for the integrity of big cat conservation efforts across the country,” Mohnish said.