International Journal of Environment & Agriculture
ISSN 2395 5791
"किसी राष्ट्र की महानता और नैतिक प्रगति को इस बात से मापा जाता है कि वह अपने यहां जानवरों से किस तरह का सलूक करता है"- मोहनदास करमचन्द गाँधी

जर्मनी द्वारा अंतर्राष्ट्रीय पुरस्कार "द बॉब्स" से सम्मानित पत्रिका "दुधवा लाइव"

Dec 2, 2010

A story that shook the jungle...


Caracal: A Cat that Stole the Show.. .

(This tale is from the bushes of Ranthambhore it is about a cat, who can eat your soul. The story tells about an elusive cat species – The Caracal)

Seeing a caracal is a reverie for researchers, dream of wildlifers and ultimate fantasy of photographers.

Hence one can understand that yearning even a glimpse of this mysterious cat is difficult. Many other species are equally hard to see like the snow leopards or red panda. To see a snow leopard one has to climb high Himalayan mountains in freezing temperatures, while to see a red panda one has to overcome the nasty rains and various hurdles associated with a rain forest, but with a caracal it is not like that, Caracal resides in the main lands of India.
Geographically these areas are easily approachable, some are also the main tourism hubs of India such as Ranthambhore and Sariska. Thousands of tourists, hundreds of vehicles go in these areas every day, yet the caracal remains in shadows.
After its sighting some view it as god’s grace while others as luck but researchers, wildlifers and photographers know it is not a matter of persistence or resolute to see a caracal, it is seen only to those whom he wants to see.
I went to speak to Mr. Jogi about this mysterious cat. Jogiji please tell us the facts and figures of caracal, his behaviour and threats?
Jogi started. . ... Caracal is a Turkish word "karakulak" which means "black ear".
Caracals are known and called by many names: The Indian Lynx, Divyabhanu Singhji says in his book ‘The end of a trail’ that the animal has no hindi or urdu name but it is known as ‘Siagos’ which is in persian, however Balendu Singhji a known wildlifer and lodge owner says it has a popular name in Rajasthani ‘Mor mar Bhageri’. The kutchi dialect of gujarati has a name for it ‘Harnotro’ meaningharan (Chinkara) like colour.
Scientific name of caracal is Caracal caracal (Schreber, 1776)

Classification:
Kingdom- Animalia
Phylum- Chordata
Class- Mammalia
Order- Carnivora
Family- Felidae
Genus- Caracal(Gray, 1843)
Species - C. caracal

Caracal Sub species: like the Tiger, Caracal also have nine subspecies.
  1. Caracal caracal caracal, East, Central and South Africa
  2. Caracal caracal algira, North Africa
  3. Caracal caracal damarensis, Namibia
  4. Caracal caracal limpopoensis, Botswana
  5. Caracal caracal lucani, Gabon
  6. Caracal caracal michaelis, Turkmenistan(endangered)
  7. Caracal caracal nubica, Ethiopia, Sudan
  8. Caracal caracal poecilotis, West Africa
  9. Caracal caracal schmitzi, Israel, West Asia, Iran,Arabia, Pakistan, India 

Distribution:
Caracals are native to Africa, Asia, and even certain areas of the Middle East.
In India it is reported in Ranthambhore (Rajasthan), Sariska (Rajasthan), Kutch (Gujarat) and Chambal (Rajasthan and MP).
Dr. Ishwar Prakash, Director ZSI (Regional office Bikaner) reported caracal from Bikaner District. – Source: Shri. VD Sharma, Rtd. PCCF, Rajasthan.
Human and caracal:
Other then the cheetah the caracals was the only other feline which was used by the Moghul’s for hunting, in those days. Divyabhanu Sinhjhas written an amazing article on ‘Hunting with Caracal’ in his book ‘The end of a trail – the Cheetah in India’.
A businessman near alwar - Sariska, Mr. Kishen Rungta, found 2 cubs whom he raised. The cubs used to hunt kites. Source: Shri. VD Sharma, Rtd PCCF, Rajasthan.
It couldn’t influence art and culture like tigers and lions, because of his elusiveness.

This is by unknown painter of Moghul period, 17thcentury. As seen the artist has inaccurately drawn the tail long, because the animal was equally elusive and mysterious in those days. The tail has black marking while in reality caracal tail doesn’t have such markings.


Indian Government released a 
postage stamp on caracal in the year 1976
Caracal being elusive its not necessary its not hunted, in 1982- 83 caracal skin was recovered in Pali district from Jogi community. Source: Shri. VD Sharma, Rtd. PCCF, Rajasthan.
But in Africa caracal skin is traded; to authenticate this we found a web site offering caracal skin for sale along with many other animals.

Physical features:

Body shape and size:
The caracal is a medium sized cat.
Legs:
The Caracal's hind legs are longer than its front, which helps it in leaping in the air. The front legs and shoulders are heavily muscled, to help it clamp on to its prey. Its hind paws are smaller than its front paws, but are still large enough. All the paws are wide, and well padded, to help its movement remain quiet in grass, or to walk in a deep silence. Each paw also ends in four retractable claws, which are four to five nailsbreadth in length. They are capable of tremendous aerial acrobatic jumps and can land safely.. .Caracals have the claim to fame of being the"fastest of all the small cats". The caracal has also been known to leap up into the air to successfully catch flying birds as prey.
Tail: caracal has a short tail compared to jungle cat.
Color: The caracal is normally dark red, grey, or golden sand in colour and as the caracals name suggests, the caracal’s ears are black, with tufts. Young caracals bear reddish spots on the underbelly that disappear when they grow up.
Ears: Caracal possesses a very unique distinguishing physical feature. Its ears are elongated, narrow and tipped with long black tufts of black hair on top of each ear. These notorious long "ear tufts" can be as long as 3 inches and actually serve an important purpose which helps insure the Caracals survival.
In most cases, everything in nature has a purpose. In this case, not only do the ear tufts help direct sound waves into the animal’s ears, but they also help reduce noise created when the animals head disturbs low lying branches. This allows the Caracal to approach very close to its prey when hunting by helping silent the Caracal's approach which maximizes the probability of catching prey.
I asked Jogiji, 'How did you know so much on the caracal?' Jogi said, 'I have a dear friend Shomita Mukherjee, the Small Cat expert of India. We had a long discussion on the caracal when she was here in Ranthambhore.'

Dr. Shomita Mukherjee

Chief interst of Dr. Mukherjee lies in the ecology of small cats. She has studied the jungle cat,fishing cat, caracal and rusty-spotted cat in varying degrees. Most of her field experience has been in the western arid/semi-arid parts of India. In the laboratory she has standardized techniques to study large-carnivore diet and looked at global body-size variation in jungle cats through skullmorphometry. Currently she is exploring the utility of non-invasive DNA analysis to study small-carnivore ecology and phylogepgraphy. She is also involved in a project that aims to create a DNA database for leopards in Mumbai to help managers resolve human-leopard conflict.

email: shomitam@gmail.com


After all those factual details, Jogi said further ‘Arrey so much gyan, now listen, Dharmendra recently had a fantastic sighting of Caracal family with a kill inside Ranthambhore National Park; we should talk to him about his experience’.


Dharmendra was sitting in his office editing the odd 500 pictures of caracal that he took during the sighting.. .




Ruchik, Radhika and myself kept looking at the pictures .. . With sparkling eyes he said after 6 years of wait the mysterious creature showed up!



‘I was in Zone 5, in the Pilli Ghati, Kachida area, when a gypsy ahead was standing, Raees bhai, my vehicle driver rushed there and Lo! We saw a caracal walking along the road and entering the bushes, then we sighted the caracal with two full grown cubs...! oh ! total 3 caracals...luck was upon me. ..they entered in the bushes yet we could see them, Ranthambhore is a dry area and so you can see the animal in the bushes till quiet a distance, and that’s the beauty of this forest.’

‘They were about 50 meters from the road but walking parallel behind the bushes. Since pictures could not be taken in such circumstance I had lost hope, but we kept walking together, the caracal and the gypsy for the next 200 meters.’

 
We parked our vehicle in an open place, one cub and the mother started coming close to us. At 20 feet distance they started searching for something in bushes, now the mother sat on one side.


The cub was inquisitive and amused but mother kept looking at the cub with less amusement of course. She kept ignoring us all together.


The cub kept snooping in the direction of the monitor lizard. It finally succeed in searching, and it was a monitor lizard.

The first cub came ahead and curiously kept looking at the kill, it flipped it from one side to another as if playing with it. The cub by now had started tearing the monitor lizard, but as it was thick skinned animal, finally it left the lizard and went and sat away.
The second cub came in. ..
It started tearing open the lizard.. .

After struggling it finally succeded in tearing open through the lizards thick skin.. .
 


I was getting very inquisitive thinking that they didn’t kill the monitor lizard in front of us then how are they having it? Raees whispered from behind, ‘the mother must have killed it and left, later she went and bought the cubs to the kill.’ That observation is 25 years experience speaking...
By now, the second cub had come in, this cub had one of its ear cut. It managed to tear open the monitor lizard. It took him almost 30 minutes to open the monitor lizard. It ate nearly half of it.
It left the half eaten monitor lizard, the first cub came back but the mother came ahead and she took away the kill and then disappeared in the bushes... the children followed. The whole episode lasted for about 47 minutes, starting from my first picture to last picture...

Jogi said, ‘Bas yaar, now we all are getting very jealous stop now!’ We wanted to hear more, at the same time the similar feelings were wrestling within us so we let it go.
We all looked at Jogi with a question.... Jogi tell us what is the threat for Caracal?
Jogi said, ‘Yaar, like the tiger there is no big threat to the caracal in terms poachers, however it faces just one major issue which is Habitat Destruction’
Radhika asked, ‘Where are caracal found in India?’ Jogi replied, ‘See caracal is found in 4 main places in India; Ranthambhore, Sariska, Kutch and Chambal. All 4 have their own issues, but I will speak just about Ranthambhore.’
Look, Ranthambhore has a corrupt range officer posted since 15 years, who’s expertise lies not in the work but in politics and flattery, which has in due course spoiled the habitat progressively.In these years he managed not to get himself transferred.


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Ms Divya is a freelance writer having special interest in wildlife. She is also working with the wives of ex-poachers and helping them to find alternative livelihood through handicraft. She is also co-ordinating a tiger conservation cell at Ranthambhore, Rajasthan. She can be contacted at divz333@gmail.com.

6 comments:

  1. Nice article about least known mammal. Caracal cat is also sighted at YAWAL WILDLIFE SANCTUARY,JALGAON,MAHARASHTRA,INDIA.
    first sighting was on 30th April 1999.

    VINOD PATIL,Jalgaon
    vinodp22@hotmail.com
    09421400704

    ReplyDelete
  2. Really an interesting article about this rare animal. In our quest for knowledge regarding tiger, lions etc. we should not forget this lesser known, and more lesser seen wild animal.

    RAVINDRA YADAV

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fantastic article. I remember such type of animal is also found in my village, in the northern part of Bihar and it is called 'Khatas' in Maithili. Sometimes it roars very badly and children become afraid of.

    Thanks again for bring out such good peice.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Excellent Natural History Documentation and very rare photos by Divya & Dharmendra... However, we dont realise that due to our tiger centric conservation practises, too much water collection/harvesting in naturally semi-desert regions like Sariska/Ranthambore shall harm these creatures, as also scorpions, snakes, camels and other creatures including plants who prefer partially or totally dry soils...

    ReplyDelete
  5. very usefull article
    good work u are doing divya!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I prefer to feed the my own cats high quality brands of commercial cat food which. Of course brands available in the supermarket must meet the nutritional requirements of cats, however the cheaper products often contain more fillers. These come in the form of carbohydrates, usually corn. Cats will need to eat more food to meet their energy requirements, therefore cheaper brands don't always save you money.

    ReplyDelete

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