Small, yet they are CATs !

Kavindya, ScienceWeekly , 0 Comments

Life would be more monotonous and feel like dead with much busy routines. It has been a great trend that People living in the 21st century are leaning more towards traveling and visiting the wild without just spend their time plus money on luxurious food and games. But it is sad that the density of forests and the richness in the wild is deteriorating day by day. Human who tag themselves as ‘developed’ are working for the declination of the wild resources. These unwise works of the global population has resulted in initiation of different events and organization in sake of the long term survival of wild life. It is not a one or two could fight for these unwise activities, but the whole world should raise their voice. Word Wildlife Day (WWD) is one such attempt which is announced and celebrated on 3rd March in every year to raise the awareness of wild flora and fauna by United Nations.

‘’ Big cats: predators under threat.’’ which is the theme for 2018 has drawn the attention of the world for ‘CATs’. Cats are the common name given for the members of family Falidae which is a larger group with about forty species belonging to the Kingdom Animalia, Class Mammalia and Order Carnivora under the modern classification. Cats are informally divided in to two groups as Big ones and small ones based on their body size. Lion, Tiger, Cheetah and Leopard are the big cats while all the others are smaller ones.

Sri-Lanka, being a small island in the Indian Ocean owns only one big cat; the Leopard. The leopard, who is known as ‘Diviya’ in Sinhala are distributed in many areas on the country. No doubt that you have heard about this big fellow. But it is the misfortune that many are not aware that the Sri Lanka is the home for other three small fellows. The fishing cat, the wild cat and the rusty-spotted cat are other three cat species dwelling in Sri Lanka. Currently the fishing cat is vulnerable and the rusty-spotted cat is near threatened while the jungle cat is in the least concern category according to IUCN records. In Sinhala, these ones are called as ‘Handun Diviya, Wal Balala’ and ‘Kola Diviya’ respectively. Unlike other families, different cat species share different niches and different time durations using the same land area. The fishing cats dwell besides water ways and streams while the jungle cats make their homes among small bushes and long grass. The rusty-spotted cat is a tree living cat which spent a lot hiding among the leaves. Jungle cat goes on hunting during the day while the rusty spotted cay hunt in the night. The fishing cat use both day and night for foraging. But on the other hand this has lead towards the problem of elimination of cats from their niches. That is because a destructive work in a single are will eliminate the homes of several individuals of different species.

The public is made well aware of the Leopard who is the only big fellow that we have in the country. But only few know about these small fellows and they are also under the threat so as their big relative; the Leopard. The major threat on these small fellows are the encroachment and degradation of forests, hunting and urbanization which results in destruction of habitats and feeding places. Many end their lives as road kills while moving between forest-patches.  As many of the carnivores, they are territorial animals and specifically need a considerable area to use. Forest clearance has deprived them from food sources and these fellows move in to villages and capture the livestock of villagers. Many small cats lose their lives being captured in traps laid by villagers. While some are roaming in search of food, they fall in to unprotected farm wells. Unfortunately some are killed for their skin and due to various myths.

For eliminating the threats on these small fellows , several steps could be gained as individuals and as a cat-friendly country. Road signs could be displayed on either sides of the forest where there is a high probability of crossing them across the road. People should make aware about the value of these cats same as the ‘Big’ fellows and they should be educated so that myths on them will fade way from the society. Villagers could be made aware about the value of these small creatures and how to act if they met such a fellow in their home-gardens or farms. They could be provided with more sophisticated cages for their livestock which make cats away from them. Mainly, the forests which are their habitats should be made secured places for them. If such precautionary steps are taken, as a country we will be able to secure these smallversions of CATs!

I should convey my gratitude for Small Cat Advocacy and Research group as many Information mentioned here were gained from the SCAR Small Cat Walk 2018.

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