The diversity of vegetation in the north eastern states of India is quite amazing. The variation in altitude in the states like Arunachal Pradesh and Assam has resulted in creation of different types of forests and existence of diverse wildlife in those places. From marshy wetland to evergreen dense forest, pine and bamboo forest you can find diverse vegetation in this region. This has also resulted in co-existence of diverse animal and bird species. In forests of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal, several types of predatory feline species are found.
Variety of wild cat species in North East India
While it is normal to find various predatory feline species in other parts of India, it is only in North eastern states, their variety is noticeable. In some regions such as the Jeypore-Dehing Forest of Assam, as many as 7 wildcat species have been found in recent years. The diverse wild cat species are seen in these zones also owing to the diversity of their prey base. These jungles are also home to a wide range of reptiles, rodents, insects and amphibians that these cats feed on. This clearly indicates the immense biodiversity potential of such zones and the need to conserve the eco system. Some of these wild cat species have been marked endangered and they are rather elusive in nature.
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Rare wild cat species of North east India
Along with Tiger and Leopards, some rare and endangered wild cat species are seen in forests of North East India. They are spotted in Assam’s Manas wildlife sanctuary, Arunachal’s Namdhapa National park, Eaglesnest wildlife sanctuary of Arunachal and Keibul Lamjao National park of Manipur etc. These are:
Clouded leopards are predatory small sized wild cats found in north East Indian forests. They are also elusive in nature. Biologists believe clouded leopard is more closely associated with the family of felines from where big cats like lions, leopards and jaguars come. There are two sub species and the division was caused mostly by geographic isolation. These cats prefer staying in lowland tropical rainforests, but they have also been seen in dry woodlands. The cloud like spots on their body has led to the naming. They are 12 inches tall on an average and 4-6 feet long. The canine teeth are long and the tail is also elongated. Males tend to be bigger and average lifespan is 15-17 years in captivity. Clouded leopards are excellent climbers and they feed mostly on small birds and animals like wild pigs, squirrels, rabbits, monkeys etc. Reproduction in captivity often proves to be a challenge owing to aggressive nature of the species, in both genders.
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Genetically, marbled cats are related to Bay cat and Asian golden cat. They are usually 21 inches long and tail length can be 50 cm. The average weight can be 5 kg. The tail is thick, fur coated and often longer than body. The fur color can vary from dark grey-brown to reddish brown. On head, spots are there and neck has narrow longitudinal stripes. Legs and underbelly area has dark spots. It also has long canine teeth. Marbled cats feed on small animals like rodents and squirrels though they also hunt small birds. Their average lifespan in captivity is about 12 years. They prefer staying in tropical forest and mixed deciduous-evergreen forests too.
Asian golden cat/ Temminck's cat
This is one midsized wildcat species seen in North East Indian forests. It is also known as the Asiatic golden cat. The IUCN rated it as near threatened in 2008. It is heavily built with a body length of 41 inch and 22 inch long tail. An adult cat may weigh up to 16 kgs. Fur color can vary from reddish to dark brown and gray. There can be stripes or spots on its body. They have black ears and stripes running across the cheeks. Favorite habitats of Asiatic golden cat are tropical rainforests, subalpine forests and dry deciduous forests. The cats are solitary and territorial and primarily nocturnal. They can climb trees and feed on reptiles, rodents, birds and small deer. In captivity, they can live up to 20 years. Their major threats include habitat destruction caused by deforestation and dwindling prey base.
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This is one smaller type of wild cat species. Leopard cats have the same size as domestic cats but their legs are longer. The head has two prominent dark stripes. A couple of stripes run from eyes to its ears. The legs and body can be spotted. Its spotted fur in yellowish brown and chest and belly is white. The maximum body weight is 3.8 kg and tail can be 31 cm long. They become heavier before winter and shed the excess weight after spring. Leopard cats prefer staying in tropical evergreen rainforests and subtropical deciduous forests. Except the time for mating, they tend to be solitary in nature. They mostly hunt at night and kill hares, small birds, insects and rodents. In captivity, they live for 12 years or so.
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Jungle cat/ Reed cat
This wildcat species was first described by Johann Anton Güldenstädt, a naturalist in 1776. There are as many as 10 subspecies. The Reed cat is a long legged and big cat and weight can be up to 16 kgs for adult males. The fur is usually reddish brown to grey and there are no spots. A dark line is seen from eye corner to nose. The belly and chest is whiter. This cat is known for hunting in daytime ands stays solitary most of the times. The animal feeds on small mammals, rodents and some birds. Jungle cat prefers staying in places with dense vegetation and adequate water such as swamps and wetlands. The cat also has a habit of sun bathing in winter months. The main predators of jungle cat are crocodiles, leopards and bears. They also compete a lot with golden jackals.
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