If you want to know how many rusty-spotted cats there are in the world today, 2022, you won’t get an answer from the top experts on wildlife conservation and protection because they don’t know the answer. They simply do not know the number of mature individuals that exist in the wild of this cute wild cat species, the smallest cat on the planet. They may provide a speculative estimate. But that’s it. And yet they declare that the species is not endangered. They don’t know whether it is or isn’t.
An article about a rusty-spotted cat roadkill near Arjuni Phanta in Shuklaphanta National Park on 19 March 2018, highlights the problem. The people who wrote the report, Pradeep Joshi, Dipendra Adhikari, state that during a camera trap study of tigers in the above-mentioned reserve, the researchers photographed 22 rusty-spotted cats during 1,317 camera trap nights using 85 camera grids; a significant number. They state that: “We can assume that the cats were there for many years but nobody was interested in searching for them. Our observation suggests that these cats are being killed on roads and possibly in many other ways without being noticed.”
They go on to add that rusty-spotted cats are declining in numbers due to habitat loss, spread of cultivation and roadkills (Menon 2003). The usual human activities so destructive of nature. So, the conservationists have known about road kills of rusty-spotted cats for many years but, of course, nothing was, can and will be done about it.
Road traffic is a great killer of wild cats. The Florida panther is a species which comes to mind quickly because there are many roads in Florida and like all cats, the wild cats don’t understand road traffic. Many pumas in Florida are killed by road traffic.
And it appears that the same problem occurs across the planet especially with respect to small wild cat species.
To return to the dead rusty-spotted cat by the side of the road. It was found on highway 466 m east of the nearest Champhapur guard post and 1 km west of the Arjuni grassland.
It’s location helps us understand the habitat of this diminutive cat. It was killed near an open meadow surrounded by Sal Forest with other associated tree species and dominated by short grass species (Sal Forest is a type dominated by a single plant species, commonly known as Sal tree (Shorea robusta). Water was nearby in the form of the Syali River and a constructed waterhole. The nearest cultivated area to the site of the roadkill was about 1 km to the east. The head and body length of the cat was 63.5 cm (25 inches). It’s height was 25.4 cm from the hind legs were 17.8 cm long.
I would suggest that more emphasis should be placed upon the construction of roads across areas where it is known that wild cats live and particularly with reference to the many wildlife reserves and national parks in India. No doubt this will prove to be impractical and impossible to instigate.
Below are some more articles on the rusty-spotted cat.