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| Last Updated:: 21/03/2017

Caracal vanishes from MP, triggers extinction fear











Bhopal: The last of the caracals in Madhya Pradesh is gone. The mid-size wild cat that once prowled the forests of India's heartland has been reduced to oblivion.


The pointy-eared cat has not been sighted in 10 years in the state. Alarmed by this, the Biodiversity Board conducted an extensive survey, scanning over 500 kilometres of jungle area where the animal was often sighted in the past. The search went on for a year and a half, but not a single caracal was seen. Tiger surveys, which pass through the same areas once home to caracal, haven't spotted the cat in over a decade, say officials.


The survey report was handed over to the forest department so that efforts could be made to translocate the wild cat from bordering states, including Rajasthan, and restore ecological balance. It has been over two years now, but the forest department is yet to move in the direction.



The Caracal is listed under Schedule 1 in the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, which means it is endangered. MP was among the few states where the animal was found. A forest team last sighted the animal in Bhind district in 2007. IFS officer JS Chouhan, who saw the last caracal while conducting translocation of nilgai, said the wild cat is "almost extinct" in MP, though there have been individual claims of sightings. "It is an important animal in the food chain and immediate efforts must be made for its conservation," he advised.


Caracal was native to the dry forests of north, central and western Madhya Pradesh. Its main habitats were the forest areas of Panna, Satna, Damoh, Chhatarpur, Katni, Sagar, Bhind, Morena and Bundelkhand. It mainly hunted rodents and game birds, which it hunts with amazing speed and dexterity. It can jump 3 metres in one leap and stalks prey on paws shaped like a cheetah's. It is easily recognised by its long pointed ears that end in tufts.


There is no clear understanding on why the caracal has been reduced to oblivion, but experts believe unchecked human interference in forest areas is to blame.



Forest officials said two to three sites with potential to conserve caracal should be identified and efforts made to revive caracal population. However, senior officers admitted there is no such plan right now. Principal Chief Conservator of forests (wildlife), Jitendra Agrawal, said caracal is a shy animal which is spotted very rarely. There is no immediate plan for conservation, he said.







Source: The Times of India