Wildlife of Pakistan


Mammals

( Wild Cats )


Common Leopard
( Panthera Pardus )

PHOTO CREDIT: Sri Lanka: Jungle Profile

Video:

NOTE: Above Video from the BBC (Wildfacts)

Local name: Guldar, Teendwa, Chita (Urdu)

Description and Biology:

The leopard is most easily recognised by its rosette patterned coat and extremely long, darker tail. This large cat is sometimes confused in appearance with the South American Jaguar - the leopard though is less stocky and unlike the jaguar, its rosette markings are generally smaller and have no internal spots. The overall size of the leopard depends very much on the subspecies and location, with the largest animals growing to a length of nearly 5 feet with an additional tail length of some 3 feet - generally the male is between 20-40% larger than the female. The base coloration of the coat also varies greatly depending upon location, ranging from golden/yellow in open grasslands, through yellow/cream in desert areas to deep gold in mountain and forest regions. All black or melanistic leopards, sometimes commonly called ‘Black Panthers", are born in the same litter as normally marked cats and also carry the rosette markings, although these are masked by the darkness of the fur. It has been observed that the melantistic leopard is most generally found in the dense, wet forested areas of India and south east Asia, where the coloration advantages the cat in its hunting. The leopard is a versatile hunter and generally nocturnal in its pursuit of prey - however the increased frequency of hunting found in the female raising young often leads to more opportunist hunting during daylight hours (information from Big Cats Online). The main prey in Pakistan is Rhesus Monkey, Wild boar, Chinkara, Urial, Sind Wild Goat and Porcupines. Average litter size is 2-3 cubs which are born after a gestation period of 4 months.

Habitat and Distribution:

The common leopard  frequents Himalayan mountains upto the tree limit in the forest of chir, kail, deodar and fir. It also inhabits broken arid mountainous country in association with scrub and thorn forest. 

The Leopards in Pakistan are mainly found in the highlands of Baluchistan and Sind, and the mountain forests of Punjab, N.W.F.P and Azad Kashmir. The leopard is found in the Kirthar Mountain Range of Sind and the Toba Kakar, the Mekran and the Sulaiman Range of Baluchistan. In the northern mountanious region it is found in the Murree Hills, Swat Kohistan, Dir, Chitral, Abbotabad and Lower Gilgit. It is also found in the Kaghan valley and the Margalla Hills. In Azad Kaashmir it is found around the hill ranges of Muzaffarabad and the Neelum Valley. Its survival in the Salt Range in Punjab is not clear, though they still do exist in very small numbers. The leopard sparsely inhabits the Kala Chita hills as well.

The total population in Pakistan is unknown. A study on the common leopard to estimate its population, distribution pattern and habitat preferences was done from 1998-1999 in Rawalpindi District by M. Anwar Maan and A. Aleem Chaudhry(Tiger Paper Vol. 27:No.4 Oct-Dec 2000).. The study period was carried out in four sessions. The first session was conducted in May-June 1998. The second in October, the third in November, and the fourth in February 1999. Population estimates for common leopard, density over square km, distribution pattern and preference for particular habitat were studied. The habitat was surveyed to determine the population of common leopard following the strip census method. Transects three to four km long and 100m wide were studied. Indirect evidence such as droppings, pugmarks and wildlife and livestock species preyed upon by leopard were searched out during the study. During the study 74 transects were studied covering an area of 40-60 square km. In one transect, only pugmarks were observed, which were transformed into population estimates. Three goats preyed upon by leopards were also witnessed. On the basis of indirect information(i.e. pugmarks) the per square km density of 0.018 -+ 0.016 leopards was assessed. The overall population estimate within a 281 square km habitat was 5.058 -+ 4.496, indicating that 1-9 leopards survive in its distribution range. On the basis of observations recorded during the study period, it was concluded that the population of common leopard was randomly distributed, showing no preference for a particular habitat.

Squardon Leader, Mr. Zulfikar Ahmed reports the sighting of a leopard in the year 1995 when a leopard was sighted at the top of Mount Sakesar in the Salt Range. The animal was seen by a number of people from close range in broad daylight. The mammal remained there for three days (as confirmed by multiple sightings), whichspread a wave of terror amongst the local inhabitants. Just a couple of months back an animal descended from the mountains (probably because of starvation) and entered into the town of Quaidabad, where it was shot dead. During the same time frame a calf was killed by Leopard near the Sakesar top (as reported by calf owner) The remains of the calf were poisoned by the locals. However the results of poisoning are not known. Quite recently (summer of 2000) a sighting of a female Leopard along with two cubs has been reported in the Western Salt Range . This female and the two cubs were later captured by the N.W.F.P Wildlife Department from Manglot National Park near Nizampur (CONSERVATION OF WILD LIFE AND ITS HABITAT IN SOAN VALLEY, Zulfikar Ahmed, November 2000).

The N.W.F.P wildlife department carried out a census in the province in 1997 and has put the number of leopards in that province at 76 (Distribution and Status of Wildlife in the N.W.F.P, 1997. N.W.F.P Wildlife Department). Further there might be ( a guess) 40-50 in the forests of Azad Kashmir. Sind Wildlife Department reported 7 leopards occuring in the Kirthar National Park in Sind in 1982. The total population of this beautiful cat in Pakistan may be inbetween 150-250.

Click here for a map of leopard distribution in Pakistan and recent sightings

Recent Sightings and Population Surveys:

Sightings:

1998: Female leopard and two cub seen in Azad Kashmir, near Muzaffarabad town. Female is shot. Cubs are captured by a local villager. Female cub ends at Islamabad Zoo. Male cub with Azad Kashmir Wildlife Department.

1999: Male leopard enters Abottabad city in Malik Pura area, from the surrounding hills. Leopard is captured. Released later.

2000: A female leopard is caught in Manglot Wildlife Park in Nizampur area in N.W.F.P. The leopard is released later by the N.W.F.P Wildlife Department. Reports of two more leopards from the same area are also made by the Wildlife Department.

2001: On March 27,  The wildlife department of NWFP  captures a leopard from Biran Gali and shifts it to Peshawar for protection and care. The one-year-old had injured at least two female goats and as many sheep. It was decided to release the leopard in the Galyat areas of NWFP.

On February 14th, the Abbottabad police killed a leopard that was hiding in a house in Malik Pura area (same area as in 1998 (see above). Wildlife officials fail to capture it alive and is shot 15 times. It was reported to be a captive specimen owned by FFR Center of the Pakistan Army.

Surveys:

1998-1999: Study on the common leopard to estimate its population, distribution pattern and habitat preferences was done from 1998-1999 in Rawalpindi District by M. Anwar Maan and A. Aleem Chaudhry (Tigerpaper Vol.27:No 4 Oct.-Dec.2000).

2000-2001: IUCN reports good evidence of leopards surviving in Baluchistan, south of Siahan Mountain Range, during the cheetah survey. No, actual sighting.

 

N.W.F.P Wildlife Department 1997 survey of Wildlife. Results for Common Leopard in the Province

District 			Place 				No. of animals recorded
							
Abbottabad 		Tanawal 					2
			Birangali- Sialkot 				5
			Namli Maira –Bagnotar			3
			Nathiagali- Kalabagh			3
			Ayubia National Park			6
			Kuzagali –Barian 				5
Mansehra			Pashto 					3
			Lassan Nawab				3
			Massar kund 				5
			Battal Balija 				2
			Hillan- Batagram				2
			Lachi Khan –Malkandi			1
			Shogran- Malkandi				1
			Manshi wilidlife Sanctuary 			3
			Nagan –Nadi –Musala			3
			Kalam Ban –Kaghan 			2
			Bhunja –Kalam				2
			Beari Chor				3
			Radhang 					1
Swat			Kalma Block and Mahodhand			3
Haripur			Khanpur Range				3
			Ghazi gangar Hills 				1
			Sokasarai Namat Khan 			2
			Makhnial Range 				2
Kohistan			Pattan 					3
			Bankad –Dubair 				1
			Jalkot 					3
			Harban- Basha 				2
			Kandia – Uthor 				1
							Total:	76

 

 

Snow Leopard or Ounce
( Uncia Uncia )

PHOTO CREDIT: Bret Larwick

Video:

NOTE: Above Video from the BBC (Wildfacts)

Local name: Barfani Chita (Urdu), Ikar (Balti: Baltistan)

Description and Biology:

Although sharing its name with the common leopard, the snow leopard is not believed to be closely related to the Leopard or the other members of the Pantherine group and is classified as the sole member of the genus Uncia uncia. Due to the under-development of the fibro-elastic tissue that forms part of the vocal apparatus the snow leopard cannot give a full, deep roar and this along with differences in skull characteristics help to separate it from its fellow ‘big cats’. In appearance, the snow leopard is strikingly different from the common leopard. Although it has similar rosettes and broken-spot markings, they appear less well defined and are spaced further apart. The fur is long and woolly and helps protect the cat from the extreme cold of its generally mountainous habitat. The general ground coloration of the cat is predominantly grey with brownish/yellow tinges on its flanks and lighter, often white fur on its belly, chest and chin. The head, which sports small ears and a distinctive heavy brow, is rounded and comparatively small for its body size, which can be up to 1.3 meters length and weigh up to around 70kg. The long tail, which can measure as much as 900cm, helps the cat balance as it moves over rugged and often snowy terrain. The powerful limbs of the snow leopard are relatively short for its body size and are supported by large, powerful paws.

Generally crepuscular in its hunting activities, the snow leopards main prey is that of wild sheep such as Bharal (Blue Sheep) and Argali, goats, including Markhor and Ibex. Other prey taken includes Musk Deer, marmots, various species of hare and birds. The cat often uses the natural protection of the terrain to stalk its prey, keeping low below the skyline and pouncing down onto its victim. Commonly the animal is a solitary hunter but may share the task with its mate during its breeding season. It has been know that one animal will stalk the prey while the other lies in wait to make the kill. With larger prey, it is common that the snow leopard will remain close to its kill and return over a period of three to four days to feed. his well built, muscular cat can bring down prey more than two to three times its size, as is the case with the native Yak. However, unlike its distant neighbours the Tiger and Leopard, the snow leopard is generally not aggressive toward man. Where human habitation does come close to the range of the snow leopard, it is common, during the harsh winter months for the cat to take domestic livestock. Some conservation organisations are now working with local inhabitants to help educate in the need for conservation management and to supply financial reparation for the loss of domestic stock. Due to the often-harsh weather conditions that prevail cubs are always born in the spring, with mating taking place some three months earlier in late winter. This ensures that a food source is abundant and less effort is needed to secure a kill. The litter size is usually between 1-4 (typically two) cubs and they are born after a gestation period of approximately 98 days. The cubs weigh between 320-708g at birth -have a daily average weight gain of approximately 48g per day and stay with their mothers until they are over 18 months old (all above information from Big Cats Online).

Habitat and Distribution:

The snow leopard generally inhabits elevations between 2000-4000 meters although it can occasionally be found at lower altitudes to the north of its range and as high as 5500 meters in Himalayan regions. The cat is generally associated with generally rocky terrain such as high valley ridges, rocky outcrops and mountain passes. As summer gives way to winter, the snow leopard will follow its migrating prey down below the tree line to the lowland forests that cover much of its habitat-however the cat is rarely associated with dense forestation. 

In summer it is found in alpine pastures upto 5100 m, evelation while in winter it descends to lower altitudes. In the alpine pasture snow the following vegetation characterizes snow leopard habitat:

Primula macrophylla, Sibbaldia cuneata, sedhm recticaule, Cerastium, cerastiodies, Oxytropis immersa

In Pakistan the Snow Leopard is found in the high mountains of the Karakoram and the Hindukush. There are mainly found in Baltistan, Chitral, Gilgit, Upper Swat Valley, the Slopes of Nanga Parbat, Khunjerab National Park and the Chitral Gol National Park. The total population of the snow leopards in Pakistan is 100-200 ( IUCN's Cats Specialist Group).

Recent Sightings and Population Surveys:

Sightings:

1998: Female sub adult snow leopard captured by a local villager after it is seen eating domestic goats in Jamalabad, Hunza. Later released in Khunjerab National Park.

1999: 7 snow leopards seen in Chitral Gol National Park in N.W.F.P in January. 4 at one place and pug marks of 3 others.

1999: Snow leopard pug marks seen in Chitral Gol National Park in N.W.F.P in November, by Mr. Ahmed Khan.

Surveys:

 

N.W.F.P Wildlife Department 1997 survey of Wildlife. Results for Snow Leopard in the Province

District			Place				No.of animals recorded
Chitral			Chitral Gol National Park			1
			Gollen Gol 				2
			Chmar-Khan/Pasoom/Dodorgaz		2
			Ziwar Gol 				2
			Ujno Gol					2
			Shah junali				2
			Kesin Gol 				1
			Lasht/Chitisar Gol 				2
			Bashqar Gol/ shandur 			2
			Loon Gol/Mrighash Gol			1
			Wasoom/Govir Gol				1
			Bang Gol/power Gol				2
			Booni Gol 				1
			Rosh Gol/Atrack Gol			3
			Agram Besti				1
			Broghi					2
			Khotan					2
			Masehra	Hillan Batagram			5
			Manshi Wilidlifew Sancturay 			2
			Nagan-Nadi-Musala				1
			Bhunja Kalan				1
			Bichla Munur 				1
			Naran-Babusar				3
			Burawai Babusar				1
			Beari Chor				2
Kohistan			Pallas 					5
			Bankad-Dubair				3
			Jalkot 					2
			Harban-Basha				2
			Kandia-Uthor				5
							Total:	62

 

 

 

Asiatic Cheetah

( Acinonyx Jubatus Venaticus )

PHOTO CREDIT: Unknown

Local name: Yeoz (Brahui: Baluchistan) , Gurk (Mekrani: Baluchistan)

Description and Biology:

Cheetahs are pale yellow with white underbellies, covered all over with small round black spots. They are readily distinguished from theispotted relatives by their "tear lines": heavy black lines extending fromthe inner corner of each eye to the outer corner of the mouth. The cheetah weighs around 45-65 (kg) on average and their total body length is 1100-1600 (mm). The cheetah is built for speed, with a deep chest, wasp waist, and proportionately longer limbs than the other big cats. Flexion of the elongated spine has been measured as increasing the cheetah’s stride length by 11% at speeds of 56 kph. The canines are small relative to other felids: a reduction in the size of roots of the upper canines allows a larger nasal aperture for increased air intake, which is critical for allowing the cheetah to recover from its sprint while it suffocates its prey by throttling it. Its claws remain exposed, lacking the skin sheaths found in most other felids, and thus provide additional traction like a sprinter's cleats. The foot shows several other modifications: the digital pads and also the metacarpal pad are extremely hard and pointed at the front, possibly as an adaption to sudden braking, and the palmar pads bear a pair of longitudinal ridges instead of the more usual slight depressions -- the functional equivalent of tire treads, serving as anti-skid devices. The prominent dew claws are used as hooks to trip up fast-running prey. Its long tail helps the cheetah’s balance as it swerves during a chase. Finally, the cheetah has enlarged bronchi, lungs, heart and adrenals.

A captive cheetah was accurately clocked at 112 kph over a short distance. In the wild, out of 78 chases measured and timed by G. Frame (Frame and Frame 1981: 181), the top speed was 87 kph. Antelopes, the main prey of cheetah, reach top speeds of 80-97 kph, so peak speeds reached at some portion of a cheetah’s sprint probably do exceed the oft-quoted, but seldom documented, 110 kph. Cheetah sprints rarely last longer than 200-300 m, while most antelope can run much further. Heat builds up rapidly during a sprint, and cheetahs have not evolved the evaporative heat release mechanisms of gazelles and goats, even though their energetic cost of running is equivalent. Despite its refinements, the cheetah, like the other cats, is a sprinter rather than a courser. Once the kill has been made the cheetah however will often pause to regain its strength before eating - at this time the cheetah itself is vulnerable and can often lose its prey to packs of hyenas or to other scavengers.

There is little information available on the ecology of Asiatic cheetahs. Gazelles are generally indicated as the main prey species. In India, cheetahs took primarily blackbuck antelopes and chinkara gazelles, but were also known to attack nilgai antelope and domestic goats and sheep. In Turkmenistan, cheetahs primarily took goitered gazelles, and their disappearance from this area is strongly associated with the decline of gazelles in the mid-1900s. In Iran, cheetahs outside protected areas with gazelle populations are reported to prey mainly on hares A greater degree of sociality has been observed among cheetahs than for most felids, with the exception of the lion. The cheetah will hunt alone or in family groups, usually comprising of adult male relatives - such groups usually have much larger territories than the lone female hunter who must stay close to here young. Average litter size is 3-5 cubs and average life span is 12-14 years (all above information from Big Cats Online and IUCN's Cats Specialist Group ).

Habitat and Distribution:

It was long thought that Asiatic cheetahs were extinct in the Indian sub-continent. However there is increasing evidence that there are still few cheetahs found in south western Baluchistan along the Iranian border. During this decade there have been some sightings in Kharan district of Baluchistan and on some ocassions fresh tracks have been seen. Recently, four cheetah skins believed to be of the Asiatic cheetah have materialized from Baluchistan (Nautra magazine: WWF-Pakistan). One was shot two years ago (1996-97) 50 km from the Iranian border, south of Chagai, and the skin was presented to an army general. Skins said to come from Balochistan have been found in Islamabad markets,` but they could have come from Iran, or even Africa. However, biological studies have shown that these are infact Asiatic Cheetahs. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence indicates that local people in Makran are familiar with the cheetah, and that there is adequate prey (Chinkara gazelle and Goitered gazelle) there. It must be noted that Asiatic cheetahs are found in relatively higher numbers in Iran, where they were widespread during the start of this century and spread right across the Indian Subcontinent, from Pakistan in the west to the east of India. In India, the Moghul Emperor, Akbar, is reputed to have collected some 9,000 animals in his lifetime. The animals were better captured adult for this purpose, after having learned to hunt from their mother. By the early 1900s, however, Indian cheetahs had become so scarce that imports of African animals were required to sustain the princes’ stables, as there was no success breeding them in captivity . In Iran they are found mainly in the central shrub steppe, a broad zone of bush and grassland where most of Iran’s cities are located. In Iran, B. Dareshuri estimates the Iranian population to be fewer than 50, with the north-eastern province of Khorasan being the stronghold. The population has declined steeply in recent years; there were said to be over 200 cheetahs in Iran in the mid-1970s. As it is one of the most endangered cat specie in the world, it is hoped that they will be fully protected in Pakistan, if there is a small population in Baluchistan. Currently, there is an exploratory expedition going to south western Balushistan to find more evidence about their occurance. IUCN's Cats Specialist Group and WWF-Pakistan are cooperating ( all above information from IUCN's Cats Specialist Group, Natura Magazine WWF-Pakistan and "Mammals of Pakistan", by T.J Roberts. Additional distribution information from National Geographic Magazine, Dec 1999).

Recent Sightings and Population Surveys:

Sightings:

1998: Asiatic cheetah skins confiscated. Illeged to have come from Baluchistan.

1999-2000: IUCN's Asiatic cheetah survey under way to find cheetah population in Baluchistan

2000-2001: IUCN's Asiatic cheetah survey finds no evidence of Asiatic Cheetah south of Siahan Range in Baluchistan. First phase completed.

Eurasian Lynx
(Lynx Lynx)

PHOTO CREDIT: Konrad Wothe (Iucn Cats Specialist Group)

Video:

NOTE: Above Video from the BBC (Wildfacts)

Local name: tsogde (Balti: Baltistan)

Description and Biology:

The Eurasian lynx is the largest of the lynxes. Adult males weigh on average 21.6 kg (n=103), while females are slightly smaller at 18.1 kg (n=93). The Eurasian lynx has relatively long legs, and large feet which provide a “snowshoe effect”, allowing for more efficient travel through deep snow. In winter, the fur grows very densely on the bottom of the feet . The coat is greyish, with tint varying from rusty to yellowish. A bright reddish tint, with profuse spotting, is seen most frequently in the south-western part of the lynx’s range (southern Europe, Asia Minor and the Caucasus: Heptner and Sludskii 1972). Eurasian lynx have long, prominent black ear tufts, and short black-tipped tails. Lynx activity peaks in the evening and morning hours, with resting mainly around mid-day and midnight. Eurasian Lynx are capable of killing prey 3-4 times the size of their own weight (all above information from Iucn's Cats Specialist Group). In pakistan the main prey of Lynx is the young of Ibex, Markhor and the Marcopolo Sheep, Musk deer, Marmots, Red Fox, Pikas and ground birds.

Habitat and Distribution:

Lynx are probably found throughout the northern slopes of the Himalayas, and have been reported both from thick scrub woodland and barren, rocky areas above the treeline (Roberts 1977). In Pakistan the Eurasian Lynx is found in remote mountanious regions of the North. It is found in Baltistan, Gilgit, Northern Hunza and Chitral. It is relatively common in Baltistan, elsewhere is is rare.

Caracal
(Caracal Caracal)

PHOTO CREDIT: Gordon/Howletts and Port Lympne Zoo, Kent

Video:

NOTE: Above Video from the BBC (Wildfacts)

Local name: Siah Goosh (Urdu), Caracal (Farsi)

Description and Biology:

The Caracal in appearance resembles the Lynx in having characteristic dark tufts on its large, pointed ears and is indeed often referred to as the African Lynx or Desert Lynx, however the caracal is not closely related to the true lynx species. Extending the visual comparison, the body of the caracal is slimmer and less stocky, its legs are thinner and its tail longer than the Lynx. It can grow up to 3 feet in body length and sport a tail about a third of its body size. Its coloration is generally yellowish brown to a darker red/brown, with the undersides of the cat, areas around the eyes and under the chin being white. The backs of its ears are black – the name Caracal is derived from the Turkish word ‘karakulak’, meaning ‘black ear’. Melanistic or all black caracal have also been reported.

In hunting, the caracal is mainly nocturnal, but will also use the twilight hours to search out its prey. Diurnal activity has also been observed, specially in the hunting of bird. For its size the caracal is strong and fast, and as well as taking smaller prey such as jerboas, sand rat, ground squirrel and rock hyrax, it can also bring down the larger reedbuck and duiker. Much in the way of the Leopard, the caracal will sometimes cache its larger prey up in the lower limbs of trees and return to feed on its kill over several days. The caracal is also well known for using its agility and superior jumping ability to catch birds just after take-off – here prey species include pidgeons and guineafowl.

The litter size is usually between 1-6 kittens and they are born after a gestation period of approximately 71 days. The kittens have a daily weight gain of approximately 21g per day and although they reach maturity at about 16-18 months of age they are often independent from about 12 months (All above information from Big Cats Online).

Habitat and Distribution:

The cat is found in dry savanna and woodland areas, scrubland and rugged terrain in mountainous regions, where it is known to live up to 3000 metres. Like other cats found in dry, arid or semi-dessert locations the caracal can survive for long periods without water, instead obtaining its requirement form the metabolic moisture of its prey.

In Pakistan the Caracal is rarely seen, because it is rare and nocturnal. The caracal inhabits the broken hills of Baluchistan and the Deserts of Sind and Punjab. It is found in the Thal desert, the Cholistan desert in Punjab and the Thar desert in Sind. It is found in the lower hill ranges of Baluchistan. The Caracal is also found in Attock and might still be found in Kala Chita hills and the Salt Range.

Jungle Cat

(Felis Chaus)

PHOTO CREDIT: Iucn's Cats Specialist Group

Local name: Jangli Billi (Urdu)

Description and Biology:

The jungle cat has long legs and a slender build. The fur is generally sandy brown, reddish or grey, and is unpatterned except for stripes on the legs and occasionally the throat, which are very light in the south of its range and darker in the north. The winter coat is darker and denser than in summer. Melanistic individuals are occasionally reported. Jungle cats have black ear tufts. The tail is relatively short, averaging about 40% of head-body length. Males are markedly larger than females (6.1±1.5 kg [n=20] vs. 4.2±1.1 kg [n=12]: Pocock 1951). In captivity, males are very protective of the cubs, even more so than females, and sexual dimorphism may be linked to this behavior. Family groups -- male, female and cubs - have been seen in the wild.

Jungle cats are frequently observed in the daytime. They feed primarily on rodents, including large rodents. Jungle cats also take hares, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and the young of larger mammals such as wild pig . They are strong swimmers, and will dive to catch fish, or to escape when chased by man or dog. One cat in India, observed hiding in a bush while stalking a group of grey jungle fowl, appeared to make deliberate clockwise movements of its head, rustling leaves and attracting the curiousity of the birds (All above information from Iucn's Cats Specialist Group).

Habitat and Distribution:

The jungle cat, despite its name, is not strongly associated with closed forest, but rather with water and dense vegetative cover, especially reed swamps, marsh, and littoral and riparian environments. It is able to satisfy these requirements in a variety of habitats across a wide geographic area. In sandy and stony desert country (sometimes with only very sparse shrub cover: Roberts 1977), it occurs along riverbeds.

Jungle cats have adapted well to irrigated cultivation, having been observed in many different types of agricultural and forest plantations throughout their range, with sugarcane frequently mentioned in Tropical Asia. Jungle cats are often spotted amidst human settlement (and are frequently reported to take chickens). Jungle cats have adapted well to irrigated cultivation, having been observed in many different types of agricultural and forest plantations in Pakistan. This cat is found through out the riverine tracts of the Indus and the cultivated and irrigated lands of Punjab and Sind. This is the most common wild cat in Pakistan.

Fishing Cat

(Prionailurus Viverrinus)

PHOTO CREDIT: Gordon/Howletts and Port Lympne Zoo, Kent

Local name: Mach Billi (Sindhi: Sind)

Description and Biology:

The fishing cat, with its stocky, powerful build and short legs, was given its Latin name on account of its rather viverrine or civet-like appearance. Its pelt is olive grey, and is patterned with rows of parallel solid black spots which often form stripes along the spine. Its tail is very short for a felid, less than half the body length (TL = 23-21 cm, 37% of head-body length (n=5): Pocock 1939a). Females are markedly smaller (6-7 kg) than males (11-12 kg). Despite its fishing habits, the fishing cat does not show marked morphological adaptations to capturing or eating fish. Its claw sheaths are shortened, so that the claws are not completely enveloped when retracted.

Fishing cats are good swimmers, and have been observed to dive into water after fish, as well as attempt to scoop them out of water with their paws. Other water-associated prey are probably taken as well, ranging from crustaceans and molluscs to frogs and snakes. Fishing cats also prey on rodents, small Indian civet, and wild pig, as well as domestic goats, calves, dogs and poultry. Roberts (1977) reports that in Pakistan fishing cats have been seen to catch waterfowl by swimming up to them while fully submerged and seizing their legs from underneath (all above information from Iucn's Cats Specialist Group).

Average litter size is 2-3 cubs.

Habitat and Distribution:

Fishing cats are strongly associated with wetlands. They are typically found in swamps and marshy areas, oxbow lakes, reed beds, tidal creeks and mangrove areas. In Pakistan, it is mainly found along the lower reaches of the Indus River, although a few stragglers penetrate the northeast of the country along the Ravi and and Sutlej rivers (Roberts 1977). It is found around the swamps and reed beds of Haleji and Kalri lakes in Lower Sind. In the Indus river basin in Pakistan, fishing cats are probably on the verge of extinction.

Indian Desert Cat or Wild Cat

(Felis Silvestris Ornata)

PHOTO CREDIT: Gordon/Howletts and Port Lympne Zoo, Kent

Local name: Unknown

Description and Biology:

The Asiatic Wildcat - also commonly known as the Indian Desert or Asiatic Steppe Cat - is often thought a closer relation to the African wildcat than to its eastern neighbour the European wildcat. In coloration the Asiatic cat resembles its African relation in having lighter coloured greyish yellow fur, although depending on its location it can sometimes take on more of a sandy/red appearance. The markings, which usually consist of small dark brown or muddy red spots, sometimes coalescing into stripes along the back and flanks, are more distinct. In common with other wildcat species the chin and chest are often white and the tail banded with dark rings and tipped with black. In size, the Asiatic wildcat is similar to the African species, although in some areas notably to the east of its range, it is often smaller than its relatives. . In common with the African wildcat the Asiatic species depends on rodents to supply the largest proportion of its diet - sand rat and desert gerbil are a common source of prey which is supplemented by Tolai hare, birds such as sandgrouse and peafowl (all above information from Big Cat's Online).

The diet also includes hares, young ungulates, birds, insects, lizards and snakes. Asiatic wildcats rest and den in burrows. They are frequently observed in the daytime. The average litter size is 2-6 individuals.

Habitat and Distribution:

Asiatic wildcats are most typically associated with scrub desert. They range up to 2,000-3,000 m in mountain areas with sufficient dense vegetation. Wildcats can be found near cultivated areas and human settlement. They usually occur in close proximity to water sources, but are also able to live year-round in waterless desert.

In Pakistan this cat is found in the dry zones of Lower Sind, such as Dadu and Thatta districts. Further west it is found in Lasbela and Merkan areas. This cat is very rare in Pakistan. The main threat to this cat is hybridization with domestic cats.

Pakistan Sand Cat

(Felis Margarita Scheffeli)

PHOTO CREDIT: Allan Dregasco (Iucn's Cats Specialist Group)

Video:

NOTE: Above Video from the BBC (Wildfacts)

Local name: Gorbeh Sheni (Farsi: Iran)

Description and Biology:

The Sand cat is one of the smallest of all the wild cat species. Its body which is about the size of a small domestic cat - a male measures up to 57cm and weighs only 3kg. The coat varies in colour from grey to sandy yellow and is marked irregularly with indistinct stripy markings - the legs are often banded with horizontal dark stripes. Characteristic dark reddish/drown markings appear on the cheeks and to the side of the eyes as well as covering the rear of the ears - the chin and throat of the sand cat are white.

The sand cat’s body is well adapted to cope with the extremes of its environment - its thick fur is of medium length and acts as insulation against the extreme cold of the desert nights and its feet and pads are covered with long hair which protect them from the heat of the desert surface and give it extra support needed in moving across the soft, shifting sands. The distinctive triangular ears of the sand cat, which are large in proportion to the rest of the cats head are particularly sensitive. Sound does not travel well across vast expanses of sandy terrain and it is thought that an enlarged auditory bulla (part of the inner ear) and over sized pinnae (ear flaps) aid the cat in hearing the movements of its common prey both above and below ground. The sand cats acute hearing may also play a part in communication between male and female prior to mating and in establishing territoriality - the male has a particularly loud barking call which may well serve to advertise the males position across large expanses of desert terrain.

The sand cat is solitary and nocturnal in its hunting. During the extreme heat of the day the cat will often sleep under rough scrub vegetation or more commonly in a shallow burrow dug into the sand or in a hollow in between rocks or sandy boulders. At sunset the cat will become active, moving away from its den in search of prey at the onset of darkness. The extent of the sand cats prey species is uncertain, however its is known to include small rodents such as gerbil and jerboas, insects, reptiles, including venomous desert snakes and birds. Caching of larger prey has been observed - the sand cat using loose sand to cover its kill. It is probable that as well as taking prey on the surface, sand cats may also use there strong fore limbs to dig into the burrows of certain species of diurnal gerbil. Interestingly, and again by way of adapting to its environment the sand cat can live without drinking water, instead obtaining all the fluid it requires from its prey.

In the wild it has been observed that the young sand cat develops rapidly and become independent at a relatively early age. The litter size can range between 1-8 kittens (normally 4-5) and are born after a gestation period of approximately 62 days. The kittens have a daily weight gain of approximately 12g per day and reaches maturity at about 14 months of age (all above information from Big Cats Online).

Habitat and Distribution:

As its name implies the sand cat is commonly found in sandy desert areas. Despite early reports that the sand cat population of Baluchistan’s Chagai desert was devastated by commercial collectors within 10 years after foreign collectors became aware of its existence (Roberts 1977, Hemmer 1977), more recent information indicates that the sand cat still occurs widely in the area (above information from Iucn). But, still the Sand Cat is rare in Pakistan and is only found in the Chagai desert in South west Baluchistan. The Pakistan Sand Cat is considered endangered and will not survive until stronger wildlife laws are put in to place to stop it's export from Pakistan.

 

Leopard Cat

(Prionailurus bengalensis)

PHOTO CREDIT: Shigeki Yasuma

Local name: Chita Billi (Urdu)

Description and Biology:

Broadly speaking the leopard cat is a little larger than a big domestic cat and has a base fur colour that ranges from yellow/brown to grey/brown, found mostly in the north of its range. The underparts, chest and lower head are usually white as is a large spot which is commonly found on the back of the otherwise black ears. In varying intensity, depending on the sub-species the leopard cat is covered with medium to large dark brown to black spots which often coalesce into solid stripes on the top of the back and thin stripe markings on the top and side of the head ( all above information from Big Cats Online).

Rodents form the principal prey. The diet also includes young ungulates, hares, birds, reptiles, insects, eels and fish, as well as occasional carrion. Although often described as primarily nocturnal, Leopard Cats are active in the day time as well (all above information from Iucn's Cats Specialist Group).

The average litter size is 2-3 individuals.

Habitat and Distribution:

The Leopard Cat occurs in a broad spectrum of habitats, from tropical rainforest to temperate broadleaf and, marginally, coniferous forest, as well as shrub forest and successional grasslands. The northern boundaries of its range are limited by snow cover; the leopard cat avoids areas where snow is more than 10 cm deep. It is not found in the cold steppe grasslands, and generally does not occur in arid zones, although there are a few records from relatively dry and treeless areas in Pakistan (Roberts 1977). Leopard cats usually live in proximity to a water source, and can occupy refuge strips of riverine forest in areas. Leopard cats can live close to rural settlements, occasionally raiding poultry.

In Pakistan this cat is found in the Murree hills and the Kaghan valley. It is also found in Azad Kashmir. Further West it is found in Swat, Dir, and lower Gilgit. It might be found in Chitral as well.

Pallas Cat

(Otocolobus Manul)

PHOTO CREDIT: Birmingham Zoo

Video:

NOTE: Above Video from the BBC (Wildfacts)

Local name: psk kuhey (Dari: Afghanistan)

Description and Biology:

Peter Pallas, who first described the manul, erroneously suggested that it was the ancestor of the long-haired Persian breeds of domestic cat, because of its long fur, stocky build and flattened face. The hair on its underparts and tail is nearly twice as long as on the top and sides. Like the snow leopard, this presumably helps keep the animal warm when it hunts on snow, cold rock or frozen ground. The background color of its fur varies from grey in the north of its range to fox-red in some parts of the south (Roberts 1977), although greyish animals are also found in the south. The hairs have white tips, producing a silvery, frosted appearance in all but the reddest specimens. The body is compact, with short legs marked with indistinct black bands, and a thick, short, black-tipped tail. Weight ranges from 2-4.5 kg. The forehead is patterned with small black spots. Its ears are small and rounded and set low on the sides of the head. The auditory bullae are enlarged, similar to those of the sand cat. The barking call of the manul is similar also to that of the sand cat and, likewise, the low profile of its head is an adaptation to hunting in open country where there is little cover.

One cat in Baluchistan, Pakistan, was found feeding on chukor partridge (Roberts 1977). Other prey includes Gerbils, Voles, Pikas and small birds. Manuls are generally crepuscular, being most frequently encountered at dusk or in early morning,. They den in small caves and rock crevices, and may take refuge in the burrows of other animals such as marmots, foxes and badgers. Tame manuls hunting for rodents caught not only animals running on the surface, but also successfully ambushed them by hiding near exits of burrows, using their paws to fish out the inhabitants when the holes were shallow enough (all above information from Iucn's Cats Specialist Group).

Habitat and Distribution:

The manul is adapted to cold arid environments, but is relatively specialized in its habitat requirements. It is found in stony alpine desert and grassland habitats, but is generally absent from lowland sandy desert basins, although it may penetrate these areas along river courses. The small southern populations in Baluchistan, isolated from the main population, occur in montane juniper steppe (Roberts 1977). This cat is also found in Baltistan, but there is no information about its status there. This cat is rare in Pakistan.


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