Jungle Cat

Cat of the Month ~ May 2015

a jungle cat just sits and ponders

Male Jungle Cat looking very dog like
at Pont-Scorff Zoo (Nr Lorient, France)
Photo: Pont-Scorff Zoo

The Jungle Cat or ‘Felis Chaus’ of Asia is known as the ‘reed cat’ or ‘swamp cat’ in Africa. This is probably a more accurate name for this feline, as it rarely strays into jungle regions.

Preferred habitat is anywhere where there is water. Lake margins or riversides which often border dense ground cover are an excellent environment in which to hunt and breed. However the extent of habitation is much wider than this; ranging from desert (where it is found near oases or along dry riverbeds) to grassland, shrubby woodland and dry deciduous forest, as well as cleared areas of forest. They have been observed from sea level up to altitudes of 8,000 ft or more. Jungle cats are distributed throughout Asia, Sri Lanka and India. They are also found in Egypt.

Jungle cats are tenacious and adaptable moving into regions reclaimed by humans , where irrigation and cultivation have been carried out. However the jungle cat is prone to loosing its habitat due to the very same human intervention.

a jungle cat on a log

Jungle Cat in motion
Photo: wildwings.co.uk

Similar in build to the Serval and the African Wildcat and once thought to be related to the Lynx, Jungle cats are actually a very close relative of the domestic cat. They have long legs and a sleek build but they can grow to quite a hefty 14 Kilograms in weight standing up to 40 cms tall with a length of almost 100 cms. Tails are short though at 20 to 30 cms, with faint rings, and bearing a black tip. A jungle cats coat can range through sandy-brown, reddish or gray, and is unpatterned except for some brown striping on the legs. The ears are tall and rounded and are reddish with short, wide tufts on the tips.

Jungle cats feed mainly on small mammals, principally rodents, (a study in India’s Sariska reserve estimated that jungle cats catch and eat three to five rodent per day). Birds rank second in importance, but in southern Russia waterfowl are the mainstay of jungle cat diet in the winter. With overwintering populations of waterfowl congregating in large numbers on unfrozen rivers and marshes, the jungle cat hunts among reed beds and along edges of wetlands, searching for injured or weakened birds. Other prey species are taken more opportunistically, including hares, nutria, lizards, snakes, frogs, insects, and fish.


Sirga the orphan lioness

Cat of the Month ~ January 2015

Sirga is one hefty Cat.
Photograph: Caters News Agency

Sirga the lioness was abandoned by her pride as a young cub and left to fend for herself in the wide wild African bush.

It was extremely lucky for the animal that she was rescued by the owners of the nearby Modisa wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, Africa. Today Sirga is a fully grown feline weighing in at over 110 pounds. She’s a beautiful brute of a lioness in fact.

Sirga with her two rescuers, Valentin and Mikkel
Photograph: Caters News Agency

By rescuing and looking after this cat, the owner of the sanctuary Valentin Gruener has forged an unbreakable bond with Sirga. Both Valentin and his fellow naturalist Mikkel Legarth are treated like fellow lions by Sirga. In return, the men help the Big cat to hunt for food and they get to receive the hugs of this most affectionate feline.

Mikkel, explains: “The pride had three cubs and two were killed before Sirga was abandoned without food. It happened on our land and we couldn’t standby and watch her die.”

“We didn’t want Sirga to become like other lions in captivity, constantly fed by streams of tourists. ”

“She only interacts with me and Valentin. “She hunts her own food, taking antelopes and she will let us be near her when she eats it which is remarkable.

“Sirga doesn’t mind people, but she doesn’t pay them any attention. Wild lions are scared of people, the problem comes if you release a lion that is used to people in the wild, that can cause problems.”

“With Sirga we want to release her to the wild eventually as a wild lion not as one that has met lots of people. That would be dangerous.”

Sirga as a cub
Photograph: Caters News Agency

Valentin and Mikkel are conservationists who live in the real hope of saving the lion population in the Botswana vicinity but as is the case in so many animal environments today, increased farming activity is bringing lions and man into more and more conflict.

The men have begun the Modisa Wildlife Project to work with local farmers to find a way to keep lions and man in their respective domains, so that they can live together in mutual harmony. The plan is to relocate the lions which are coming into contact with farmers to one large protected area where they have enough wild prey to feed on.

Mikkel continues “If you release wild lions somewhere else, they will come straight back to where they were before because there is food there. “And if you just dump a pride of lions in the middle of a new territory they will disturb the prides that are already there. “In Botswana all lions are protected by the government. They are like swans being the property of the Crown in the UK. This also makes moving them a problem.

“What we have now are 10,000-hectare plots with 10 to 15 lions in fenced enclosure, they are wild lions but we do have to feed them. “The first time you walk up to a lion all your body is telling you this is not something you should be doing.”

The Golden Cat

Cat of the Month ~ October 2011

golden cat

African Golden Cat
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons

Golden Cats are sturdy strong felines with long legs and large paws. These creatures are over twice the size of our own domestic cats (at 1 metre long and 45 cms tall). A fully grown adult can weigh 15 Kg or more. Fur can be russet red to golden-brown but may range to black and grey also (leading to the common nickname “Fire Cat” no doubt. Their coat is of moderate length but very thick and generally unmarked, although cats in the more northern regions of Asia (and Africa) are more likely to have spots and stripes which closely resemble the markings of the Leopard. Ironically, this beautiful coat and unique colouring is one of the traits of this animal that places them in the greatest danger.

In Burma and Thailand a golden cat has for centuries been known as a “Fire Cat”. Legend advises that carrying one hair (taken from this animal) will give the bearer protection from tigers! It’s also said that burning a pelt from this cat will drive tigers away from the surrounding area. However, hunting of this cat is banned in a number of countries (and rightly so). With its restricted natural habitat depleting over time, along with the bush meat trade, the African golden cats might soon be in danger.

In parts of China they are known as the “Rock Cat”. They range (in Asia) from Nepal and northeast India through southeast Asia, China, Thailand, Malaysia and Sumatra. Unlike the African cat however, the Asian species is considered to be more abundant throughout their range.

Apart from the (often) red coat the most distinguishing feature of this cat are the white lines bordered with black running across the cheeks, and from the inner corners of the eyes up to the crown. As with many cats, the underside and inner legs are white. The backs of the short, rounded ears are black, with a whitish central area, and the eyes can be usually greyish green or amber.

The African golden cats (Profelis aurata) are found in the humid rain-forest parts of Western and Central Africa and also in the dryer secondary forests of these regions where they can be quite active in the lower part of the tree canopies. They are closely related to their Asian cousins although the two are separated by more than 6,400 kilometers and over a million years of evolution! It is believed that the split in Genes occurred when the forests covering the area from Senegal to China gradually turned to vast deserts. It is believed that over the years the deserts isolated the two Golden Cat populations.

Both the Golden Cat Species resemble the Caracal Cat and also the Serval Cat. They are (similarly) nocturnal forest dwellers, preferring deciduous and tropical rain forest, and occasionally more open areas with rocky tracts. In this terrain their long legs make them highly agile and excellent at climbing trees. Nevertheless, they spend most of their time living on the ground walking on their large paws and curling their striped tails up at the tip.
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