Papikonda National Park becomes home for leopard cats

Two animals sighted in the park in recent times

April 29, 2019 05:56 pm | Updated 05:56 pm IST - CHINTOORU (ANDHRA PRADESH)

A leopard cat sighted through camera trap outside Papikonda National Park (left). Another leopard cat sighted inside the national park in April.

A leopard cat sighted through camera trap outside Papikonda National Park (left). Another leopard cat sighted inside the national park in April.

Papikonda National Park (PNP), with a dominant area covered with moist deciduous forest, has become home for the leopard cat ( Prinailurus bengalensis ) in the Eastern Ghats. The 1,012.86 sq km national park is on both sides of river Godavari in the northern Eastern Ghats.

Of the 13 protected forests in Andhra Pradesh, the leopard cat has been sighted only in the PNP. “To our surprise, two leopard cats have been sighted in recent weeks during our field study through camera traps in three grids in the Chintoor Division in the PNP”, Chintooru Divisional Forest Officer P. Saibaba told The Hindu . “Presence of one young leopard cat has been recorded inside the national park, and the other has been sighted along the park’s border in the reserve forest,” he said. The leopard cat’s conservation status is ‘Least concern’.

The PNP authorities and the Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society (HYTICO) have been extensively observing the wildlife movements, recording the existing wildlife in the national park as well as its borders, which support the development of a ‘tiger corridor’ in the coming years.

“The moist deciduous forest supports for the thriving of the leopard cat in the park,” said Mr. Saibaba. The anecdotal evidence provided by the local communities on the presence of leopard cat outside the park was taken into consideration to identify the areas to install the cameras.

In January 2015, the presence of a leopard cat was recorded for the first time in the PNP, according to the Journal of Threatened Taxa. A road-kill of the leopard cat was registered near the PNP in recent years. “The sighting of the leopard cat in such a good number in the selected three grids highlights the need for a study on the wildlife in the entire PNP, which can be considered a ‘safe habitat’ for the leopard cat in the Eastern Ghats”, E. Santosh Kumar, HYTICO Conservation Consultant, said. Mr. Santosh is engaged in wildlife study in the PNP.

In Western the Ghats, over 100 leopard cats have been sighted in the four reserves — Bhandra Tiger Reserve, BRT Tiger Reserve, Nagarhole and Bandipur reserves.

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