If You Go Into The Woods Today… Smile!

Jungle Cat (Felis chaus) in Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville
Jungle Cat (Felis chaus) in Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville

Who exactly lives in Pitchandikulam Forest? We’ve met (we’re pretty sure) all the human inhabitants, but what about our mammal brethren? Starting in August and armed with a barrage of cameras, our research team set out to conduct the first camera trap study in our area of Tamil Nadu, in order to better understand which species are currently living here with us.

A camera trap system is especially useful for estimating populations of nocturnal, more ‘shy’ mammals. As in every forest ecosystem, the wildlife population is constantly changing from one day to the next, and so the first step in order to estimate best where to put the cameras was to conduct a sign survey – walking the forest in search of evidence like pellets, footprints and droppings. The team readily identified the presence of carnivores such as mongoose, civet cat and jungle cat, and the cameras were soon set up on trees 50cm from the ground, pointing at the most promising areas.

Three camera traps were operational for 24 hours a day over a period of 37 days, and they took 137 photographs.

Below is a table of the ten species we identified. The most common species recorded was the Asian Palm Civet (40.9 %) followed by the Small Indian Civet (16.8%), Grey mongoose (10.9%), Indian Crested Porcupine (8.8%), Jungle Cat (8%), Black naped Hare (6.6 %), Chital (4.4%). The Golden Jackal and Bonnet Macaque were captured twice (1.5%).

Most excitingly, we recorded on camera a Rusty-Spotted Cat (prionailurus rubiginosus),  which is in the “Near Threatened” category on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This is the first time that this mammal has been sighted on the Coromandel Coast.

Bonnet Macaque in Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville
Bonnet Macaque in Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville
Spotted Deer in Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville
Spotted Deer in Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville
Rusty Spotted Cat in Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville
Rusty Spotted Cat in Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville

Results of the ten species documented are as follows, with the number of recorded sightings over the survey period on the left:

Serial No. Count Common Name Scientific Name Family Order IUCN Status IWPA Schedule
1 2 Golden Jackal Canis aureus Canidae Carnivora Least Concern Schedule II Part II
2 2 Bonnet Macaque Macaca radiata Cercopithecidae Primates Least Concern Schedule II Part I
3 4 Spotted Deer Axis axis Cervidae Artiodactyla Least Concern Schedule III
4 9 Jungle Cat Felis chaus Felidae Carnivora Least Concern Schedule II Part II
5 1 Rusty- Spotted Cat Prionailurus rubiginosus Felidae Carnivora Near Threatened Schedule I Part I
6 12 Grey Mongoose Herpestes edwardsii Hespertidae Carnivora Least Concern Schedule II Part II
7 10 Indian Crested Porcupine Hystrix indica Hystricidae Carnivora Least Concern Schedule II Part I
8 7 Black Naped Hare Lepus nigricollis Leporidae Lagomorpha Least Concern Schedule IV
9 17 Asian Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus Viverridae Carnivora Least Concern Schedule II Part II
10 13 Small Indian Civet Viverricula indica Viverridae Carnivora Least Concern Schedule II Part II

We are interested to talk to interested people to help with wildlife and botanical documentation and surveying. If you would like to know more about our work or volunteer for one of our forthcoming projects, please get in touch with Dr Bubesh Guptha.

Update

The full paper is now published as:  A photographic record of the Rusty-spotted Cat Prionailurus rubiginosus (Mammalia: Carnivora: Felidae) in a forest plantation on the east coast of Tamil Nadu, India, M. Bubesh Guptha & M. Eric Ramanujam, Journal of Threatened Taxa, 26 May 2017 | Vol. 9| No. 5 | Pp. 10242–10245

and is available for download.

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