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The Caracal

News: The National Board for Wildlife includes the caracal in the list of critically endangered species. The recovery programme for critically endangered species in India now includes 22 wildlife species. 

About Caracal: It is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia including India. The population of this cat is increasing in Africa while its numbers are declining in Asia. 

 

Conservation Status:  

  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern, India (Endangered) 
  • CITES Listing: Appendix I for the Asian population and Appendix II for others. 
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I   

Habitat:  

  • Earlier Caracals could be found in arid and semi-arid scrub forest regions of 13 Indian states. It was also found in nine out of the 26 biotic provinces.  
  • However, currently, its presence is restricted to Rajasthan, Kutch, and parts of Madhya Pradesh (MP). 

Characteristics: 

  •  Features: The caracal has long legs, a short face, long canine teeth. It has distinctive ears that are long and pointy with tufts of black hair at their tips. 
  • Nocturnal Animal: It is an elusive, primarily nocturnal animal. Its sightings are not common. 
  • Food Habits: The caracal is a carnivore. It typically preys upon small mammals, birds, and rodents. 
  • Significance: The caracal has traditionally been valued for its flexibility and its extraordinary ability to catch birds in flight. 

Why is the wild cat named Caracal? 

 Its name is on the basis of the Turkish word karakulak, meaning ‘black ears’. It is named due to its iconic ears. 

Different Names: 

  • In India, Caracal is called Siya gosh, a Persian name that translates as ‘black Ear’. 
  • A Sanskrit fable (short story) exists about a small wild cat named deergha karn or ‘long-eared’. 

 Threats: 

  • Loss of habitat and increasing urbanisation 
  • Example: Chambal ravines which are caracal’s natural habitat has been often officially notified as wasteland. 
  • Infrastructure projects such as the building of roads lead to the fragmentation of the caracal’s ecology and disruption of its movement. 

Historical significance of Caracal: 

  • The earliest evidence of the caracal in the subcontinent comes from a fossil dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization c. 3000-2000 BC. 
  • It was a favourite coursing or hunting animal in medieval India. 
  • Caracal finds mention in Abul Fazl’s Akbarnama as a hunting animal in the time of Akbar (1556-1605). 
  • Descriptions and illustrations of the caracal can also be found in medieval texts such as Anvar-iSuhayliTutinama, Khamsa-e Nizami and Shahnameh. 
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