The Jungle Cat
Of all the cats in the world, I do believe this is the one with the worst name!
The reason I say this is that it is not strongly associated with ‘jungles’ at all, but more so with wetlands. Even this however, is not strictly correct. At JAWAI Leopard Camp we have a healthy population of Jungle Cats and by no stretch of the imagination are we in a wetland. The reality is that the Jungle Cat is a true survivor; a small 8 kg cat that is able to carve a living out of nearly any habitat.
Jungle cats have adapted well to irrigated cultivation, having been observed in many different types of agricultural and forest plantations throughout their wide spreading range. One of the best places to look for Jungle Cats at JAWAI is in the prolific mustard fields.
A few days ago I was fortunate enough to find a Jungle Cat hunting in a field of cabbages. It was a remarkable sight, watching this stealthy ambush hunter moving in and out of the large healthy cabbages.
Once believed to closely related to the lynx (which share its characteristic traits of tufted ears, long limbs and a short tail) the Jungle Cat is in fact the largest of the Felis species. Their diet is somewhat varied, with berries making up significant portions in certain areas. They are also proficient swimmers and catch waterfowl and in fact fish. Rodents, however, are their mainstay. A study conducted in India’s Sariska National Park estimated that Jungle Cats eat between three and five rodents each day.
This is exactly what we managed to see…
After a few minutes of stalking, the Jungle Cat expertly got itself into position, remained dead still and leapt into the air. It came crashing down on an unsuspecting mouse. In one bite and the rodent was finished. He casually licked his lips and moved off into the nearby tomato field. It was a truly remarkable sighting.
It is magical to watch a species of cat functioning so well in a human landscape. Far too often we hear stories about how wild animals are pushed out and killed off by the presence of Homo sapiens…it is refreshing to be in a place like JAWAI where this is not the case.
I hope you enjoy my sequence of photos of the Jungle Cat in action.
Photographed and Written by Adam Bannister