Since the opening of JAWAI, the leopards have played an importantly role in our wilderness experience. The team has successfully been tracking these big cats over the seasons amounting to over 400 separate sightings over the short time we have been in the area.
While there is something quite mesmerizing about seeing a leopard in the wild, there are other smaller cats, the ones that people don’t talk about as much which are just as exiting and special to see…
The most common small cat we see around JAWAI is the Jungle Cat. We often get lucky in the early evenings observing them hunting for rodents, geckos and small ground birds. It is huge fun watching them pounce and stalk. Back at camp we even have our own resident male Jungle Cat who confidently strolls around poking his head in out and keeping an eye on our guests at the campfire!
Then comes the rare Rusty Spotted Cat, which holds the record of being the ‘Smallest Wildcat on Earth’ ! We are so lucky that we share the wilderness of JAWAI with them. Over this last season in JAWAI we have yielded a handful of sightings of this shy and elusive creature. It has a tiny territory and is often found hidden away from any human habitations. When out on a wilderness drive with some of our guests, I was lucky to spot this female in the entrance of one the caves that we often sight the somewhat bigger cat! At a sensitive distance we were able to watch her for half an hour attempting to catch swallows emerging from their nests; a fascinating and unusual encounter.
All these cats, known to live in the periphery of human habitation are also know to have bred with domestic cats to form hybrids. Identification of such hybrid morphs sometimes becomes a very difficult but fascinating research and study. It is intriguing to monitor the relationships and interactions between the ‘wild’ and ‘domesticated’ smaller cats.
Hidden, unobtrusive camera traps have also helped us to see what these cats get up to in the middle of the night.
The small cat that has managed to elude us thus far is the magnificent Caracal. The search, and friendly competition, continues between the guides as to who will be the first to add this species to the ever-growing list of creatures of JAWAI !