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Caracal endangered now

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    8th Mar, 2021

Context

The Union Environment Ministry has brought Caracal, into the ambit of the critically endangered species programme for taking up its conservation.

About

What is Caracal?

  • The caracal, a medium size wild cat with long black tufted ears, which is found in some parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat.
  • The caracal is an elusive, primarily noctural animal, and sightings are not common.
  • The wildcat has long legs, a short face, long canine teeth, and distinctive ears — long and pointy, with tufts of black hair at their tips.
  • The iconic ears are what give the animal its name — caracal comes from the Turkish karakulak, meaning ‘black ears’.
  • In India, it is called siya gosh, a Persian name that translates as ‘black Ear’.
  • A Sanskrit fable exists about a small wild cat named deergha-karn or ‘long-eared’.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists Caracal as species of least concern, mainly due to their large numbers in Africa.

Habitat

  • Besides India, the caracal is found in several dozen countries across Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia.
  • While it flourishes in parts of Africa, its numbers in Asia are declining.

Reasons behind the decline

  • The caracal is rarely hunted or killed — in recent years, cases have been detected of the animal being captured to be sold as exotic pets — and the decline of its population is attributable mainly to loss of habitat and increasing urbanisation.
  • The caracal’s natural habitat — for example the Chambal ravines — is often officially notified as wasteland.
  • Land and environment policies are not geared towards the preservation of such wasteland ecology, rather they seek to ‘reclaim’ these areas to make them arable.
  • Infrastructure projects such as the building of roads lead to the fragmentation of the caracal’s ecology and disruption of its movement. The loss of habitat also affects the animal’s prey which includes small ungulates and rodents.

Significance of the move

  • The listing is expected to bring central funding to conservation efforts.
  • It is likely to ensure that the animal is studied comprehensively for the first time, including its home range, population, prey, etc.
    • Such study will also throw light on the much neglected “wastelands” in the country, which are home to a large number of animal and bird species, including leopards, Asiatic wild cats, rust spotted cats, sloth bears, wolves, wild dogs, civets, etc.
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