Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Thursday, 18 February 2010

Rare Indian wild cats are caught on film

By Joanna Jolly
BBC News, Kathmandu

All the cats were spotted in the Jeypore-Dehing forests (photo: Kashmira Kakati)

India's Eastern Himalayan rainforest could have one of the world's largest number of wild cat species, after seven species were recorded in two years.

The wild cats, including the rare clouded leopard, were photographed by remote cameras with motion sensors.

Wildlife experts say the discovery is encouraging considering the ongoing threat to animal life in the area.

The study was conducted over two years in 500 sq km (193 sq miles) of forest by wildlife biologist Kashmira Kakati.

All the cats were photographed in the Jeypore-Dehing lowland forests in Assam state north-east India.

The seven species caught on camera include the rare and elusive clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata), and golden cat (Catopuma temminckii), and four relatively widely distributed species — tiger (Panthera tigris), leopard (Panthera pardus), leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), and jungle cat (Felis chaus).

Deforestation, poaching and major engineering projects, such as hydro-electric dams, threaten the long-term survival of wildlife habitats.

Crude oil extraction and coal mining are also taking their toll.

Wildlife Conservation Society-India spokesman Ravi Chellam said that rainforests were important for preserving biodiversity and creating a livelihood for local communities.

"The entire forest here should be protected as a single conservation landscape, free of disturbance and connected by wildlife corridors," he said.

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