Prionailurus rubiginosus 

Scope: Global
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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Felidae

Scientific Name: Prionailurus rubiginosus
Species Authority: (I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1831)
Common Name(s):
English Rusty-spotted Cat
French Chat rubigineux, Chat rougeâtre, Chat-léopard de l'Inde
Spanish Gato Rojizo, Gato Rubiginosa
Taxonomic Notes: Taxonomy is currently under review by the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group (2014). Placed in Prionailurus according to genetic analysis (Johnson et al. 2006, O'Brien and Johnson 2007).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2014-04-20
Assessor(s): Mukherjee, S., Duckworth, J.W., Silva, A., Appel, A. & Kittle, A.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Hunter, L., Lanz, T., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C. & Breitenmoser, U.
Contributor(s): Patel, K., Kadariya, R. & Chaudhary, R.
Justification:
The species is listed Near Threatened as it is very close to qualifying for Vulnerable under criterion A3c.

Since the last assessment additional information on the species is now available in the form of new location records (Patel 2006, Patel and Jackson 2005, Vyas et al. 2007, Behera 2008, Athreya 2010, Mukherjee et al. 2010, Jugal Tiwari in litt. 2013, Anonymous 2013, Ramjan Choudhary and Rabin Kadariya in litt. 2014, Mali and Srinivasulu 2015) that indicate a larger range than previously known.

A paucity of data on population estimates and the impact of land use changes on the species impedes a more confident assessment. Nevertheless, preliminary analysis on available data suggests that the species is negatively impacted by intensive irrigated agriculture that has fragmented its prime habitat and perhaps also its population in India (see Figure 1 in the Supplemental Material). The analysis also shows that prime habitat for this species occurs in three broad regions within the country, indicative of a fragmented population (Silva et al. 2015). These prime regions correspond with dry and moist deciduous forests showing relatively low forest fragmentation according to landuse and land cover maps for India (Roy et al. 2012). The absence of any earlier systematic survey makes it difficult to gauge if populations have declined, increased or are stable. However, a future prediction on population decline can be made based on available information on the geographical range of the species, niche model analysis and current change in land use regimes.

Most of the distributional range of the species in India and Nepal lies outside the protected area network and in the deciduous forests of central India which are severely disturbed. The total extent of prime habitat in India and Nepal is around 25% of the total distributional range within these countries.

The current (2015) Government of India has made provisions for speedy approval of developmental projects in non-protected areas including areas under mining, industrialisation and urbanisation (Mazoomdaar 2015 a,b). Moreover, there are plans for expanding the national area under agriculture by 10% by 2017 (Bhardwaj and Dutta 2014), a development which will continue in the future. Apart from agriculture and industry, parts of the Central Indian landscape within the range of the species are rapidly being converted for establishing solar plants as an alternative source of generating energy since the past few years (Sharma 2015). Since the climate summit of 2015, this is bound to increase given India’s strong commitment to reduce its carbon footprint. The impact of this development on persistence of biodiversity remains unclear.

Assuming 10 years as the average life span of the Rusty-spotted Cat in the wild and the Age at First Reproduction (AFR) around 1 year, we estimate the average age of mature individuals (Generation Length - GL) in the current population at around 4 years, using the formula by Pacifici et al. (2013): GL = AFR + [z *Rspan], where z (slope) is estimated at 0.3, Rspan (Age at Last Reproduction – AFR). In the next three Rusty-spotted Cat generations, i.e. 12 years, the prime locations where populations are likely to persist are protected areas as these are the only zones remaining close to intact. This translates to 75% of habitat in the current distributional range facing an imminent danger of being converted. As much of this is marginal habitat for the species, a 75% loss of habitat could translate to a decline of around 20-25% (assuming 70-80% of the population resides in prime habitat and a relatively direct relationship between loss of habitat and loss of mature individuals) of the current population over the next three generations. Given the much smaller landmass of Sri Lanka, the mainland population constitutes perhaps 90% or a little more of the global population and therefore has a concomitantly greater contribution to the overall ‘average’ global change.

Therefore, a future decline of 20-25% over the next three generations is suspected, occurring primarily due to projected habitat loss in central India, with populations stable only in protected areas and little information available about the small proportion of the population found in Sri Lanka.
For further information about this species, see 18149_Prionailurus_rubiginosus.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Rusty-spotted Cat was earlier believed to be restricted to India and Sri Lanka but recent photographic records show its presence in Bardia National Park, Nepal (Ramjan Choudhary and Rabin Kadariya in litt. 2014), bordering India. Its geographical distribution is as yet not clearly documented but recent locality records suggest it is more widespread than earlier believed (Chakraborty 1978, Phillips 1984, Wright 1984, Miththapala 2006, Athreya 2010, Mukherjee et al. 2010, Anwar et al. 2012, Raza Kazmi in litt. 2012, Jugal Tiwari in litt. 2013, Anonymous 2013, Dharmendra Khandal in litt. 2013, Pankaj Koparde and Gaurang Gowande in litt. 2013, Ramjan Choudhary and Rabin Kadariya in litt. 2014, Andrew Kittle in litt. 2014). Nevertheless it has a relatively restricted global distribution for a cat and little is known of its ecology or local abundance (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). Within India the distribution of this species is similar to, though far more restricted than, the Jungle Cat Felis chaus (Mukherjee and Koparde in prep.).
For further information about this species, see 18149_Prionailurus_rubiginosus.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Countries occurrence:
Native:
India (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jammu-Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh); Nepal; Sri Lanka
Additional data:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):NoExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):2480
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Information on this species is not just meagre but also incidental and hence it is difficult to infer, with confidence, its population size, connectivity between populations, threats, and persistence in the future. It appears to be rare almost wherever it occurs (Kunal Patel and Andrew Kittle in litt. 2014).

Population trend: the absence of any earlier systematic survey makes it difficult to gauge if populations have declined, increased or are stable. However, the niche model from India (Figure 1 in Supplementary Material) suggests a fragmented population. The analysis also shows that prime habitat for this species occurs in three broad regions within the country (Silva et al. 2015). These prime regions correspond with dry and moist deciduous forests showing relatively low forest fragmentation according to landuse and land cover maps for India (Roy et al. 2012).
For further information about this species, see 18149_Prionailurus_rubiginosus.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Though the species is also found in proximity to human habitation (Worah 1991, Nowell and Jackson 1996, Mukherjee 1998, Nekaris 2003), preliminary results of a study using niche models and known Rusty-spotted Cat locations within India (Figure 1 in Supplementary Material), suggests that at a broad scale this cat’s distribution is limited by large contiguous tracts of hostile habitat, specifically intensive, irrigated agriculture (Silva et al. 2015). These results were a consensus of four models that incorporated land cover, bioclimatic variables and disturbance measures with 61 location points of the species. The analysis also shows that prime habitat for this species occurs in three broad regions within the country, indicative of a fragmented population (Silva et al. 2015). These prime regions correspond with dry and moist deciduous forests showing relatively low forest fragmentation according to landuse and land cover maps for India (Roy et al. 2012).

There are recent records of the Rusty-spotted Cat from the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka in small, mostly isolated forest patches (<5 km²) interspersed with tea estates but it is not known if the species occurs in or uses the tea plantation areas (Andrew Kittle in litt. 2016).

A few observations suggest that the species preys on rodents (Kunal Patel and Vidya Athreya in litt.).
For further information about this species, see 18149_Prionailurus_rubiginosus.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Systems:Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):4
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat loss and the spread of cultivation are serious problems for wildlife in South Asia. The total extent of prime habitat of the Rusty-spotted Cat in India and Nepal is equivalent to around 25% of the range of the species in these countries. These are perhaps the only areas where populations of the species are likely to persist in the future. This translates to 75% of the current habitat in India and Nepal facing an imminent danger of conversion to urban areas, industry, mining and other forms of land use hostile to Rusty-spotted Cat (Bhardwaj and Dutta 2014, Mazoomdaar 2015 a,b). Apart from agriculture and industry, parts of the Central Indian landscape within the range of the species is rapidly being converted for establishing solar plants as an alternative source of generating energy during the past few years (Sharma 2015). Since the climate summit of 2015, this is bound to increase given India’s strong commitment to reduce its carbon footprint. Categorization of certain portions of the species’s habitat (scrub, degraded forest) as wasteland facilitates such conversion (Mukherjee and Koparde in prep.).

As much of the distributional range constitutes marginal habitat for the species, this 75% loss of habitat could translate to a decline of around 20-25% (assuming 70-80% of the population resides in prime habitat and a relatively direct relationship between loss of habitat and loss of mature individuals) of the current population over three generations. Given the much smaller landmass of Sri Lanka, the mainland population constitutes perhaps 90% or a little more of the global population

Since much of the species’s range is within hugely human-dominated areas undergoing rapid land use change, fragmentation of habitat and disease should be considered as serious threats. There are concerns regarding possible hybridization of Rusty-spotted Cat with domestic cats (Kittle and Watson 2004) but these have yet to be substantiated and measured to determine if this factor is indeed a threat to the species. There is a belief that Rusty-spotted Cats do not get into conflict, unlike Jungle Cats, since they are believed not to prey on poultry (Manakadan and Sivakumar 2006). However, this needs to be backed by research and the threats need to be evaluated across the species’s global distribution.

Reflecting the uncertainty of this assessment, the species should be prioritised for research and monitoring.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Indian population is included on CITES Appendix I, while the Sri Lanka and Nepal populations are included on CITES Appendix II. The species is fully protected over most of its range, with hunting and trade banned in India and Sri Lanka, although domestic trade was largely uncontrolled in Sri Lanka 20 years ago (Nowell and Jackson 1996); no more recent information has been traced. The occurrence of the species in Nepal has only very recently been documented and perhaps it does not figure specifically in conservation laws of the country. It occurs in a number of protected areas, including Yala National Park in Sri Lanka (Nekaris 2003, Kittle and Watson 2004), Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka (Andrew Kittle in litt. 2016), the Gir National Park (Pathank 1990), Sariska Tiger Reserve (Mukherjee 1998), Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve (Dharmendra Khandal in litt.), Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve and Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (Dubey 1999) among many others, in India.

Reflecting the uncertainty of this assessment, the species should be prioritised for research and monitoring, in particular to clarify which of the various potential threats truly are problematic.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.5. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.9. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Montane
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
2. Savanna -> 2.1. Savanna - Dry
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
3. Shrubland -> 3.5. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
4. Grassland -> 4.5. Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
8. Desert -> 8.1. Desert - Hot
suitability:Suitable  
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.2. Artificial/Terrestrial - Pastureland
suitability:Marginal  
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.6. Artificial/Terrestrial - Subtropical/Tropical Heavily Degraded Former Forest
suitability:Marginal  
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
2. Land/water management -> 2.3. Habitat & natural process restoration
4. Education & awareness -> 4.2. Training
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.2. Policies and regulations
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.3. Sub-national level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:No
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Percentage of population protected by PAs (0-100):71-80
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.2. Commercial & industrial areas
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.3. Agro-industry farming
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.4. Scale Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

3. Energy production & mining -> 3.2. Mining & quarrying
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

3. Energy production & mining -> 3.3. Renewable energy
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

4. Transportation & service corridors -> 4.1. Roads & railroads
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.3. Persecution/control
♦ timing:Unknown    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

6. Human intrusions & disturbance -> 6.3. Work & other activities
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.3. Other ecosystem modifications
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.6. Diseases of unknown cause
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.1. Taxonomy
1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.1. Species Action/Recovery Plan
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.2. Area-based Management Plan
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.4. Habitat trends

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Athreya, V. 2010. Rusty-spotted cat more common than we think? Cat News 53: 27.

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Citation: Mukherjee, S., Duckworth, J.W., Silva, A., Appel, A. & Kittle, A. 2016. Prionailurus rubiginosus. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T18149A50662471. . Downloaded on 04 December 2016.
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