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Common Name : Rusty-Spotted Cat     -       Scientific Name : Prionailurus rubiginosus       -       Other Name : Kola Dhiviya, Balal Dhiviya (S)
Radagama
03/08/2020
Radagama
03/08/2020
Radagama
03/08/2020
Radagama
03/08/2020

This is the smallest wildcat species in the world. Other than in Sri Lanka this beautiful little feline is only found in India and Nepal. Thus it is a species endemic to the Indian subcontinent.

The conservation status of this species is regarded as “endangered” (National Red List 2012).

The Rusty-Spotted Cat is strictly protected under schedule ii of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance as amended by Act No. 22 of 2009.

In Sri Lanka two subspecies of this cat have been recognized based on minor differences in skin colour. The population found in the dry zone has been classified as P.r koladivinus and the wet zone individuals as P.r phillipsi. This species is half the size of a domestic cat and weighs between 1 to 1.6kg with males usually being about 10% heavier and larger than the females. The Rusty-spotted Cat is a nocturnal predator. I have seen this species in a variety of habitat throughout the country including sugar cane plantations and other agricultural lands close to scrub jungles, well wooded village gardens, small and large forests and marshlands. The distribution of this species is referred to by W. W. A Phillips in his Mannual of the Mammals of Ceylon (1935) as “ Occurs in the jungles throughout the whole Island from the highest mountain peaks to seashore, but is no where very common.”  Other than on birds and small mammals, this active little hunter will also prey on insects.

In March 2005 during my first ever visit to Wilpattu National park with late Dr. Ravi Samarasinghe and late warden Mr. Wasantha Pushpananda I was fortunate enough to see a female of this species with two tiny kittens at dusk between Borupan Wila and Maradanmaduwa. They were feeding on winged termites. Rusty-Spotted Cat is found throughout the park but is rarely seen due to its nocturnal habits. On 8th March 2020 during a nocturnal game drive I was fortunate enough to observe a Rusty–Spotted Cat for more than 30 minutes at Radagama, a village bordering the park. It was seated on the fork of a tree by the side of the road and was quite relaxed. The secretive felid, considered as the smallest wildcat in the world, did not appear to be disturbed by our presence or the torchlight. I informed Susil Kumara, the owner of Dolosmahe Guest House, who spotted the cat to ensure that the outer perimeter of the torch beam (ring light) will only fall on the cat. I have often used this method in photographing owls. This method, as simple as it sounds, causes minimum stress to most animals and will also permit one to observe the animal for a longer period of time. Photography under these circumstances becomes challenging but is quite rewarding as the bird or the mammal would continue to have its eyes opened. At close range the direct beam of a powerful torch can cause distress and damage to an animals eyes. Further this will often result in them closing their eyes or moving away.  After some time the cat started licking itself and as expected within a few minutes stood up moved out of sight. I have observed that Leopards or domestic cats will often start to lick themselves just before getting up and walking away. When it moved I observed that it was a male. Even though I had seen Rusty Spotted Cats at Wilpattu on a few occasions this is my first opportunity of photographing this elusive nocturnal cat. Interestingly it is said to be the smallest wildcat species in the world.