Chance feline encounter
An inhabitant of wetlands, marshes, jungle swamps, and dense vegetative areas, the elusive jungle cat(Felis chaus) is also called reed cat and swamp cat. It is a medium-sized cat that feeds on a wide variety of prey species reflecting the variety of habitats they frequent, with small rodents being the main prey. Reliant on healthy wetland systems, the ongoing reclamation and destruction of natural wetlands pose a serious threat to the jungle cats.
In Periyar Tiger Reserve, there is a program called the Periyar Tiger Trail which involves a 2nights/3days trekking and camping opportunity. During one such event, we chanced upon a lesser-known cat species on foot.
It was around 3 pm in the afternoon, already tired from our morning hike, we set out to find other interesting denizens of the jungles of wild Periyar. We came across fresh pug marks of a tiger and followed it until abruptly we were stopped by an elephant foraging.
Taking our chances we took a different route so as to not disturb the pachyderm and continued on. We were able to witness an array of wildlife like the sambar deer, Indian gaur, wild boar, barking deer, striped necked mongoose, and various avian wildlife.
Suddenly from nearby a small puddle, a small creature started running towards the jungle from the open ground. Surprised by the behavior, we came to a stand-still and that’s when it turned back to see what the commotion was, as we finally got a complete glimpse of the feline – a wild cat. It was a rare moment, and as we took a few photos, the cat was on its way.
Later discussing this over a cup of hot chai, I found out that it was the first time those guides were able to see a jungle cat themselves. A wonderful moment to remember and cherish nature and wildlife indeed.