Elusive mammal ratel captured on camera at CWS

Elusive mammal ratel captured on camera at CWS

A camera trapping exercise being carried out in Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) has sprung a surprise for wildlife scientists and the Forest department, with the sighting of a rare and elusive mammal, ratel, also popularly called as honey badger (Mellivora capensis). This is the first photo documentation of the animal in the wild in Karnataka.

Photographs of the ratel were captured in Hanur and Halagur ranges of Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, where a camera trapping exercise is being carried out in collaboration with Forest department, by Sanjay Gubbi and his team from the Nature Conservation Foundation and Panthera on January 19 at 4.48 am, and February 4 at 7 pm.

Ratel population is distributed in Africa, Arabia, western Africa and Indian peninsula and exist in very low densities across these regions. Conservation biologist and chief scientist of the project, Sanjay Gubbi in a release said that visual observation of the ratel has been extremely rare. He recalled that a ratel was last spotted in 2003, when the animal had fallen into a well near Doddaalahalli in Kanakapura taluk. The animal was shifted to Mysore Zoo, where it had breathed its last.

Gubbi said that ratel was listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Though it is listed as species of Least Concern (LC) in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, their numbers have been dwindling recently. Retaliatory killings, hunting the animal for its body parts and meat are said to be the causes for their declining numbers.

Kestur, Bilikal and Mallahalli Reserved Forests in Tamil Nadu and Sangam, Kaudalli and Gopinatham ranges in CWS and MM Hills Sanctuary in the State are said to host this species, due to similar geography, topography and habitat, said Gubbi. There is very little understanding about the distribution of ratels in Karnataka and elsewhere, as the elusive nature of the animal had made it challenging to document.

CWS Deputy Conservator of Forests, K V Vasanth Reddy said that documentation of ratel in the Sanctuary would enhance the conservation value of dry savannah woodland forests of CWS.

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