Big cats of India
Royal Bengal Tiger | By Girish.hc2016 - https://commons.wikimedia.org/

Big cats of India

Royal Bengal Tiger

Tiger, the most charismatic animal of India. The majestic beast has a tawny orange coat with unique broad black stripes. The stripes are so unique that one individual can be identified with it. The underpart of the tigers is pure white with white patches on the eye and on chicks. The body coat provides them with a perfect camouflage in the forest habitat.

Bengal tiger @ Sundarban National Park
Bengal tiger @ Sundarban National Park | By Soumyajit Nandy - https://commons.wikimedia.org/

Classification

Family:                  Felidae
Subfamily:           Pantherinae
Genus:                 Panthera
Species:               P. tigris
Social Unit: Single
IUCN: Endangered
Wildlife Protection Act (1972): Schedule – I

Habitat

Habitat of Tiger includes tropical dry and moist deciduous forest, evergreen forest, riverine forest and mangroves forests, moist deciduous grassland, conifers oak & Rhododendron forests of higher altitude as well as dry scrub and semi-arid areas.

Distribution

Tiger is distributed along the Terai foothills of the Himalayas in North East India in Central India Western Ghats and the Western Ghats including the Nilgiri plateau. The states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttrakhand, Rajasthan support a large number of tigers in protected areas.

Map of Tiger distribution
Map of Tiger distribution | https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3248880

The best places for sighting:

Kaziranga National Park of Assam Bandhavgarh National Park, Kanha National Park and Pench National Park of Madhya Pradesh Ranthambore National Park of Rajasthan

Lion

Lion, a tawny large cat with the un-patterned body with a hairy tufted long naked tail, having strict sexual dimorphism; males have mane around its head and neck. The colour and development of manes in male lions vary among populations and with age of lions.

Asiatic lion
Asiatic Lion | By Bernard Gagnon - https://commons.wikimedia.org/

Classification

Family:                  Felidae
Subfamily:           Pantherinae
Genus:                 Panthera
Species:               P. leo
Social Unit: Prides of two to fifteen.
IUCN: Endangered
Wildlife Protection Act (1972): Schedule – I

Habitat

Dry deciduous scrub jungle and dry savannah forests.

Distribution

Present distribution spans the Gir National Park, and sanctuary, Mithiyala WLS, Kodinar, Hapavadli, Girnar NP and in parts of Amroli and Junagarh district of Gujrat.

 

Map of Lion distribution
Map of Lion distribution | https://commons.wikimedia.org/

The best place for sighting:

Gir National Park

Leopard

Leopard is big cat with tawny to clear yellowish gold coat marked with black rosettes having a small, spotted head with a long tail. The underpart of leopard is white. Rosettes are unique as tigers’ pattern that an individual leopard can be identified with its rosette marks.

Leopard
Leopard | By Kalyan Varma - https://commons.wikimedia.org

Classification

Family:                  Felidae
Subfamily:           Pantherinae
Genus:                 Panthera
Species:               P. pardus
Social Unit: Single
IUCN: Vulnerable
Wildlife Protection Act (1972): Schedule – I

Habitat

Moist evergreen forests, moist and dry deciduous forests, scrub jungles, open country and fringes of human habitation.

Distribution

Leopards are found throughout India except for the high altitudes of Himalayas (above 3000 m) and dry arid parts of Kutch and Rajasthan.

Map of Leopard distribution
Map of Leopard distribution | https://commons.wikimedia.org/

The best places for sighting:

Gir National Park, Gujrat
Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Maharastra

Snow Leopard

Snow leopard is large cat, having a smoky grey luxuriant coat with black rosettes. The rosettes pattern is unique as this can be used for identifying an individual. The tail is long, well-furred and thick. The back of the ears is black and paws are massive compare to the body, useful for movement on ice. The snow leopard is completely adopted to live in snow-covered areas. This big cat is native to the mountain ranges of South and Central Asia. This animal can thrive at a temperature as low as – 40° C.

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard | By Eric Kilby https://commons.wikimedia.org/

Classification

Family:                  Felidae
Subfamily:           Pantherinae
Genus:                 Panthera
Species:               P. uncia
Social Unit: Single
IUCN: Vulnerable
Wildlife Protection Act (1972): Schedule – I.

Habitat

Alpine and subalpine steppe, grassland and scrub above treeline. Snow leopard prefers lightly forested stiff terrain with proximity to cliffs.

Distribution

High Himalayans of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachala Pradesh and trans Himalayas of Ladakh, Lahaul-Sipti, Gangotri.

Distribution of Snow Leopard
Distribution of Snow Leopard | By https://commons.wikimedia.org/

The best places for sighting:

Hemis National Park, Ladakh

Clouded Leopard

Clouded leopard is large sized cat having a warm ochre coat with grey elliptical clouds edge with black floating o it. The cloud marks turn into black oval spots on legs and into blurred rings on its long tail. Its head is spotted with two broad bars on its neck and stripes on its cheek. Clouded leopard is the smallest of the big cats in India. The cat is very secretive and rarely seen in the wild. Its coat helps it to camouflage properly in background vegetation.  The species is very arboreal in nature.

Clouded Leopard
Clouded Leopard | By Dr. Raju Kasambe https://commons.wikimedia.org/

Classification

Family:                  Felidae
Subfamily:           Pantherinae
Genus:                 Neofelis
Species:               N. nebulosi
Social Unit: Single
IUCN: Vulnerable
Wildlife Protection Act (1972): Schedule – I.

Habitat

Evergreen forest, moist and dry deciduous forest along with evergreen and semi-evergreen forests.

Distribution

North Eastern India.

Clouded leopard distribution map
Clouded leopard distribution map | https://commons.wikimedia.org/

The best place for sighting:

Not specific. Nowhere commonly seen.  

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