The Strange Tale of Two Missing Bats in Rajasthan

The Strange Tale of Two Missing Bats in Rajasthan

We often fail to recognize that the knowledge of the biodiversity of a location in India, be it a single locality or region, results from a cumulative process of documentation stretching back centuries. Most of this knowledge stems from the written works of European naturalists and explorers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This information was then passed down from one author to another in a chain through citations, with very few ever questioning the veracity of some reports. Rajasthan was no different, despite being the scene of considerable scientific field exploration after independence in 1947.

As a result, certain mysteries and loose ends in information continue to bewilder us, particularly when we decide to step out of the realm of charismatic fauna and take a closer look at other species.

For instance, why has a bat species, Tickell’s bat Hesperoptenus tickelli (Blyth, 1851), not been recorded in Rajasthan for over a century? Did it go extinct? Or is something else afoot? Could there have been an error in documentation by an early naturalist that has gone unnoticed all these years?

Furthermore, why was the possibility of another species of bat being found in Rajasthan, the small mouse-tailed bat Rhinopoma muscatellum Thomas, 1903 suddenly raised in 1997 when there has been no evidence of it ever being found in Rajasthan?

Answering these questions demands a fresh look at historical sources and even some contemporary ones.

Col. Samuel R. Tickell (1811-1875), after whom Tickell’s bat and multiple bird species are named.  Tickell reportedly collected the type specimen for this species in Chaibasa, Jharkhand, in 1842, which is why the species is named after him. (Public Domain Image)

  1. Tickell’s Bat

A look at the encyclopedic Bats of the Indian Subcontinent (1997) by P.J. Bates and D.L. Harrison reveals that Tickell’s bat was reported from Nasirabad in Rajasthan-“INDIA: Rajasthan: Nusserabad.”

Strangely, they did not include Nasirabad or any other place in Rajasthan on the accompanying distribution map for this species and do not explain why. Perhaps they doubted this report.

The book they rely on for this information is Mammalia (1888-91) by William Thomas Blanford. Now where did Blanford get his information from?  Blanford referenced all the available literature on this species at the time and wrote that it was found in, the “Peninsula of India (Nusserabad in Rajputana; Bombay; Chybassa; Jashpur, Sirguja in SW Bengal)”.

A look at the literature referenced by Blanford reveals that it was in G.E. Dobson’s Catalogue of Chiroptera in the British Museum (1878), that we first see specimens of this species recorded from “Nusserabad, India”.

Let us consider that this is the first mention of a location in India called “Nusserabad” being connected to this species. Dobson DID NOT write that the Nusserabad being discussed here was in Rajasthan or any other specific locality. Dobson also did not provide other details that could have helped us trace where these specimens were collected from, such as the name of the collector nor when they were collected, except that the British Museum received them from East India House.

The remaining sources Blanford referenced for this species do not mention Tickell’s bat being collected from anywhere in Rajasthan; therefore, it was Blanford who first connected Rajasthan to this species. Adding Rajputana to the locality information (Nusserabad) appeared to be based on nothing more than an assumption by Blanford.

Now, what could have caused Blanford’s assumption? After all, there were at least six localities named “Nasirabad” in British India, so why would he add Rajasthan (or then Rajputana) to this ambiguous locality?

As we have seen earlier with three other bat species, it was likely the connection of Captain W.J.E Boys to the town of Nasirabad in Rajasthan.  Now, who was Captain W.J.E Boys?

Captain W.J.E Boys was a cavalry officer with the British East India Company, but more importantly, he was a very well-known and highly prolific collector of specimens. As mentioned in an earlier article, Nasirabad in Rajasthan has a long history as a cantonment town.

Despite not being named in the literature connected to this species, it is more than possible that Blanford assumed that Captain Boys was the collector and that therefore the specimens were collected in Nasirabad, Rajasthan, in the absence of a specific locality and collector identity in the information provided in Dobson’s catalogue.  Such assumptions have been made before with other species and there is no other explanation for why Blanford made this assumption.

After Blanford, many authors perpetuated the unfounded assumption that Tickell’s bat was recorded in Rajasthan, which skewed the distributional record of this species for a very long time.

No evidence of the presence of this species in Rajasthan has ever been found despite many field surveys and exploration in the state.

2. Small Mouse-tailed Bat

This case is even stranger than that of Tickell’s bat because it takes place in modern times and contemporary scientists’ works.

Coming back to the Bats of the Indian Subcontinent, Bates and Harrison wrote in 1997 that this bat has possibly been recorded in a place called Genji in  Rajasthan: “Tamil Nadu: Genji (doubtful record, restricted to Coromandel coast by Van Cakenberghe & de Vree (1994) but possibly Genji in Rajasthan)”.

They were sceptical, however, as they do mention the record is doubtful for India. The map provided by Bates and Harrison nevertheless marks both Genji in Rajasthan and a spot on the Coromandel coast in Tamil Nadu with a “?”. Which unfortunately inadvertently gives credence to the report.

It is possible that when Bates and Harrison viewed this report alongside other reports of this species from Afghanistan and Pakistan, a locality in Rajasthan might have seemed like a natural part of its distributional area.

However, we must now look at the source that Bates and Harrison relied on to understand how the possibility of this species being found in Rajasthan was raised in 1994 and never before.

In a 1994 paper titled “A revision of the Rhinopomatidae DOBSON 1872, with the description of a new subspecies”, Victor Van Cakenberghe and Frits de Vree wrote that specimens of this species were probably collected from a place named Genji on the Coromandel coast.

Their information was based on documents that were with specimens which are stored in the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Despite possessing this information, they were strangely unable to find a locality named “Genji” on the Coromandel coast.

They did, however, find a place named “Genji” in Rajasthan, but still concluded that the specimens of the small mouse-tailed bat were from south-eastern India while merely noting that “Genji” also existed in Rajasthan.

Despite their conclusion, they still marked Genji in Rajasthan on their distributional map for the species, thereby unfortunately lending credibility to the possibility that the specimens could have been collected from Rajasthan.

Map by Van Cakenberghe and de Vree (1994), which also shows Genji in Rajasthan as a locality for the small mouse-tailed bat even though they concluded that the single Indian locality report for this species was from Southeastern India.

The collector of these specimens was Maurice Maindron, who was believed to be in the areas of Pondicherry and Karikal around September, 1901, about the same time the specimens were captured in “Genji”. Both areas are within the vicinity of the Coromandel Coast.

While Van Cakenberge and de Vree were unable to locate “Genji” in the area in 1994, we (Dharmendra Khandal, Ishan Dhar and Shyamkant S. Talmale) found a locality near the Coromandel coast in Tamil Nadu spelt “Gingee” in 2023.

Although this seems very hard to believe, the cause of this mystery ultimately boiled down to a spelling inconsistency.

It is important to remember that many early European naturalists were inconsistent with the spellings of Indian localities. We have already seen this with Nasirabad/Nusserabad in the previous case. Therefore, “Gingee” on the Coromandel coast in Tamil Nadu is probably what Maurice Maindron meant by “Genji”.

So yes, even a spelling inconsistency can completely skew a species’ distributional record if the authors are not careful or not mindful of geography.

However, the strange tale of the small mouse-tailed bat does not end there. There is good reason to believe that not only was the species not recorded in Rajasthan, but it may never have been found in India.

After he was employed by the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, Maidron travelled almost uninterrupted for the next 25 years. In addition to India, he visited other parts of the small mouse-tailed bat’s global range, such as “Arabia,” in 1896, before his third visit to India in 1900-1901, which is when the specimens were reportedly collected from “Genji.”

This could mean that the specimens were possibly collected from somewhere in West Asia, such as the Persian Gulf, where the species is still found today, and were perhaps mislabelled afterwards. Errors such as these by curators have been documented previously, such as in the British Museum.

Fortunately, the possibility of this species being found in India was not articulated beyond Bates and Harrison, as subsequent authors on Indian bats have omitted this species from their works.

This case shows that not only can assumptions and errors by historical authors skew the distributional records of species, but contemporary authors are quite capable of similar errors if they do not account for the inadequacies of historical sources.

For more details about these two cases, read this paper authored by Dharmendra Khandal, Ishan Dhar and Shyamkant S. Talmale in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.

Cover Image generated by Gemini Advanced AI

Diminishing Dominions: Revelations from a New Study on the Caracal in India

Diminishing Dominions: Revelations from a New Study on the Caracal in India

The Caracal (Caracal caracal) is among the most widespread small cats in the world. However, knowledge of its conservation status and ecology in its Asian range countries is minimal and severely outdated. Consistent reports however do originate from India, Israel and Iran. The Caracal has interestingly been considered rare in India for a little more than three centuries. In 1671, President Gerald Aungier, British East India Company Officer who became the second Governor of Bombay, was presented a Caracal by the Mughal General Diler Khan in exchange for a pair of English greyhounds. Even back then, Aungier was made aware of what a rarity the Caracal was in India and thus arranged to have it shipped back to England. Naturalists have continued to comment on the Caracal’s rarity in India since then to the present day, with some even going as far as to suggest that it is on the verge of extinction.

However, little is known of the Caracal’s ecology in India during the last four centuries. In order to understand whether the species has indeed experienced a decline in India, Dr. Dharmendra Khandal and Ishan Dhar of Ranthambhore based NGO, Tiger Watch and Dr. G.V. Reddy, recently retired as Head of Forest Forces for the state of Rajasthan conducted a study on the Historic and current extent of occurrence for the Caracal in India published in the most recent special issue on small wild cats in the Journal of Threatened Taxa. This is the culmination of two yearlong effort, which involved the review of several books and journals as well as sourcing and interacting with individuals from all walks of life who might have crossed paths with this elusive animal in India.

Cover photo of December month edition of Journal of Threatened Taxa

Despite the Caracal’s rarity, it has an extraordinarily rich history with humans in India. The Caracal was prized for its ability to hunt birds mid-flight. The vernacular name, Caracal, originates from the Turkic word Karakulak, which literally translates to ‘black-ear’, drawing emphasis on its long black tufted ears. In India, the Caracal is vernacularly known by its Persian name, Siyagosh, which also directly translates to ‘black-ear’. A fable from the Sanskrit text, the Hitopadesa, focuses on a small wild cat named Dirgha-karan or ‘long-eared preying on a bird’s chicks. This is the closest we come to what could possibly be a Caracal in Sanskrit literature. In fact, it was only in 1953, that a Sanskrit name, sas-karan or ‘rabbit like ears’ was proposed as a part of a broader attempt at formulating Sanskrit nomenclature for the fauna of India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka following the Linnaean system of classification.

The Caracal was first used as a coursing animal in India during the Delhi Sultanate. In the 14th century, Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq established a ‘Siyah-Goshdar Khana’ for the maintenance of his vast collection of coursing Caracals. The Third Mughal Emperor Akbar also used the Caracal extensively for coursing. It was during the Akbar’s reign that the Caracal also began to be represented in illustrated simplified Persian illustrations of Sanskrit, Arabic and Turkic texts literature such as Anvar-i-SuhayliTutinama, as well as Persian classics such as the Khamsa-e-Nizami and Shahnameh. The Caracal’s extensive use historically as a coursing animal and the lack of a Sanskrit name led to some questioning whether the species is indigenous to India at all. However, in 1982, a scientist with the ZSI, Mranomoy Ghosh re-examined a skull fragment purported to have been the earliest fossil of a domestic cat in India. The fragment had been collected from Harappa in 1930 and had been erroneously identified as that of the domestic cat. Ghosh reviewed the skull and discovered that it in fact belonged to a Caracal. This fossil record is India’s oldest Caracal finding, dating to 3000-2000 BC and establishing that the Caracal was present in the Indian subcontinent during the Indus Valley Civilization.

The vernacular name, Caracal, originates from the Turkic word Karakulak, which emphasis on its long black tufted ears. (Photo: Dr. Dharmendra Khandal)

However, it is possible that the Caracal’s rarity can be explained by landscape-level anthropogenic changes that have occurred in India since at least 1880. Examining changes to the Caracal’s extent of occurrence in India is a step towards understanding how such change could have impacted the species. In this endeavour, the authors of the study attempted to collate all records of the Caracal in India from the start of recorded history until April 2020, map its historical extent of occurrence and evaluate any changes to its present extent of occurrence. An endeavour made all the more challenging by the prevalence of coursing Caracals historically as well as the at times frustratingly elusive behaviour of wild Caracals.

The authors search entailed an extensive review of literature from the onset of recorded history to the year 2020, spanning almost four centuries. This included the writings of naturalists, zoologists, natural historians, historians, forest officers, gazetteers, chroniclers, erstwhile royalty and army officers. An examination of Caracal specimens deposited at the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), the Natural History Museum in London, private trophy collections in India and other museums was also conducted, along with open-ended interviews with forest officers and biologists who observed the Caracal in the field and people who provided photographs. The authors collated and categorized reports according to their reliability in the following manner: A.) confirmed reports based on tangible evidence like photographs, specimens including animal carcasses or body parts that can be accessed currently; B.) confirmed reports based on direct sightings of live or dead individuals, specimens submitted to museums that are no longer accessible or missing, photographic reports that are no longer accessible, destroyed or missing; C.) confirmed reports that indicate Caracal occurrence through species specific information which includes species description and the provision of distinct vernacular names; D.) unconfirmed or questionable reports without any accompanying description, photos or erroneous description.

Indeed 33 reports were considered ‘unconfirmed’ as they were questionable or erroneous. Misidentification with the Jungle Cat is also an ever -present challenge, with erroneous reports continuing to be perpetuated to this day, simply because they have been published. The authors strictly did not include any reports of captive or coursing Caracals as their wild origins were unknown unless explicitly stated. In addition, a regular camera trapping exercise carried out by Tiger Watch’s Village Wildlife Volunteers in and around the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve since 2015 was also drawn upon. For this exercise, camera trapping is carried out by trained pastoral herders monitoring tigers outside the Tiger Reserve. All reports gleaned from this search were geotagged onto maps to determine the historical and current extent of occurrence areas.

In India there are only two potentially viable populations of Caracal, one in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and other in the Kutch district of Gujarat. (Photo: Dr. Dharmendra Khandal)

The authors collated 134 reports starting from the year 1616 until April 2020. The Caracal was historically present in 13 Indian states and in 9 out of 26 biotic provinces. Since 2001, the Caracal’s presence has been reported in the three states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and four biotic provinces, with only two possible viable populations in the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan and the district of Kutch in Gujarat. Prior to 1947, the Caracal was reported from an area of 793,927 km2. Between 1948 and 2000, the Caracal’s reported extent of occurrence in India decreased by 47.99%. From 2001 to 2020, the reported extent of occurrence further decreased by 95.95%, with current presence restricted to 16,709km2, less than 5% of the Caracal’s reported extent of occurrence in the 1948 to 2000 period and just 2.17% of the period before 1947.

In Rajasthan, there have been a total of 24 Caracal reports since the year 2001. 17 of these reports are backed by photographic evidence. 15 of which are from Ranthambhore, along with a photograph taken from Sariska in 2004 and a camera trap picture from the Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur in 2017. However, from 2015 to April 2020, the Village Wildlife Volunteers obtained 176 camera trap pictures of Caracals from 6 locations in and around the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. Their camera trapping efforts even conclusively established the Caracal’s presence in the district of Dholpur in Rajasthan. This is the largest repository of photographs for the Caracal in India and quite possibly its entire Asian range. With Ranthambhore being one of two possible viable populations in India, the Village Wildlife Volunteers will be indispensable to any forthcoming conservation intervention concerning the Caracal in India. Since 2001, there have been only 9 photographic Caracal records from Kutch and no photographic records from Madhya Pradesh.

Camera trap photo taken by Village Wildlife Volunteers (PC: Tiger Watch)

It is possible that the Caracal might still be present but underreported in states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and the eastern parts of India. Targeted surveys will be required to further verify and adjust the putative reduction in range size established by this study. With the exception of a handful of studies, there has been virtually no contribution to the knowledge of Caracal ecology in India in the 21st century. Surveys on Caracal population size, reproduction, mortality, home range sizes, and prey dynamics are the need of the hour. A review of just how the categorization of land as a wasteland, impacts the Caracal, which is a scrub dwelling species is also urgently required. Long-term studies focusing on the movement patterns of Caracals to determine and establish wildlife corridors that are suitable to connect the remaining fragmented population units are equally essential. The authors of the study hope to inspire conservationists to join the fight to prevent the Caracal from becoming extinct in India.


Mr. Ishan Dhar (L) is a researcher of political science in a think tank. He has been associated with Tiger Watch’s conservation interventions in his capacity as a member of the board of directors.

Dr. Dharmendra Khandal (R) has worked as a conservation biologist with Tiger Watch – a non-profit organisation based in Ranthambhore, for the last 16 years. He spearheads all anti-poaching, community-based conservation and exploration interventions for the organisation.


हिंदी में पढ़िए

Diminishing Dominions: Revelations from a New Study on the Caracal in India

अध्ययन से खुलासा: 95% भारत के हिस्से से विलुप्त हुई सियागोश बिल्ली (Caracal)

कैरेकल यानि सियागोश, दुनिया में सबसे व्यापकरूप से पाई जाने वाली एक छोटे आकार की बिल्ली प्रजाति है। जो विश्व के 60 देशों में मिलती है। हालाँकि, एशियाई देशों में इसके संरक्षण की स्थिति और पारिस्थितिकी के बारी में जानकारी बहुत ही कम और पुरानी है। परन्तु फिर भी अगर देखा जाए तो भारत, इज़राइल और ईरान से लगातार इसकी उपस्थिति की सूचनाएं मिलती रहती हैं। भारत में तीन शताब्दियों से भी अधिक समय से कैरेकल को दुर्लभ माना जाता रहा है। वर्ष 1671 में, ब्रिटिश ईस्ट इंडिया कंपनी के अधिकारी जेराल्ड औंगियर (Gerald Aungier), जो बॉम्बे के द्वितीय गवर्नर भी थे, को मुगल जनरल दलेर खान द्वारा शिकारी कुत्तों (English greyhounds) की एक जोड़ी के बदले में एक कैरेकल भेंट किया गया था। उस समय, भारत में कैरेकल की दुर्लभता के बारे में भी औंगियर को अवगत करवाया गया था। तब से लेकर आज तक प्रकृतिवादियों ने भारत में कैरेकल की दुर्लभता पर टिप्पणियां करना जारी रखा हुआ है, और कुछ ने तो यह भी कहा है कि यह विलुप्त होने के कगार पर है। जबकि, हम ध्यान से देखे तो आज तक भारत में कैरकल की स्थिति के बारे में बहुत कम जानकारी ही रही है।

रणथम्भौर स्थित वन्यजीव संरक्षण संस्था टाइगर वॉच के शोधार्थी डॉ धर्मेंद्र खांडल, श्री ईशान धर एवं हाल ही में सेवानिवृत्त हुए राजस्थान के हेड ऑफ़ फारेस्ट फोर्सेज डॉ जी.वी. रेड्डी, ने भारत में कैरेकल की ऐतिहासिक और वर्तमान वितरण सीमा पर एक अध्ययन किया है, जो की “Journal of Threatened Taxa” में प्रकाशित हुआ है, इसमें यह देखा गया है, की भारत देश में कैरकल की क्या स्थिति है? यह दो साल के लंबे अध्ययन से लिखा गया शोध पत्र है, जिसमें कई पुस्तकों और जर्नल की समीक्षा के साथ-साथ विषय के विशेषज्ञ और विभिन्न लोगों के साथ वार्ता की गयी है, जो इस जीव की स्थिति पर प्रकाश डालती है।

“Journal of Threatened Taxa” के दिसम्बर माह संस्करण का कवर फोटो

कैरेकल के दुर्लभ होने के बावजूद, भारत में इसका मनुष्यों के साथ एक बहुत ही समृद्ध इतिहास रहा है। हमेशा से ही कैरेकल, कलाबाजी करते हुए उड़ते हुए पक्षियों का शिकार करने की अदभुत क्षमता के कारण जाना जाता रहा है। इसका “कैरेकल” नाम एक तुर्की भाषा के शब्द “कराकुलक” से निकला है, जिसका अर्थ, काले कान (Black ears) वाला प्राणी होता है, जो सीधे-सीधे इसके लंबे काले कानों के बारे में बताता है। भारत में, कैरेकल को इसके फ़ारसी भाषा के नाम “सियागोश” से जाना जाता है, और यह भी सीधे इसके लम्बे काले कानों की ओर इशारा करता है।

संस्कृत ग्रंथ “हितोपदेश” की एक कहानी, एक छोटी जंगली बिल्ली जिसका नाम “दीर्घ-करण या लम्बे कान वाली बिल्ली” की ओर ध्यान केंद्रित करती है तथा यह बिल्ली अक्सर पक्षियों का शिकार करती है, लगता है मानों यह कैरकल के लिए सबसे उपयुक्त नाम है। यद्धपि वर्ष 1953 में, जीवों के वैज्ञानिक नाम जो लिनियस (Linnaeus) की द्विपद नामकरण पद्धति पर आधारित है, उनको जब भारत में संस्कृत रूपांतरित किया गया तो कैरकल के लिए एक संस्कृत नाम “शश-कर्ण” या “खरगोश जैसे कान” प्रस्तावित किया गया था।

कैरेकल एक छोटी बिल्ली प्रजाति है जिसके काले लम्बे कान उसकी मुख्य पहचान है (फोटो: डॉ. धर्मेंद्र खांडल)

इतिहास पढ़ने पर पता लगता है की दिल्ली सल्तनतम काल के दौरान सियागोश को पहली बार भारत में एक शिकार में प्रयोग होने वाले प्राणी के रूप में इस्तेमाल किया गया था। सुल्तान फिरोज शाह तुगलक के पास सियागोश का एक विशाल संग्रह था तथा 14 वीं शताब्दी में, सुल्तान ने संग्रह के रखरखाव के लिए एक “सियाह-गोशदार खाना” की स्थापना की। तीसरे मुगल बादशाह अकबर ने भी शिकार करने के लिए सियागोश का एक बड़े पैमाने पर इस्तेमाल किया करते थे तथा अकबर के शासनकाल के दौरान, सियागोश को संस्कृत, अरबी और तुर्क ग्रंथों के साहित्य जैसे कि अनवर-ए-सुहाइली, तूतिनामा, साथ ही फारसी क्लासिक्स जैसे खम्सा-ए-निज़ामी में चित्रित किया जाने लगा। ऐतिहासिक रूप से सियागोश का एक अच्छे शिकारी के रूप में व्यापक उपयोग और संस्कृत नाम की कमी के कारण कुछ प्रश्न सामने खड़े होते हैं की क्या यह प्रजाति भारत की स्वदेशी है भी? या नहीं? हालांकि, 1982 में, ZSI के एक वैज्ञानिक, मृण्मय घोष ने एक कपाल के हिस्से की जांच की, जो भारत में एक सियागोश का सबसे पुराना जीवाश्म था। यह टुकड़ा 1930 में हड़प्पा से एकत्रित किया गया था और गलती से घरेलू बिल्ली के रूप में पहचाना गया था। घोष ने खोपड़ी की अच्छी तरह समीक्षा की और पाया कि यह वास्तव में एक सीतेगोश का है। यह जीवाश्म भारत के सबसे पुराने सियागोश की खोज थी, जो 3000-2000 ईसा पूर्व की थी और यह जीवाश्म सिद्ध करता है की सियागोश सिंधु घाटी सभ्यता के दौरान भारतीय उपमहाद्वीप में मौजूद था।
भारत में बढ़ती जनसंख्या के कारण हुए लैंडस्केप में परिवर्तनों के कारण सियागोश की स्थिति शायद अत्यंत प्रभावित हुई है। इसी प्रयास में, इसअध्ययन के लेखकों ने इतिहास की शुरुआत से अप्रैल 2020 तक भारत में सियागोश की उपस्थिति की सभी सूचनाएं एकत्रित करने का प्रयास किया, तथा इन सभी सूचनाओं को नक़्शे पर दर्शाया और साथ ही ऐतिहासिक वितरण सीमा व् वर्तमान सीमा में बदलावों का मूल्यांकन भी किया गया। इस शोध को शिकार में प्रयोग होने वाले पालतू सियागोश और जंगली सियागोश ने अधिक चुनौतीपूर्ण बना दिया।

इस अध्ययन के लेखकों ने इतिहास की शुरुआत से लेकर 2020 के उपलब्ध साहित्य की व्यापक समीक्षा की। इसमें प्रकृतिवादियों, जीव विशेषज्ञों, प्राकृतिक इतिहासकारों, इतिहासकारों, वन अधिकारियों, राजपत्रकारों, तत्कालीन राजपरिवारो और सेना के अधिकारियों के लेखन शामिल थे। बॉम्बे नेचुरल हिस्ट्री सोसाइटी (BNHS), जूलॉजिकल सर्वे ऑफ इंडिया (ZSI), लंदन नेचुरल हिस्ट्री म्यूजियम, भारत में निजी ट्रॉफी संग्रह और अन्य संग्रहालयों में जमा किए गए सियागोश के नमूनों के रिकॉर्ड भी एकत्रित किये गए, साथ ही वन अधिकारी और जीव-वैज्ञानिक जिन्होंने साक्षात सियागोश का अवलोकन किया है और जिन लोगों ने तस्वीरें ली हैं सभी से वार्ता कर जानकारी हासिल की गयी। लेखकों ने अपनी विश्वसनीयता के अनुसार निम्नलिखित तरीकों से सूचनाओं को एकत्रित और वर्गीकृत किया: A) वर्तमान में उपलब्ध तस्वीरों, शरीर के अंगों सहित नमूनों के ठोस सबूतों के आधार पर पुष्टि की गई हैं; B) जीवित या मृत सियागोश के प्रत्यक्ष दर्शन पर आधारित स्पष्ट सूचनाएं, संग्रहालयों को प्रस्तुत किए गए नमूने परन्तु जो अब उपलब्ध नहीं या गायब हैं, फोटोग्राफिक रिपोर्ट जो अब उपलब्ध नहीं, नष्ट या गायब हैं; C) पक्की सूचनाएं जो सियागोश की विशिष्ट जानकारी के माध्यम से उपस्थिति की सुचना देती हैं, जिसमें इसका विवरण और अलग-अलग मौखिक नामों का प्रावधान भी शामिल है; D) बिना किसी विवरण, फोटो या गलत विवरण वाली अपुष्ट या संदिग्ध सूचनाएं।

इस अध्ययन के दौरान 33 रिपोर्टों को ‘अस्पष्ट’ माना गया क्योंकि वे संदिग्ध या गलत थीं। अक्सर लोग जंगल कैट (Jungle cat) को सियागोश समझ लेते हैं और यह हमेशा एक चुनौती रही है। इस प्रकार की गलत खबरें आज भी जारी हैं, और यह गलत सूचनाएं प्रकाशित भी होती रही है। इस अध्ययन के लेखकों ने सख्ती से पालतू सियागोश (coursing Caracals) की सुचना को अध्ययन में शामिल नहीं किया, जिनके मूल स्थान अज्ञात थे। इसके अलावा, 2015 के बाद से रणथंभौर टाइगर रिजर्व और उसके आसपास के क्षेत्र में टाइगर वॉच के Village Wildlife Volunteers द्वारा लगाए गए कैमरा ट्रैप की तस्वीरें भी शामिल की गयी। यह कैमरा ट्रैपिंग पूर्णरूप से प्रशिक्षित ग्रामीण चरवाहों द्वारा की जाती है जो टाइगर रिज़र्व से बाहर निकलने वाले बाघों की निगरानी करते हैं। तथा इस खोज से निकली सभी रिपोर्टे ऐतिहासिक और वर्तमान सीमा को निर्धारित करने के लिए नक्शे पर दर्शाई गई।

भारत में सियागोश कि केवल दो संभावित आबादियां हैं एक राजस्थान स्थित रणथंभौर टाइगर रिज़र्व में और दूसरी गुजरात के कच्छ जिले में। (फोटो: डॉ. धर्मेंद्र खांडल)

लेखकों ने वर्ष 1616 से शुरू होकर अप्रैल 2020 तक कुल 134 रिपोर्टों को एकत्रित किया। सियागोश ऐतिहासिक रूप से 13 भारतीय राज्यों में और 26 में से 9 बायोटिक प्रांतों में मौजूद पाया गया। वर्ष 2001 से, सियागोश की उपस्थिति केवल तीन राज्यों राजस्थान, गुजरात और मध्य प्रदेश तथा चार बायोटिक प्रांतों में बताई गई है, और उसमे भी केवल दो संभावित आबादियां हैं एक राजस्थान स्थित रणथंभौर टाइगर रिज़र्व में और दूसरी गुजरात के कच्छ जिले में। 1947 से पहले, सियागोश 793,927 वर्ग किमी के क्षेत्र से रिपोर्ट किया गया था। वर्ष 1948 से 2000 के बीच, सियागोश की भारत में उपस्थिति का विस्तार 47.99% घट गया। 2001 से 2020 तक, उपस्थिति का विस्तार 95.95% कम हो गया तथा वर्तमान में इसका विस्तार 16,709 वर्ग किमी तक सीमित है। 1948 से 2000 में सियागोश की सूचनाएं 5% से कम हो गयी तथा इनका विस्तार 1947 से पहले की अवधि का सिर्फ 2.17% ही रह गया था।

राजस्थान में वर्ष 2001 से अब तक सियागोश की कुल 24 सूचनाएं आ चुकी हैं। इनमें से 17 सूचनाओं की फोटोग्राफिक प्रमाण द्वारा पुष्टी हुई हैं। जिनमें से 15 रणथंभौर से हैं, 2004 में सरिस्का से ली गई एक तस्वीर और 2017 में भरतपुर में केवलादेव घाना राष्ट्रीय उद्यान से एक कैमरा ट्रैप तस्वीर शामिल है। हालांकि 2015 से अप्रैल 2020 तक, विलेज वाइल्ड वॉलंटियर्स ने सियागोश की 176 कैमरा ट्रैप तस्वीरें प्राप्त की। जो की रणथंभौर टाइगर रिजर्व में और उसके आसपास 6 स्थानों से थी। उनके कैमरा ट्रैपिंग प्रयासों ने राजस्थान के धौलपुर जिले में सियागोश की उपस्थिति को निर्णायक रूप से स्थापित व् प्रमाणित किया है। यह भारत में और संभवतः सियागोश की पूरी एशियाई सीमा में सियागोश की तस्वीरों का सबसे बड़ा संग्रह है। रणथम्भौर के, भारत में दो संभावित आबादी में से एक होने के साथ, विलेज वाइल्ड वॉलंटियर्स की टीम भारत में सियागोश के संबंध में किसी भी आगामी संरक्षण योजना के लिए अतिआवश्यक होंगे। 2001 के बाद से, कच्छ से केवल 9 फोटोग्राफिक रिकॉर्ड हैं और मध्य प्रदेश से कोई फोटोग्राफिक रिकॉर्ड नहीं है।

विलेज वाइल्ड वॉलंटियर्स द्वारा ली गयी सियागोश कि कैमरा ट्रैप फोटो (फोटो: टाइगर वॉच)

यह भी संभव है कि भारत के अन्य हिस्सों में सियागोश अभी भी मौजूद हो, एवं महाराष्ट्र, मध्य प्रदेश, उत्तर प्रदेश और भारत के पूर्वी राज्यों में इसे कम आंका गया हो और उचित रूप से अध्ययन नहीं किया गया हो। इस अध्ययन द्वारा स्थापित सीमा में कमी को और अधिक सत्यापित करने और और अधिक सर्वेक्षण की आवश्यकता होगी। आज 21 वीं सदी में, मुट्ठी भर अध्ययनों के अपवाद से भारत में सियागोश की पारिस्थितिकी के ज्ञान में लगभग कोई योगदान नहीं रहा है। सियागोश की संख्या, प्रजनन, मृत्यु दर, होम रेंज के आकार और शिकार की गतिशीलता के सर्वेक्षण समय की आवश्यकता है। हमे इस बारे में पढ़ने व् समझने की तत्काल आवश्यकता है की कैसे बंजर भूमि के रूप में भूमि का वर्गीकरण किया जाता है, तथा यह सियागोश को किस प्रकार से प्रभावित करता है क्योंकि यह छोटी झाड़ियों वाले खुले प्रदेशों में आवास करते हैं। वन्यजीव कॉरिडोर को निर्धारित करने और स्थापित करने के लिए सियागोश की गतिविधियों के स्वरूप पर ध्यान केंद्रित करने वाले दीर्घकालिक अध्ययन भी समान रूप से आवश्यक हैं क्यूंकि ये कॉरिडोर खंडित आबादी इकाइयों को आपस में जोड़ने के लिए उपयुक्त रहेंगे। अध्ययन के लेखक यह आशा करते है की संरक्षणवादी भारत में सियागोश को विलुप्त होने से बचाने के लिए इस लड़ाई में शामिल होने के लिए प्रेरित होंगे।


Mr. Ishan Dhar (L) is a researcher of political science in a think tank. He has been associated with Tiger Watch’s conservation interventions in his capacity as a member of the board of directors.

Dr. Dharmendra Khandal (R) has worked as a conservation biologist with Tiger Watch – a non-profit organisation based in Ranthambhore, for the last 16 years. He spearheads all anti-poaching, community-based conservation and exploration interventions for the organisation.