Captivating images show the diversity of India's secretive wild cats

The Indian subcontinent boasts 15 species of wild cat – a number unmatched anywhere in the world. And they come in all shapes and sizes, as these insightful images reveal.

By Simon Ingram
Published 23 Jan 2020, 12:26 GMT
Reaching a length of around 3 feet, the clouded leopard is classed as vulnerable in its ...
Reaching a length of around 3 feet, the clouded leopard is classed as vulnerable in its Indian habitat of the Himalayan foothills. With specially adapted ankles to allow efficient tree climbing, they can even hang upside down from branches. This image was captured using a camera trap by National Geographic Fellow Sandesh Kadur, for the documentary India's Wild Leopards – which premieres on National Geographic Wild on 6th February.
Photograph by Sandesh Kadur, National Geographic

India is home to 40% of the world's wildcat species. The 15 felines that make up this remarkable number are as diverse as the country itself – which ranges from sprawling urban centres, to sultry jungle, deserts and steppe to some of the world's highest mountains. And in all of these habitats, there are cats. 

These species range from diminutive cats which are at first glance indistinguishable from the domestic tabby, to the reclusive 'modern sabretooth' – and the biggest big cat of all. Most are threatened by habitat loss, conflict with farmers, dwindling numbers or hunting. And many, despite being amongst the most iconic and mythologised wild animals, remain little understood and difficult to study.

To celebrate Big Cat Week on Nat Geo Wild – which starts on 3 February, and features a series of special programmes on India's wild cats – these are the most iconic and elusive of the cats roaming this varied landscape.

See these amazing predators in action

Big Cat Week is a special series of programmes on Nat Geo Wild exploring some of the planet's top predators – and the challenges they face. This year, premieres include the two-part documentary Wildcats of India on 3rd and 4th February, and India's Wild Leopards on 6th February. 

Big Cats: How we're helping 

The National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative supports scientists and conservationists working to save big cats in the wild. With your help, we’ve supported more than 120 innovative projects to protect big cat species in 28 countries and built more than 1,800 livestock enclosures to protect livestock, and save big cats from retaliatory killings. Together we’re helping big cats and communities thrive.

Big Cat Week is on Nat Geo Wild from Feb 3rd.

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