Released in February, the picture was taken during a two-year survey supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, the Rufford Small Grants Foundation, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The research found seven cat species in a 354-square-mile (570-square-kilometer) range—the highest diversity of cat species yet photographed in a single area.
Wildlife biologist Kashmira Kakati had been studying the gibbons of Jeypore-Dehing and became curious about the predator tracks she kept finding on the ground.
"I said, I need to find out what's there," Kakati told National Geographic News. "Nobody had any clue. People who had been in the forest 30 years didn't know."
With 30 digital camera traps, Kakati captured not only the cats but a number of other rare forest animals between 2007 and 2009. "Even I was surprised by the result," she said. (See related pictures of a rare Chinese wildcat snapped by a camera trap.)
(Related: National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative.)
The clouded leopard is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which means the species faces a high risk of extinction. The cat's population is on the decline, mostly due to loss of habitat from deforestation. (See a picture of rare clouded leopard cubs born at a Virginia zoo.)
In Jeypore-Dehing, the cat is so seldom seen that local villagers don't even have a name for it, Kakati said.
The species is commonly recorded across its range in Asia, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Leopard cats are considered to have generally stable populations, except for a few subspecies that are close to extinction.
In addition to the seven cat species, Kakati's camera traps recorded 12 other carnivore species in the Jeypore-Dehing range, including a dhole, or Asiatic wild dog; the Malayan sun bear; and several species of the catlike mammal the civet.
In addition, some animals—including the jungle cat pictured above—appear to be migrating to Jeypore-Dehing from adjoining forests to escape severe poaching, Kakati said.
"The range has become a refuge," she said. "Somehow the animals have managed to hold on."
Although many cat species are at risk due to poaching for their bones and pelts, people in Jeypore-Dehing don't hunt the cats themselves, Kakati said. But locals do poach the wild deer and pigs, cutting in on carnivores' food sources.
"The entire forest here should be protected as a single conservation landscape, free of disturbance and connected by wildlife corridors between the disjunct sections," Ravi Chellam, of the Wildlife Conservation Society's India Program, said in a statement.
National Geographic Daily News