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The Fishing Cat

News: The first-ever survey of the fishing cats in and around the Chilika lake in Odisha started. The Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance will be starting a worldwide month-long campaign. It will raise awareness and garner support across the globe for the conservation of the Fishing Cat. 

About the Fishing Cat: It is a highly elusive wild cat feline species found primarily in wetland and mangrove habitats. 

Conservation Status: 

  • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable.  
  • CITES: Appendix II  
  • Indian Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule I 

Habitat  

Globally: They are found in South and Southeast Asia. In Cambodia, images of fishing cats are found carved in the walls of ancient structures and are known as Kla Trey, ‘Tiger fish’.   

India:   

  • Foothills of the Himalayas along the Ganga and Brahmaputra river valleys and in the Western Ghats.   
  • Patchy distribution along the Eastern Ghats.   
  • Sundarbans in West Bengal and Bangladesh   
  • Chilika lagoon and surrounding wetlands in Odisha   
  • Coringa and Krishna mangroves in Andhra Pradesh. 

Characteristics:   

  • Features: Fishing cats are elusive nocturnal mammals. It is almost twice the size of the house cat. 
  • Adept swimmers: The fishing cat is an adept swimmer and enters water frequently to prey on fish as its name suggests. It is known to even dive to catch fish.   
  • Food Habits: They are nocturnal (active at night).  Apart from fish also prey on frogs, crustaceans, snakes, birds, and scavengers on carcasses of larger animals.   
  • Breeding: It is capable of breeding all year round. But in India, its peak breeding season is known to be between March and May. 

Threats:  

  • Habitat loss [wetland degradation and conversion for aquaculture and other commercial projects],  
  • Sand mining along river banks,  
  • Agricultural intensification resulting in loss of riverine buffer and  
  • Conflict with humans in certain areas resulting in targeted hunting and retaliatory killings. 

 

Conservation Initiatives: 

  • State Animal: In 2012, the West Bengal government officially declared the Fishing Cat as the State Animal. 
  • Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance: It is a team of conservationists, researchers, working to achieve a world with functioning floodplains and coastal ecosystems. It will ensure the survival of the fishing cat and all species with which it shares a home. 
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