World’s 1st Fishing Cat Survey Pegs Its Population At Chilika Lake At 176

A new survey at the Chilika Lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon in Odisha, has provided the world’s first population estimation of the fishing cat. Conducted outside the protected area by the Chilika Development Authority in collaboration with The Fishing Cat Project (TFCP), the survey stated that the lake has 176 fishing cats.

This is the world’s longest-running research and conservation project on fishing cats. It began in 2010 and is currently underway in two states in India: West Bengal and Odisha. West Bengal declared fishing cats the state animal in 2012. And the Chilika authorities announced in 2020 that the fishing cat was the lake’s ambassador, according to The Fishing Cat Project.

The Fishing Cat Project conducted the census in two phases. For the first phase in 2021, surveyors focussed on the 115 sq. km marshland in the north and north-eastern section of the lake. The second phase was conducted this year on the Parikud side along the coastal part, according to a report in The Hindu.

The report cited a statement from the Chilika Development Authority to say that 10 cameras were installed for the two phases, with each of them fixed in the field for 30 days.

Susanta Nanda, the chief executive officer of Chilika Development Authority said that the local fishermen and villagers from Chilika were the major participants in this project. Mr Nanda added that without their help, the world’s first population estimate of this globally endangered cat outside of protected areas would not have been possible.

Fishing cats, according to the Chilika Development Authority, are endangered worldwide. Within their range countries, they are classed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Fishing cats, unlike most felines, enjoy being around water and are noted for their exceptional hunting abilities in watery environments.

According to a Chilika Development Authority press release, “Fishing Cat is a Schedule I species and deserves conservation measures of the highest accord in India like the Tiger and Elephant. Unfortunately, marshland and mangrove ecosystems, which are Fishing Cat habitats are in decline.”

These cats are found in wetlands and flooded forests in major South and Southeast Asian river basins such as Indus in Pakistan, Mekong in Vietnam, and in Sri Lanka and Java. However, they have remained undetected in Vietnam and Java for a decade.

Tiasa Adhya, co-founder, The Fishing Cat Project, said Asia is losing wetlands, which safeguard us against climate change and droughts, at “alarmingly rapid rates” and tracking fishing cats gives us an indication of what might be happening to these ecosystems.


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