Fishing Cat

February 1st is celebrated as world Fishing Cat Day!

Thought this is right occasion to share my experience with everyone.

During my visit to eastern of India, came across this exclusive being. The habitat is what fascinated me the most, the groves have such thick vegetation hardly any visibility there. This made the sighting difficult and the moving tides meant constant movement of mammals from one island to another. However, so many species not only survive but thrive in such tough conditions. Fishing cat is one of them, primarily nocturnal and shy.

I got to watch this individual up close and spend few minutes during his quick stroll across the damp, muddy clay sand of the groves. In general cats are hydrophobic meaning, they fear water however the bigger cat with stripes and this smaller cat in this habitat feel at home here. Though my sighting lasted only for few minutes I feel lucky to been able to catch a glimpse of this individual. And offcourse I am birdwatcher by heart and I got a to watch plenty of them during this visit.

The big cat remained elusive and like most of the folks who visit Sudarbans for the striped cat never get to see it!

Want to help celebrate and bring awareness to this vulnerable species of wild cat? You can by creating, sharing art or information on the fishing cat this coming February! ❤️ add the hash tags #worldfishingcat #fishingcatfebruary . 

(Adding below text from Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance page for your information)

The fishing cat, is a highly elusive wild cat species found primarily in wetland and mangrove habitats with some populations in Sri Lanka having even been recorded in highly urbanized landscapes and montane forests. They are classified as Vulnerable under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and Endangered within their range countries. Unlike most felines, fishing cats love water and are known for their expert hunting skills in aquatic habitats. Habitat loss and fragmentation, conflict with humans over poultry and livestock, as well as the demand for bushmeat and trade for captive wildlife are causing fishing cat populations to decline.

This unique species of wild cat is found distributed in patches across South and Southeast Asia. This is likely due to where wetland habitats can be found, although many questions have yet to be answered about the true global distribution of the fishing cat. Records of their presence in some regions need to be authenticated. Confirmed records show fishing cat populations to be present in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Fishing cats are stocky with a powerful build. They have a large neck and head, short muscular legs and a deep chest. Weighing between 7 to 16 kg, they are the largest of the Prionailurus genus. The tail of the fishing cat is unusually short, about half the length of the body, and is used as a rudder while swimming. They have short, rounded ears and large eyes set close to each other. While diving underwater for prey, fishing cats are known to fold down their ears, creating a plug to prevent water from entering.

This species is characterized by olive-gray fur tinged with brown with rows of parallel oblong black spots along the flank and a white underbelly. Because of their spot pattern, fishing cats are commonly feared and killed as they are mistaken for little leopards. Six to eight dark lines run from the forehead, down the neck to the back where they taper into spots. These lines are routinely used to distinguish young fishing cats from leopard cats, as they can look very similar, when analyzing camera trap data and other images. Their underbelly is white with black stripes and spots.

Across its range, the fishing cat is found to be highly associated with wetland habitats, mangroves, marshlands, rivers and streams. Although their diet is primarily of fish, they are considered generalists, preying also on rodents and birds. Fishing cats will also take domestic animals including poultry, goats as well as fish from private ponds. Fish hunting behavior is usually displayed by standing on the water’s edge and scooping out prey with a paw or two. They are also known to dive down into the water to snatch their meal. It has also been recorded “tapping” behavior on the water’s surface to mimic an insect, luring fish closer within reach. A radio-telemetry study* of four fishing cats in Chitwan National Park in Nepal in 2002, showed that the estimated home ranges of three females was 4-6 km², while a single male had an estimated home range of 16-22 km².

The fishing cat is protected by national legislation in most of its range and is listed under CITES Appendix II, but it is not enough. This water loving feline is a unique species, unlike any other of the 40 species of wild cats and are representation of a remarkably biodiverse ecosystem. By working to protect fishing cat habitat, numerous species of flora and fauna are also protected. Trapping, snaring and poisoning must stop, tension from conflict must cease, wetland habitat must be protected and maintain integrity and without education and community involvement, all of the above are nearly impossible.
Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus)

Title: Penance 19!
Medium: Pen on paper
Size:6.5×6.2 inches
Duration: 12 hours
August 25th, 2019
Location: Sundarbans, West Bengal, India
Reference: Own Image!
Sold: In private collection

Prasad Natarajan
Prasad Natarajan

Rediscovering Nature: Wildlife Blogger, Artist and photographer.

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