“Gone fishing: the fight to save one of the world’s most elusive wild cats”
by Anne Pinto-Rodrigues
The Guardian, February 17, 2021
Meet the wild cat that loves water / Fishing Cat February
I’m writing to pitch a piece about a lesser known but fascinating wild cat – the fishing cat – listed as Vulnerable by IUCN and which faces several threats in the 8 countries it is known to exist. The month of February will be celebrated as ‘Fishing Cat February’ to draw global attention to the conservation of this species.
The fishing cat is unique among the 40+ wild cat species as it is the only feline known to love water. It is found primarily in wetland and mangrove habitats in South- and Southeast Asia and has several adaptations to help it fish underwater including foldable ears that plug the earhole when the head is submerged, and layered fur, where the shorter, denser layer creates a water barrier.
Fishing cats are often mistaken by local communities for being a small leopard (and killed) or tiger cubs (and then ‘rescued’). In more urban habitats like in Colombo, Sri Lanka, they often become roadkill. Shrinking habitats and hunting remain the primary threats faced by the species. Lack of attention has also been a challenge in the conservation of the species. Hence, the decision by the Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance to dedicate February as ‘Fishing Cat February’.
I’m already in dialogue with the scientist leading the conservation efforts in India (the longest fishing cat research project in the world, since 2010). Thanks to her efforts, the fishing cat was designated as the state animal of West Bengal in 2012 and the Ambassador of Chilika Lake in the eastern state of Odisha in Oct 2020.
Would a piece about the conservation challenges faced by the fishing cat and the community-based solutions that scientists are working on, be of interest to you? I could keep the piece focussed on India or alternatively, interview scientists in a few more countries.
Looking forward to your thoughts on this.
(she / her)