Rare, endangered Fishing Cat sighted in Chilika

Bhubaneswar: Chilika Lake, the largest brackish water lagoon in Asia and India’s oldest Ramsar Site, has now an ambassador –the Fishing Cat. The Fishing Cat is the only wild cat species in India that is a wetland specialist.

“The globally endangered Fishing Cat was found to be present all around the Chilika Lake but the marshlands fringing its north and north-eastern sections were the places where most evidence of its occurrence was found according to a recently concluded study conducted by the Fishing Cat Project (TFCP) and the Indian wing of Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance (FCCA),” Odisha government’s Chilika Development Authority (CDA) said on Thursday.

FCCA is a global organisation comprising experts working on the elusive but rare feline in all range countries.

Sharing on the future plans of this collaborative venture between CDA and TFCP, the CDA authorities said it included regularising protocols to estimate Fishing Cat populations in Chilika and to create a fishing cat conservation network by involving local stakeholders, college students, researchers, non-government and government organisations

“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 habitat are in decline. CDA will be the highest priority in conserving the habitat and its population in future,” the CDA authorities.

Chilika has one of the country’s largest extensive marsh-ecosystem spanning around 100 square kilometres

Welcoming CDA’s proposition, Tiasa Adhya, co-founder of The Fishing Cat Project says “Projecting Fishing Cat as the face of marshlands will raise the profile of Fishing Cat and marshland ecosystems globally and nationally which are otherwise neglected ecosystems. Locally, it will nurture their value among multiple stakeholders in Chilika.”

These marshes receive the maximum freshwater flow from the tributaries of Mahanadi and seasonal rivulets. Analysis of long-term data collected by Chilika Development Authority (CDA) shows that this area also has high fish abundance. This is significant given that fish is the lifeline of Chilika sustaining 2 lakh fishermen families and globally threatened piscivorous mammals like Fishing Cat, Smooth-coated Otter and Eurasian Otter.

“Management interventions are required to prolong the life of this marshland so that it can continue to provide for the globally endangered Fishing Cat, the hundreds of precious birdlife that arrive every winter here and to the indigenous fishing community,” says Partha Dey, co-founder, TFCP .CDA  plans to manage the marshes with a socio-ecological approach involving local stakeholders and ecologists.


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