Camera trap’s image of a rare fishing cat in Kapilvastu.
The fishing cat is an endangered mammal listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list whose population has been decreasing from the entire range, including Nepal. The prime habitat of fishing cats in Nepal is Chitwan National Park.
Generally, cats are afraid of water but not the fishing cats. The fishing cat (Prionaiurus viverrinus) is a medium-sized wild cat that is twice the size of a domestic cat with head to body length ranging from 57-78 cm and a tail which is 20/30 cm long. Fishing cats especially live in the vicinity of wetlands, along rivers, streams, oxbow lakes, and swamps. But due to the destruction of wetlands, they have declined severely over the last decade at an alarming rate.
Fishing cats used to be seen in Bardiya, Chitwan, and Parsa National Parks in Nepal. Mainly prefer the floodplains of Karnali, Babai, Rapti, Narayani rivers, and Ghodaghodi taal.
A rare fishing cat was spotted in Kapilvastu in 2015, in Babai Valley of Bardia National Park in 2018. Now in 2020, it was caught in camera by Swechhya Shrestha (research assistant at the Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation (SMCRF) in Kathmandu.)
Camera traps were developed by SMCRF and a local team Anil Chaudary was given the responsibility for monitoring for 15days. They said that these days were crucial. Within days there had been possible sightings on camera stations 64m, 298m, and 468m away from the reservoir. Replaying the clips it was confirmed that they were indeed fishing cats.
A fishing cat is classified into a group of small cats. But of the 12 species of wild cats found in Nepal, only five (Royal Bengal Tiger, Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Lynx, and Leopard Cat) are included in the protected species list under the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973. Although Fishing cats have been listed in the red list by IUCN and endangered categorized by Nepal Government there has been no conservation efforts.
Many people are unknown about there being endangered and there is a lack of awareness programs in the society regarding rare species. Not only this farmers and fishermen consider them a nuisance and often beat them to death.
So it is essential to raise the community awareness program about the importance of this animal and its rate of decreasing.