BHUBANESWAR: India’s oldest Ramsar site - Chilika - has the Fishing Cat, an adept swimmer and twice the size of a house cat, as its new ambassador. Marking Wildlife Week 2020 celebrations, Chilika Development Authority (CDA) designated the feline, known to possess stocky legs, as its ambassador at a meeting on Thursday.
At a time when depleting mangroves and marshlands are posing a threat to existence of the Fishing Cat, CDA will focus on conservation of this Schedule-I species.A recent study titled ‘The Fishing Cat Project (TFCP)’ conducted by Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance (FCCA) and CDA, found out that the globally endangered feline was present all around Chilika, especially in the marshlands fringing the brackish water lagoon’s north and north-eastern sections.
In the coming days, CDA and TFCP, a global body, will work towards regularising protocols to estimate Fishing Cat population in Chilika and create a Fishing Cat conservation network by involving local stakeholders, college students, researchers, non-government and government organisations.
“Projecting Fishing Cat as the face of marshlands will raise the profile of the species and marshland ecosystems globally and nationally which are otherwise neglected. Locally, it will nurture their value among multiple stakeholders in Chilika,” Tiasa Adhya, co-founder of TFCP said.
The study also highlighted that the maximum freshwater that flow from the tributaries of Mahanadi and seasonal rivulets into the marshes leads to abundance in fishes there. And, fish is the lifeline not just for more than two lakh fishermen families in the region but also for the 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 birds that arrive every winter here and to the indigenous fishing community,” said Partha Dey, co-founder of TFCP.
PLANS FOR CONSERVATION
CDA has planned to manage the marshes with a socio-ecological approach involving local stakeholders and ecologists. Estimation of Fishing Cat population will be done through camera trap in near future collaboratively by CDA, TFCP and the Indian wing of Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance (FCCA). The results are expected to come out during the first half of 2021.
It has also been decided by CDA to have a rescue and rehabilitation centre for birds, Irrawaddy dolphins, Fishing Cat and Otters with the help of WTI (Wildlife Trust of India) inside Chilika lagoon. This centre will cater to a long-standing need for rescue and rehabilitation of the migratory birds and other flagship species of the lagoon.