Chilika home to 176 fishing cats, finds world’s 1st survey

Earlier this year, the CDA had declared its intent to adopt a five-year action plan for fishing cat conservation in Chilika.

Published: 06th June 2022 09:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th June 2022 09:58 AM   |  A+A-

A fishing cat captured on camera in Chilika during the survey. (Photo | EPS)

A fishing cat captured on camera in Chilika during the survey. (Photo | EPS)

By Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: Chilika lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon, is home to around 176 fishing cats, the recently concluded first fishing cat estimation study has found. Touted to be the world’s first population estimation of the fishing cat outside the protected area network, the enumeration was carried out by the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) in collaboration with The Fishing Cat Project (TFCP). 

The total number of the Schedule-I species was found to be in the range of 131-237 during the survey. The estimation was conducted in two phases. Phase-I was conducted in 2021 in the 115 sq km marshland present in the north and north-eastern section of Chilika and its surrounding areas, while Phase II was conducted in 2022 in the Parikuda side along with the coastal islands of Chilika. 

As many as 150 camera traps were deployed for nearly 30 days and Spatially Explicit Capture-Recapture (SECR) method was used to analyse the data.“Local fishermen and villagers of Chilika were the primary participants in this exercise. Without their support, the first such population estimation outside protected areas on this globally threatened cat species wouldn’t have been possible,” said Chief Executive of CDA Susanta Nanda. 

Ten graduate and post-graduate students also volunteered during the exercise, while Chilika Wildlife Division staff facilitated and participated in the population estimation, said TFCP co-founder Partha Dey. 
“Tracking specialist species such as the fishing cat gives us an indication of what might be happening to the wetland ecosystems, which are considered major safeguards against climate change and droughts,” said another TFCP co-founder Tiasa Adhya.

The cat is a globally threatened species found in marshlands, mangroves, flooded forests and other wetlands. They are found in 10 Asian countries but have remained untraced in Vietnam and Java for more than a decade. 

An adept swimmer and twice the size of a house cat, the feline has been designated as ambassador of Chilika since 2020. Earlier this year, the CDA had declared its intent to adopt a five-year action plan for fishing cat conservation in Chilika. It is also planning to share a fishing cat action plan which is socio-ecological in essence. 

“We have already begun a year-long patrolling and monitoring programme on the cat and its sympatric species. Apart from upscaling it, we will promote traditionally harvested wetland products to prevent wetland conversion and also encourage small-scale experiential and educative wetland tourism in the region,” said the CDA chief. 



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