by Barbara George, Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
There are many breeds of cat that have specific environment requirements; the Urban Fishing Cat of Colombo, Sri Lanka is one of them. This is one breed that knows how to work with water!
Fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) are found in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Sumatra and Java. Its toes are partially webbed and the tips of the claws protrude from their sheaths when fully retracted. They live near water in thick cover in habitats such as mangrove, marshes, and densely vegetated areas along watercourses. They eat fish, birds, frogs and small mammals. Conversion of wetlands and forest to agriculture is their biggest threat.
The Urban Fishing Cat is the main predator in Colombo, Sri Lanka, one of four species of wild cat in the country. Although a master angler and wetland specialist, he is classified as Endangered.
The fishing cat is a stocky and powerfully built animal. Its short, coarse fur coat is a beautiful olive grey, tinged with brown and patterned with rows of parallel solid black, oblong spots along its flank. The cat can also be recognised by the four dark lines running along the length of its forehead and along its back, which eventually taper into spots.
His coat is specially adapted to his lifestyle. The undercoat is short and thick; this prevents water from seeping through and acts as protection against both heat and cold weather.
Like most wild cats, the Fishing Cat is solitary, meeting only to mate. A typical litter has 2 kittens; nests are made in any suitable space in shrubs, reeds and trees. They are also most active at night.
It has been estimated that within the next 15 years there will be an irreversible loss of approximately 10% of prime fishing cat habitat in Sri Lanka, 10% of savanna and grassland ecoregions along the Terai-Duar of India and Nepal, and 30% of wetland habitat along the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta. This coupled with ongoing retaliatory killings will most likely bring the global population down by a further 30% by the year 2032. Other threats include the fragmenting of their environment by urbanisation and agriculture, conflict with people over the killing of livestock, cultural and traditional beliefs, being killed for food, and the use of skins in the clothing industry.
Other Fishing Cats
Fishing cats are native to wetlands, rivers, and mangrove forests in South and Southeast Asia. They prey primarily on fish and crustaceans. Like many other rare species, not much is known about fishing cats in the wild. They are threatened by habitat destruction, poaching, and a lack of awareness throughout much of their range. Mangroves, which are prime habitat for fishing cats, provide local people with nurseries for fish and protect entire communities from storm surges. However, many mangroves where fishing cats live are quickly being lost to deforestation and aquaculture. We are educating and empowering local communities to study, protect and restore habitat for this vulnerable cat and its globally important mangrove habitat in their backyards.
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