International conservationists develop a Conservation Strategy for the Fishing Cat

In November 2015, the First International Fishing Cat Conservation Symposium was held in Nepal, hosted in association with the NGOs Himalayan Nature and Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation. Participants included representatives from Fishing Cat range countries like Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Bangladesh, as well as conservationists from USA, UK, Spain and Germany.

fishing catThe endangered Fishing Cat Prionailurus viverrinus is at home near water bodies. This unique cat has been known to science since the early 19th century. However, its recent discovery in mangroves along the east coast of India and in Cambodia reveals that still little is known about its distribution and ecological needs. In Asia, wetlands are rapidly being devastated, which results in declining Fishing Cat populations in all range countries.

Furthermore, they are threatened by killings in retaliation, poaching and traffic. Their status in Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Java is largely unknown. They may have declined dramatically over the last decades.

“This dire perspective across their range motivated us to form the Fishing Cat Working Group in 2011. Our symposium was a huge success. We are the first Working Group who developed a conservation strategy for an Asian small wild cat. Fishing Cats need more targeted conservation efforts to ensure their continued survival in the wild. Our vision is that wild Fishing Cat populations become viable again across their native range, are valued globally and live in harmony with humankind.” said Angie Appel, co-founder and coordinator of the Fishing Cat Working Group.

“In India, they are included in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1 972, along with the tiger, and thus deserve protection measures of the highest accord. Nevertheless, their most important habitats are destroyed by the filling up of wetlands for airports, residential areas and highways due to policy contradictions.” said Tiasa Adhya. She has been engaged in conserving Fishing Cats in West Bengal. Because of her successful efforts she was recently nominated for the Future for Nature award. Giridhar Malla from the Wildlife Institute of India added “A viable population of Fishing Cats was recently recorded in mangroves of Andhra Pradesh. However, oil refineries and expansion of road network pose a huge threat to this population.”

“In Nepal, Fishing Cats have been recorded in protected areas and recently also in human dominated landscapes in the Terai. However, we still don’t know all the specific sites where Fishing Cats are present. Furthermore, they are not listed as a priority protected species in the country.” said Sagar Dahal of the Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation.

“Ecological studies on Fishing Cats are scarce even though they live throughout coastal wetlands and hill forests of Sri Lanka.” said Anya Ratnayaka. She radio-collared the first Fishing Cat in suburban Colombo to understand their ecological adaptions to novel urban habitats. “In Sri Lanka, more than 50 individuals died in road accidents during the past two years.” added Ashan Thudugala. In response he installed road signs in the country’s central hills to minimize road accidents involving Fishing Cats.

“In Cambodia, Fishing Cats are poorly studied. Our recent discovery of a Fishing Cat population in mangroves is spectacular. This is not only the first record since 2003, but also in a previously undocumented site.” said Ret Thaung of the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation (CBC) of the Royal University of Phnom Penh. “We are very excited about this discovery because it gives us new hope for the recovery of Fishing Cats in Southeast Asia.” said Vanessa Herranz Muñoz who collaborates with CBC.

“Conservationists in Fishing Cat range countries need to be better linked with the international zoological community for exchange of knowledge. We can increase awareness about the plight of Fishing Cats in the wild and support conservation efforts through fund raising activities.” said Neville Buck of the Aspinall Foundation, UK.

fishing cat clawsThe objectives of the first Conservation Strategy Plan revolve around three major themes, namely ecological, socio-cultural and policy issues. Participants pledged to implement planned activities within the next five years. They will collaborate in developing manuals for policy makers and researchers as well as comprehensive habitat and distribution maps. They will continue to work with local communities and address Fishing Cat conservation needs through advocacy networks. Information material will be created to raise awareness amongst global stakeholders, both young and old.

The symposium was supported by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, the Fishing Cat Fund and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Nepal. It was held at Park River View Resort in Nawalparasi close to Chitwan National Park.

Information taken from the Proceedings Of the First International Fishing Cat Conservation Symposium  held in Nepal last year. 

Found! Fishing cat in coastal Cambodia

fishing catPictures of the Endangered fishing cat – the first in Cambodia for more than a decade – provide welcome evidence that these elusive felines still survive in some parts of the country.

Cambodia’s Centre for Biodiversity Conservation (CBC) continues to make history with a camera trap survey revealing that the Endangered fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) can still be found in some parts of the country.

The camera traps have provided the first official records for the species since 2003, capturing images and footage of three individuals at two different coastal sites.

Researchers from the CBC, a partnership between Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Royal University of Phnom Penh, were thrilled by the findings which have allayed grave fears about the status of these animals in Cambodia.

FFI project leader, Ms Ret Thaung said that the fishing cat’s preference for wetland habitat had led to severe population declines throughout much of its Asian range. “Asian wetland habitats are rapidly disappearing or being modified by human activity, so fishing cat numbers have declined dramatically over the last decade and the remaining population is thought to be small,” she said.

“Fishing cats are believed to be extinct in Vietnam, no confirmed records in Lao PDR, and with scarce information about the species in Thailand and Cambodia.

“It is clear that urgent steps are needed to protect these cats from snaring and trapping and to conserve their wetland habitats – but to do this effectively we needed to get a better idea of where they live.” “

Overwhelming discovery

The CBC’s camera trap survey was designed to address some of these knowledge gaps . Following leads gathered during interviews with local villagers, the experts set up 32 cameras at five locations and left them to record what passed by .

Sifting through the images, the team was delighted to discover fishing cats at two sites in southwest Cambodia: Peam Krosaop Wildlife Sanctuary (Koh Kong Province) and Ream National Park (Sihanoukville Province).

“This is a remarkable discovery as fishing cats are very vulnerable to human persecution,” Ms Thaung said. “We are especially pleased to see both a male and female cat from Peam Krosaop Wildlife Sanctuary. When working with Endangered species, every animal is important and the excitement of such a discovery is overwhelming.”

As both of these sites are protected areas, the resident fishing cats should be afforded some protection.

Conservation challenges ahead

According to Ms Thaung, the CBC and its partners now aim to develop a fishing cat conservation action plan focused on the two sites where the cats were recorded.

“This will primarily involve community education and measures to reduce threats,” she said. “We also plan to continue our research and improve the ability of local rangers to correctly identify fishing cats and help with research and conservation for the species.”

The main challenge at these two sites will be managing conflicts with people, who have been known to kill fishing cats for their meat or in retaliation for damaging fishers’ nets.

An important facet of any conservation work will therefore be to raise awareness about the species and boost local support for its conservation – particularly in light of recent interviews with villagers living near the two sites, which revealed that local people do not see these animals as important.

Sadly, protected area status alone cannot not guarantee the future of a site or its wildlife, as Ms Thaung explains: “Unfortunately, no cats were found in the freshwater wetlands at the Botum Sakor National Park.”

“We are particularly concerned about this, as this area is being devastated by forest clearance and land degradation.”

Above all, the discovery of fishing cats in two new areas (coupled with their notable absence from a place one might reasonably expect to find them) reveals how much we still have to learn about these animals, and how urgent is the need to protect them.

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Fauna & Flora International (FFI) protects threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and take account of human needs. Operating in more than 40 countries worldwide – mainly in the developing world – FFI saves species from extinction and habitats from destruction, while improving the livelihoods of local people. Founded in 1903, FFI is the world’s longest established international conservation body and a registered charity.

Zookeeper Travels: Flat-headed Cat

By Ricky Reino

This post is about my most recent trip – a weekend to Thailand to spend time with flat-headed cats!

Flat-headed cats are a little known species, native to some parts of south east Asia, such as the island of Borneo. They are specialised fish hunters and are classed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Around a year and a half ago I saw via the internet that there were a handful of flat-headed cats kept in captivity in Thailand, and so decided to get in contact with these collections.

It took a while of being passed between email addresses, but finally I was put in contact with the animal manager of a well known zoo not too far from Bangkok.

I explained through our conversations about myself and my interest in spending time with the zoo’s flat-headed cats to get a small glimpse at their behaviour and learn how they are managed by their keepers; but also offered to help bring ideas on enrichment etc – this was greatly accepted and we started to discuss things further.

I had to write an official letter, with proof of my professional history, to the director of the zoo, who accepted my request and sent me an official invite which was fantastic, and after that I was able to start planning.

I didn’t have anyone that was able to come with me from the UK, but as it was my cousin was travelling around Thailand with his girlfriend at the time so we all arranged to meet at Bangkok airport upon my arrival and go from there.

September 2014 arrived, and after a very long (not made better by a very loud, drunk man in the seat behind me) flight, I made my way through Bangkok airport, got screened for Ebola, passed through customs and then found my cousin.

The animal manager of the zoo was also waiting at the airport in one of the zoo vehicles, and drove my cousin and I the hour journey to the zoo, passing my massive traffic jams, and little villages, eventually moving into beautiful lush green forest.

As soon as we got there I was shown to my very own apartment (they were really taking care of me!) where I had time to freshen up then we were taken to meet the director. Both myself and my cousin were given the warmest of welcomes and also gifted a lovely book all about the animals kept at the zoo with some incredible pictures in it.

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I was itching to see the zoo, so the animal manager drove us round taking us to see lots of animals such as the elephants, and the clouded leopards – which are another species of small cat, and an incredibly beautiful one at that! The zoo has a great breeding program for this species, working with other zoos globally to move on youngsters to spread the genes. I was privileged enough to be given the opportunity to interact with some young hand reared clouded leopards after meeting with the head keeper of these cats, which was fantastic. They were so full of life and so so agile running around and jumping out of the trees, running along the ground, bouncing off my shoulders then leaping back into the trees.

We were shown around the rest of the cat section, but as it was getting late we didn’t have much time so were taken back to the apartment and then taken for dinner at a beautiful wooden tower overlooking the forest about 20 minutes away from the zoo.

Unfortunately that night I became VERY ill, and had to rearrange plans and flights to come home as soon as possible. I was really glad that my cousin was there as he made sure I was OK and kept me hydrated etc.

fhrrNext morning, I forced myself to get up to do what I had travelled all the way to Thailand to do, even if it was just for the day rather than for a week as planned. I met the head cat keeper and was taken to the enclosure where the flat-headed cats were.

The first thing that struck me was the smell (which didn’t help when I wasn’t feeling great!) – lots of small cats have a strong smell, but this was a very different & strong smell. The zoo kept two males, one of which was hand reared. The cats clearly didn’t have much interaction with their keepers as they both stayed in their hollowed out log shelter, just watching what we were doing.

I went around the enclosure cleaning up the cats’ mess, raked their substrate and scrubbed out & refilled their pond as we were going to put their food ( a fish each) in there later that day. One of the cats came out of the resting place and walked over to the freshly cleaned pond once I had moved away from it, and interestingly I noticed that as he walked around, he was constantly letting out a very fine stream of urine, as a way of spreading his scent – this is probably why the smell in the enclosure was so strong!

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It was interesting to really see the physique of this species when the cat was up and about.. a very short, round shape with a short and flattened tail. wide, webbed paws with claws that stuck out, just like those of the very closely related fishing cat. This species mainly hunts fish, so these physical adaptations help it hunt in and around the water. It was interesting to see just how flat the top of this cats’ head was too.. the reason why it is called the ‘flat-headed cat’.

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fh1

Due to my changed flight schedule, I had to leave the flat-headed cats and the zoo, despite not having spent as much time there as I would have liked. I travelled back to the airport and said goodbye to my cousin and his girlfriend so that I could catch my flight home.

I keep in contact with the animal manager, and am very thankful at being given the opportunity to spend some time, however short it was, with one of the most endangered cat species on the planet. The opportunity for me to back to the zoo to spend time learning more is there, and I will definitely be going back in the future.

Thanks for reading!

Ricky

See also Flat-headed Cat 

Act Now to Protect Small Wild Felines

Wild cats are in danger of disappearing all over the world. We need to learn more about the lives of small wild cats in their native habitat in order to protect them from such threats as habitat loss, persecution, poaching, illegal trade and human interference. There are many questions that must be answered before these threats can be addressed and conservation plans put in motion. Where are the cats located? What kind of habitat do they need? What do they eat? How large is the population?

Without all the ecological information gathered by field researchers, it is impossible to form conservation programs for small wild cats. Before the biologists can start their studies however, they must obtain funding for camera traps, radio-collars, salaries for local people and a host of other expenses. This rather specialized funding is getting increasingly hard to find, and many worthwhile projects are not able to be undertaken.

Join our growing list of small wild cat heroes. Please donate today.

Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

100% of donations received go directly to wild cats

 

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One small wild cat species in need of your support is the Borneo Bay Cat Pardofelis badia. It is the mystery member of the cat family. Nothing is known about their habits, behaviour, ecology or reproductive biology. Previously thought to be a small island form of the Asiatic Golden Cat Pardofelis temminckii, genetic testing has revealed the Bay Cat is a unique species, and therefore a highly endangered one.  Learn more

Thank you for your support!

Contribute Now to Save Small Cats

Plionailurus_planicepsEN

Wild cats like the Flat-headed Cat are in danger of disappearing all over the world. Habitat loss, persecution, poaching, illegal fur, food and pet trades, increased roads and other human interference in their habitats are taking their toll. So how do scientists and conservationists save wild cats?

The first step is to learn about their lives in the native habitat. Where are the cats located? What kind of habitat do they need? What do they eat? How large is the population? These and many other questions must be answered before suitable areas can be set aside and conservation plans put in motion.

Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

100% of donations received go directly to wild cats

 

Your donations help field researchers purchase radio collars, cameras and other equipment to study the small wild cats. Join our growing list of small wild cat heroes. Please donate today.

Flat-headed Cats Prionailurus planiceps are the most unusual members of the cat family, with their long, narrow head and flattened forehead. In appearance, they bear a strong resemblance to the civets, which are not cats, but members of the Viverridae family. Learn more

Thank you for your support!

First Sunda Clouded Leopard Collared

A wild Sunda clouded leopard was recently trapped and fitted with a satellite collar for the first time ever, as part of a collaborative project between the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), WildCRU and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

On Sunday 15 September, early morning, a male Sunda clouded leopard weighing 25 kgs, was caught in one of our traps set up along the Kinabatangan River, Sabah, Malaysia in the vicinity of DGFC. Rarely seen, Sunda clouded leopards are amongst some of the most elusive and secretive of the world’s wild cats, and as such, remain one of the least understood. The leopard was fitted with a satellite collar to provide us with crucial information on its movements in the Kinabatangan landscape. It should send a location every 20 minutes for about 4 to 6 months, enabling us to determine its home range and how it is able to move through the fragmented landscape. Incredibly, a few days later, we caught another individual, an old female, weighing only 9 kgs. She was too small and too old to collar, but we have been documenting her in the Kinabatangan since 2010, using camera traps.

SWD, DGFC and WildCRU wish to thank Sime Darby Foundation for their support and for providing a grant of MYR 1.46 Million towards our project on the conservation of the Sunda clouded leopard and sympatric carnivores in Sabah. Additional funding and support are provided by Atlanta Zoo, Houston Zoo, Recanati-kaplan Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Point Defiance Zoo and Rufford Foundation.

anesthetised sunda

prparing to collar and collect samples

weighing clouded leopard

Sept 21, 2013 News release from Danau Girang Field Centre 

Pallas Cats and Toxoplasmosis

posted in: Cats of Asia, Zoo cats | 0

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a common protozoan parasite (Toxoplasma gondii) found world wide that poses health risks to both humans and wildlife. The only definitive host for the parasite are members of the Felidae family (primarily domestic cats). Healthy infected cats typically do not show any signs that they carry the disease. The parasite develops in the host and oocysts (eggs) are shed in the feces. The oocysts are very resistant and can persist in the environment for  over 12 months. Intermediate hosts (rodents, birds, sheep, cattle, pigs) ingest the oocysts and cysts are formed in different areas of the intermediate host’s body. The life cycle of the parasite is completed when an infected intermediate host is ingested by a cat.

Pallas Cat from Cincinnatti Zoo

Humans are usually infected through contact with infected cat feces or through undercooked meat containing cysts. Toxoplasmosis can cause serious health problems in pregnant women and individuals with a compromised immune system. Healthy people usually are not aware they have been infected.

Clinical disease is more likely to occur in cats with suppressed immune systems, including young kittens and cats with feline leukemia virus (FELV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Most cats can recover with a treatment of antibiotics and anti-parasitic drugs. There is no vaccine available.

Unfortunately, wild Pallas Cats also seem to be extremely sensitive to toxoplasmosis, causing a high mortality rate in the kittens. Please watch this 2008 video from the Linder Centre for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) at the Cincinnati Zoo for more information. I was not able to find more current information on how much progress has been made researching and controlling this problem in Pallas Cats.

Happy Birthday Amy!

ISEC Canada has the most wonderful members! So many of them are always going out of their way to do something special for the small cats.

Last Friday was Endangered Species Day, and we received a phone call from member David Cohn. Already a generous supporter of the small cats, he wanted to make an additional donation on behalf of his wife Amy’s birthday.

We’ve been saving this beautiful photo for the right occasion. As David and Amy are fans of the Pallas’ Cat, we felt this was the perfect choice to wish Amy Cohn a Happy Birthday from ISEC Canada and the small wild cats! Thank you David and Amy for your concern about the future of the small felids.

Pallas cat by Ben Williams

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