Odisha: Chilika Is Home To 176 Fishing Cat, Finds World’s First Census

Bhubaneswar: Chilika Lake in Odisha is home to 176 fishing cats, a census conducted by Chilika Development Authority (CDA) in collaboration with The Fishing Cat Project (TFCP) said.

The world’s first population estimation of the fishing cat outside the protected area network of Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon was conducted in two phases – 115 sq km marshland present in the north and north-eastern section of Chilika and its surrounding areas in 2021 and arikud side along the coastal islands of Chilika in 2022.

A total of 150 camera traps were deployed for nearly 30 days and Spatially Explicit Capture-Recapture (SECR) method was used to analyse the data, said CDA said in a statement.

Notably, the cat is a globally threatened species found in marshlands, mangroves, flooded forests and other wetlands. The feline, an adept swimmer and twice the size of a house cat, has been designated as an ambassador of Chilika since 2020.

Elaborating on the survey, CDA Chief Executive Officer Susanta Nanda said that it was participatory in spirit since local fishermen and villagers of Chilika were the primary participants in this exercise. “Without their support, the world’s first such population estimation outside protected areas on this globally threatened cat, would not have been possible,” he said.

Ten graduate and post-graduate students also volunteered during the exercise, which was facilitated by Chilika Wildlife Division staff, said TFCP co-founder Partha Dey.

“Tracking specialist species such as the fishing cat gives us an indication of what might be happening to these ecosystems, which are safeguards against climate change and droughts,” said TFCP co-founder Tiasa Adhya.

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

“In collaboration with TFCP, we are soon going to share a fishing cat action plan that 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,” Nanda added.

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