Bhitarkanika fishing cats 

#GS3 #Environment #Wildlife #Conservation 

The Odisha forest department has started a two-year conservation project for fishing cats in Bhitarkanika National Park in Kendrapara district. 

  • The species is listed as ‘endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. This means it faces a high threat of extinction in the wild. 
  • The fishing cat, however, is not a well-known species and does not enjoy the same status as crocodiles do.  
  • One purpose of conservation measures was to create awareness among people for the species. 
  • A census to find out the exact numbers of the fishing cat — a nocturnal species that is not easy to trace — will be conducted during night-time. No exact ecological data on the population of the fishing cat in the park is available as of now. 
  • In 2019, during a mammal census in Bhitarkanika, only 20 fishing cats were spotted, according to Dash. This was, however, not indicative of the exact number of the species, as the census was conducted during the day. 
  • The United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) lists the fishing cat on Appendix II in Article IV of CITES: This governs international trade in this species. The species is also classified under the first schedule of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Offences under the first schedule attract the maximum penalties under the law. 
  • Fishing cats hunt fish and crustaceans for food from the park’s water bodies: They dive in to catch prey with their hooked claws. They can also hunt livestock and poultry in villages near forests and have also known to encroach human habitations. 
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