State takes hi-tech route to count Fishing Cats

Focus on Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary’s mangroves

June 08, 2018 08:07 am | Updated 08:07 am IST - KAKINADA

Fishing Cat, a rare cat species moving in Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary.

Fishing Cat, a rare cat species moving in Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary.

In a first in the country, the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department is undertaking the census of the endangered Fishing Cat at the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary (CWLS) on a large scale using modern technology. The month-long exercise comprising 30 trained personnel equipped with 120 state-of-the-art digital cameras commenced on Thursday.

Categorised as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) ‘Red List of Threatened Species’, and very little known about its ecology and behaviour, the Fishing Cat is being spotted every now and then in the CWLS, the second largest mangroves after the Sundarbans, and an abode for about 85 species.

A feline, the Fishing Cat is about twice the size of a typical house cat is an adept swimmer and enters water frequently to prey on fish as its name suggests. It is known to even dive to catch fish.

Cat’s eyes along

the mangroves

“This census helps us know the exact number of Fishing Cats living in the mangroves, besides getting the pictures and video footage of the rare species.

We are installing camera traps in the entire 235.7 km stretch of the sanctuary so that the accuracy can be assured,” Anant Shankar, District Forest Officer (Wildlife) told The Hindu .

As many as 60 locations have been identified in the entire CWLS and two cameras each will be installed to capture the movements of the species. It ensures coverage of all the three distributaries – Tulyabhaga, Coringa and Gaderu – inside the sanctuary.

Macha, the mascot

The department has already launched a mascot of the CWLS with the caricature of the species and named it ‘Macha – the Fishing Cat,’ aimed at promoting its presence and the need to preserve to the general public.

“We have earmarked the first five days to train the participants and the actual survey goes on for the remaining 25 days. We have procured the cameras costing Rs. 22,000 each,” Mr. Shankar explained. Observing that wetland degradation is turning into a major challenge for the very survival of the Fishing Cats, Mr. Shankar says that conservation efforts are in progress at the CWLS.

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