WII-Dehradun Scientists to begin India’s first Fishing Cat collaring project in Coringa next week

The three-year project begins next week to capture 10 Fishing Cats for collaring to study the species behaviour and threats.

November 10, 2021 02:11 pm | Updated 02:13 pm IST - CORINGA (EAST GODAVARI):

A Fishing Cat in Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary in Godavari estuary in East Godavari district. Photo: Special Arrangement

A Fishing Cat in Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary in Godavari estuary in East Godavari district. Photo: Special Arrangement

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII-Dehradun) Conservation Biologists will begin collaring ten Fishing Cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) in the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) in Andhra Pradesh next week.

The country’s first Fishing Cat collaring project is led by Conservation Biologist Dr. Bilal Habib, WII-Dehradun. In Asia, a similar project was done earlier in Bangladesh.

The project was supposed to be launched last year but was delayed due to the spread of COVID-19.

The Andhra Pradesh State Forest Department has already released ₹.45 lakh which was funded by the Vedanta group for the project.

The total project cost is ₹75 lakh. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had permitted the capturing and collaring of the Fishing Cat.

Principal Investigator Dr. Bilal Habib told The Hindu over phone on Wednesday; “Our team of researchers will begin the Fishing Cat collaring project next week in the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary. The project begins with the activity of estimate (census) of the Fishing Cat in the sanctuary before selecting the Fishing Cats for the collaring”.

Survival strategy

“The collaring project looks at the Fishing Cat estimate, collaring and study how the wildlife is surviving in the sanctuary”, added Dr. Bilal Habib. The three-year project will also study the habitat, feeding habits, threats, and movements.

The census was conducted in 2018 and 115 Fishing Cats were recorded. A significant portion of the Coringa mangrove ecosystem has recently been disturbed by the thriving activity of the production of ID liquor in the Godavari estuary. The State government has recently unearthed the ID liquor production units across the Coringa mangrove cover.

However, no scientific study was carried out on the impact of the ID liquor activity on the wildlife, particularly on the Fishing Cat. The sanctuary spreads above 235.7 square kilometres. In October, a 177 sqkm area of Eco-Sensitive Zone was declared surrounding the sanctuary.

Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife-Rajamundry) C. Selvam told The Hindu that the collars to be used in the project are imported from abroad. A senior official earlier associated with the project has said that the research would offer more scientific clues on the species for setting up a national-level breeding centre of Fishing Cat.

The sanctuary is still struggling to be declared as a ‘Ramsar Convention Site’ despite various threats to its ecology.

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