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Fishing cat to be the ambassador of Chilika Lake

A flock of flamingos at sunset at Nalabana Bird Sanctuary in Chilika Lake in Odisha, considered to be the second largest lagoon in the world.   | Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

The fishing cat will be the ambassador of Chilika Lake, the largest brackish water lagoon in Asia and India’s oldest Ramsar Site, which is being dubbed as an important step towards conservation of the vulnerable species.

The Chilika Development Authority (CDA) designated the fishing cat as ambassador at a meeting held to conclude the ongoing wildlife week.

The fishing cat is the only wild cat species in India that is a wetland specialist, and it’s found all around Chilika. Fishing cats are mostly found in marshlands fringing the north and north-eastern sections of the lake, according to a recently concluded study conducted by the Fishing Cat Project (TFCP) and the Indian wing of Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance (FCCA) in collaboration with the CDA.

“Future plans of this collaborative venture between CDA and TFCP includes regularising protocols to estimate fishing cat populations in Chilika, and to create a fishing cat conservation network by involving local stakeholders, college students, researchers, non-government and government organisations,” said Susanta Nanda, the CDA’s Chief Executive Officer.

According to Mr. Nanda, the fishing cat is a Schedule I species and deserves conservation measures of the highest order in India, as with the tiger and elephant.

“Unfortunately, marshland and mangrove ecosystems, which are fishing cat habitat, are on decline. The CDA will be according highest priority in conserving the habitat and its population in future,” he said.

Chilika has one of the country’s largest extensive marsh-ecosystems, spanning around 100 sq. km.

“Projecting the fishing cat as the face of the marshlands will raise the profile of the fishing cat and marshland ecosystems globally and nationally, which are otherwise neglected ecosystems. Locally, it will nurture their value among multiple stakeholders in Chilika,” said Tiasa Adhya, co-founder of the Fishing Cat Project.

Chilika’s marshes receive the maximum freshwater flow from the tributaries of Mahanadi and seasonal rivulets. Analysis of long-term data collected by the CDA shows that this area also has high fish abundance. This is significant given that fish are the lifeline of Chilika, sustaining 2 lakh fishermen families and globally threatened piscivorous mammals like fishing cats, smooth-coated otters and Eurasian otters.

“Management interventions are required to prolong the life of this marshland so that it can continue to provide for the globally endangered fishing cat, the hundreds of precious birdlife that arrive every winter here, and to the indigenous fishing community,” says Partha Dey, co-founder of TFCP.

The CDA plans to manage the marshes with a socio-ecological approach involving local stakeholders and ecologists. Estimation of fishing cat population will be done through camera traps in the near future.

The CDA has also decided to have a rescue and rehabilitation centre for birds, Irrawaddy dolphins, fishing cat and otters with the help of the Wildlife Trust of India inside the Chilika lagoon. This centre will cater to a long-standing need for rescue and rehabilitation of migratory birds and other flagship species of the lagoon.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 9:39:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/fishing-cat-to-be-the-ambassador-of-chilika-lake/article32809444.ece

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