World’s first fishing cat census conducted in Odisha’s Chilika

Chilika: Chilika Development Authority (CDA) in collaboration with The Fishing Cat Project (TFCP) recently conducted world’s first fishing cat census at Chilika lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon.

The census, conducted outside the protected area network, revealed that the lake has a total of 176 fishing cats, a globally threatened species.

The estimation was conducted in two phases. While Phase-I was conducted in 2021 in the 115 sq km marshland present in the north and north-eastern section of Chilika and its surrounding area, Phase-II was conducted in 2022 in Parikud side along the coastal islands of Chilika. A total of 150 camera traps were deployed in two phases with each fixed in the field for 30 days.

“The Spatially Explicit Capture Recapture (SECR) method was used to analyse the data. It was truly participatory in spirit since local fishermen and villagers of Chilika were the primary participants in the exercise,” said CDA Chief Executive Officer Susanta Nanda.

“Wetlands in Asia are being lost at alarmingly rapid rates and proper data on their current status or even baseline data in many countries are missing. The status of many wetland species remains understudied and highly threatened. 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 co-founder, TFCP Tiasa Adhya.

“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. Along with upscaling it, we will promote sustainably and traditionally harvested wetland products to prevent wetland conversion, establish a rescue and rehabilitation centre, promote small scale experiential and educative wetland tourism, adopt habitat restoration as well as education programmes,” informed Nanda.

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