Saving Fishing Cats in the Wild

Saving Fishing Cats in the Wild

Fishing Cat Summary

The Fishing Cat Working Group (FCWG) was founded in spring 2011 with the aim of compiling and disseminating information about the Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), one of four small cat species considered endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and encouraging conservation action for the species. Of the FCWG conservationists, some are involved in surveying ecology and status of the Fishing Cat in several range countries, while others have compiled available information on the historical distribution of the Fishing Cat. In November 2015 these conservationists were able to meet for the very first time at a 5 day international Symposium in Nepal to push global fishing cat conservation forward, each conservationist presented their efforts and shared their experiences. The symposium brought together participants from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Below are examples of the current conservation projects aiding in the protection of the Fishing Cat.

fishingcatlauachareaIndia: Since 2011 Tiasa Adhya has been documenting and mapping fishing cats outside protected areas in West Bengal. Her project was one of the first attempts to research how Fishing Cat persists in a human- dominated landscape. The study looked at threats to the fishing cat including habitat loss and poaching. Tiasa was instrumental in forming Fishing Cat Protection Committees and works with local communities to initiate a community-owned Fishing Cat conservation area. Big Cat Rescue assisted in funding for this in situ project.

Sri Lanka: Since 2014, Ashan Thudugala has been monitoring potential threats to Fishing Cat in the country. He initiated a research and conservation project in the hilly region and organises awareness programmes for school children and students.In Sri Lanka’s hill country, many forest patches are covered or crossed by roads, or have been deforested in recent years to allow for expansion of urban areas. The Fishing Cat population is presumably severely affected by this habitat loss and fragmentation with feeding grounds for Fishing Cat diminishing. In addition road kills are increasing so Ashan also started setting up road signs at spots along highways where Fishing Cats have been killed. Big Cat Rescue assisted in funding for this in situ project.

Bangladesh: Hasan Rahman, Jennifer McCarthy and Kyle McCarthy used a presence-only computer model to predict the distribution of Fishing Cat as more is currently known about dead Fishing Cats in the country than about live ones. Between January 2010 and March 2013, national newspapers reported 82 incidents involving Fishing Cats that were captured by local people; 14 individuals were rescued and released without being monitored; 30 individuals were fatally injured, and the fate of 38 Fishing Cats remained unknown. They called for urgent measures to protect the species.

Dr Jim Sanderson of the FCWG commented: “Fishing Cats are specialists and no larger, generalist species can act as umbrellas to protect their limited and often threatened habitats. Much of Southeast Asia had already been lost. The Javan Fishing Cat subspecies has likely followed the Javan Tiger into extinction. Fishing Cats in Vietnam have no laws protecting them and any that remain might be a lost cause. The existence of Cambodia’s last Fishing Cats depends on bold conservation actions. Despite these setbacks, Fishing Cat conservationists will never give up”

You can read more about work done by the Fishing Cat working group here:

Information obtained from: viverrinus/infos/FCWG2016_ 1stInt_FishingCat_ Conservation_Symposium_ proceedings.pdf

Fishing Cat Facts

Fishing Cat Facts

Fishing Cat

Common Name: Fishing Cat
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felinae (Prionailurus)
Species: viverrinus

Misc.: This is yet another example of a cat that disproves the misconception that cats don’t like water. This cat received its Latin name from its civet-like appearance (the viverridae family) from Bennet (1833) who first described the Fishing Cat scientifically.

Size and Appearance: A stock and powerfully built cat, with short legs, a big broad head and a short tail. Fishing cats weigh between 13-26 pounds, stand 15-16 inches tall and reach lengths of 38-47 inches. Its coat is olive gray and is patterned with rows of parallel solid black spots, which often form stripes along the spine. Their ears are short and round with black backs, and prominent white spots in the middle. Despite the fishing habits of this cat, it shows very little morphological adaptations for capturing or eating fish. Like the Flat-headed cat, its claw sheaths are shortened so that the claws are not completely enveloped when retracted. Unlike the Flat-headed cat, in which the second upper pre-molar is long and sharp enabling it to grab slippery prey, the fishing cat has a much smaller and less developed tooth. At one time, one of the more noted characteristics often associated with the Fishing cat was webbed feet. Today, it is found that the webbing beneath the toes isn’t much more developed than that of a Bobcat.

Habitat: Found in a variety of watery habitats including mangrove swamps, marshy thickets, tidal creeks, oxbow lakes, and reed beds up to an elevation of 5000 feet.

Distribution: India through Indochina and Indonesia.

Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of 63 days, females produce a litter of 1-4 kittens, with the average being 2. They weigh 3.5-6 ounces at birth and will gain an average of 11 grams per day. Their eyes open by the 16th day, and meat is usually taken around the 53rd day. They are weaned between 4-6 months of age, reach adult size around 8-9 months old and are independent around 10 months.

In captivity, their average life span is 10-12 years.

Social System and Communication: Unknown.  They are believed to be solitary, but there have been some unconfirmed reports
that the males may help with the care and supervision of the young.

Hunting and Diet: The bulk of this cats diet is made up of fish, which they will not only swim and dive after, but the try and scoop them out with their paws as well. It is also believed to take other aquatic prey such as crustaceans, mollusks, frogs and snakes. They will also prey on terrestrial mammals such as rodents, civets, young chital fawns, wild pigs, and even domestic animals such as goats, dogs, calves and poultry.  They have also been known to scavenge off of tiger kills.

Principal Threats: Wetland destruction is the greatest threat facing the Fishing Cat. A survey showed that more than 50% of Asian wetlands are faced with moderate to high degrees of threat and disappearing. These threats include settlement, draining for agriculture, pollution, and excessive hunting, woodcutting and fishing. Download this 2008 report documenting 1,158 endangered and threatened exotic cats being illegally, yet openly sold in Myanmar markets. The Wild Cat Trade in Myanmar

Status: CITES: Appendix II. IUCN: Insufficiently known.

Felid TAG 2000 recommendation: Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus). Although not endangered, this species’ lowland habitat is under stress. Fishing cats also have unique aquatic tendencies that add to their exhibitry and educational value. An international studbook exists.  The target population is 100 individuals. The Fishing Cat now has a Species Survival Plan SSP.

How rare is this cat? The International Species Information Service lists 256 worldwide, with 68 being in the U.S.

Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book


Meet some of the fishing cats who lived at Big Cat Rescue:

Fishing Cats of BCR

Singapore Zoo got clouded leopards, fishing cats in 2009

Confining wild animals

Straits Times, The (Singapore) – Friday, December 25, 2009

THE Jurong BirdPark, Night Safari and Singapore Zoo have designated quarantine areas for animals given to them as part of exchange programmes with other wildlife institutions.

Every year, about 20 wild animal exchanges take place. The animals are kept in designated areas within the compound for quarantine purposes.

This year, the Singapore Zoo received a pair of clouded leopards from Thailand, a pair of fishing cats and two pairs of spot-billed pelicans from Sri Lanka, and a female Indian rhino from the Oklahoma Zoo in the United States.

The Night Safari was given three Asiatic lions from India and a female Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo from the San Diego Zoo in the US.

The public will not be able to view them yet as quarantine areas are off-exhibit and accessible only to authorised staff members.

Mr Biswajit Guha, the zoo ‘s assistant director of zoology, said the quarantine period ranges from one to three months depending on the legal and Wildlife Reserves Singapore requirements. These, in turn, vary based on the species and the country from which the animal originated as well as the health of the animal.

Animals donated by members of the public or confiscated by the authorities are also placed in quarantine if they show signs of injury or illness.

‘The team of vets and quarantine keepers will check for signs of injury and illness, and collect samples for laboratory tests and health screening, as well as provide the animals with an appropriate diet, nutritional supplements and medication, if necessary,’ Mr Guha added.



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Abuse complaint against Canadian zoo continues to grow

13 more join abuse complaint against private zoo

Updated: Thu Dec. 17 2009 21:11:24

Darcy Wintonyk,

Thirteen more former employees have joined an animal abuse complaint against a world-class conservation centre in Langley, B.C.

Twenty-one people, including four current employees, have lobbed an arsenal of allegations against the Mountain View Conservation and Breeding Centre. The centre, which cares for rare species like the Fishing Cat and Vancouver Island Marmot, is accused of euthanizing animals using inhumane methods, including using non-lethal shooting, box-cutters and hammers.

Todd Streu, who represents the group, said the additional complainants came forward to corroborate information first brought forward by eight people last week.

“We’ve bolstered the ranks and I hope this will counteract the claims this is just a group of disgruntled employees,” he told Thursday.

In an interview earlier this week, owner Gord Blankstein said Mountain View had done nothing wrong, and all of the allegations against him were false. Blankstein could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Streu said the group has documentation from the facility showing a total of 207 animals have died at the facility in the past five years.

Malcolm Weatherston, a spokesperson for Mountain View, said the facility has nothing to hide.

“Every birth and death is on record — as any facility does. We’re dealing with each of the issues that have been raised.”

The investigation

An investigation into the centre’s methods was launched two weeks ago by the SPCA after it received a complaint from animal protection charity Zoo Check.

The officer in charge of the investigation, Eileen Dreever, said staff expects the probe to be lengthy, with no resolution expected for several weeks. She said Blankstein was cooperating fully.

Earlier this week, B.C.’s Environment Minister, Barry Penner, said his staff would work with the SPCA to determine if the allegations were merited.

But the SPCA told a conservation officer with the ministry informed the agency they were not going to be looking into the investigation.

“They sent an email saying they would no longer be looking into the case,” Marcie Moriarty, general manger of cruelty investigations for the B.C. SPCA, said.

“We have not been informed of why.”

Suntanu Dalal, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, said late Thursday that staff will visit Mountain View on Friday and conduct an inspection. A conservation officer will also attend.

“That is what we are doing at this stage – gathering information to inform our investigation,” Dalal said.

The allegations

Thomas Knight, a former bird and hoofstock manager at Mountain View, told he spoke publicly because of what he described as the “horrific euthanization” of an addax, an African antelope, he saw while working with the animals.

Knight said a staff member hit the animal on the head with a claw hammer repeatedly when attempts to kill it using a small-caliber gun were unsuccessful.

“It got away from him and it was bleeding and screaming and running around the yard.”

The animal was eventually killed after having its throat slit, he said. The whole process took 30 minutes.

Knight, a Princeton University graduate with a master’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology, was laid off in mid-October and was given a month’s compensation.

He rejects the suggestion former employees are speaking out because of a grudge against Blankstein, and said he’s pleased more people are coming out of the woodwork.

“I’m sure its going to be very difficult for all of us. But I can sleep at night and I have to do what had to be done,” he said.

“I would like to see changes put in place so this kind of thing don’t happen again. Animals need to get proper care. This isn’t very much to ask for.”

The group has compiled case files dating back to 2004. The employees say they are only coming forward now because they recently became unionized, and feel their jobs will be protected.

Mountain View was co-awarded the Conservation Award by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) in 2006.


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