Apathy from the authorities affects the conservation of fishing cats

A fishing cat, locally known as Pani Biralo, was found seriously injured on a road in Dayanagar village in Krishnanagar-8 municipality, Kapilvastu on October 28. Locals who had found the injured cat informed the divisional forestry office in Chandrauta but the cat succumbed to its injuries before a rescue team reached the site.

Fishing cats have been listed as an endangered mammal species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It is estimated that there are around 150-200 fishing cats in Nepal. Medium-sized cat species are found in South and Southeast Asia. Conservationists have expressed concern over the rise in the number of fishing cat deaths in road accidents in Nepal.

The adult fishing cat found in the village of Dayanagar last week had suffered injuries to its mouth, according to Rajat Pratap Sah, the mayor of Krishnanagar. “The injuries did not appear to be life threatening and the cat could have been saved had it been discovered sooner,” he said.

According to forestry officials, the search is underway for the culprit of the hit-and-run.

Rama Mishra, a conservationist pursuing a doctorate on fishing cats, said another fishing cat died in a similar road accident in Tribeni from Nawalparasi (West) last year. “The number of fishing cats is very low in Nepal and in the world. Losing these cats in traffic accidents harms conservation efforts,” said Mishra, who has worked in fishing cat conservation for 10 years.

Conservationists say that the indifference of government authorities and their limited understanding of the need for the conservation of this endangered species is one of the reasons for the failure of the increase in the population of these cats, the accidents of the road, shrinking wetlands and poaching being the other. the reasons.

“These cats are elusive, so when we spot one on camera traps set up in the forests for surveillance, we feel exuberant. Although the government and several other organizations have worked for wildlife conservation, the fishing cats do not yet on their priority list,” said Swechchha Shrestha, another conservationist who studies fishing cats. “There is a lack of means and resources in its conservation.”

Conservationists stress the need for immediate and effective rescue of injured animals and strong legal action against culprits involved in injuring and killing endangered and protected animals in the country .

Hem Sagar Baral, a veteran ornithologist, says incidents of injuries and deaths of these rare animals will continue to go unchecked unless effective enforcement of conservation laws is ensured.

According to the current legal provisions, a person will be fined Rs 100,000 to Rs 500,000 or imprisoned for one to five years or both if found guilty of killing fishing cats .

The fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is a feline with a powerful build and about twice the size of a domestic cat. The height of an adult varies from 57 to 78 cm and weighs between 15 and 16 kg. The fishing cat is a skilled swimmer and frequently feeds on fish.

Wetlands are the main habitats of fishing cats. In Nepal, these cats are mainly found in Chitwan, Bardiya, Nawalparasi, Kapilvastu, Bara, Parsa and near the banks of Karnali, Babai, Rapti, Narayani and Koshi rivers.