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Fortune finally favours fishing felines

Mintu Deshwara

ANN/THE DAILY STAR – Due to various reasons including climate change, environmental disasters, habitat loss and food crisis, fishing cats often come in contact with humans and are caught near villages and settlements in Sylhet division.

Many news pieces call the cats “tigers”, which spread misunderstanding and fear among people. So, the authorities are trying to raise awareness in this regard.

Earlier, the forest department used to rescue these cats and release them into various protected forests according to conventional rules. However, unable to adapt to the new environment, the cats would suffer from food shortages, resulting in their demise.

This situation has now changed for the better.

Rescued fishing cats were released in the places they were captured from.

Besides, locals were also informed about it. In this way, 60 fishing cats, caught in different places of Sylhet, have been returned to their environment for almost two years.

Although the fishing cat, an endangered species, is not particularly dangerous, the animals often fall prey to locals who fear them a great deal. PHOTO: THE STAR

Joint convener of Lawachhara Bon o Jiboboichitro Rokkha Andolan Shamsul Haque said the cats are caught in man-made traps in fish and poultry farms, and houses during the felines’ search for food. Locals kill them out of fear.

“However, awareness campaigns by public and private organisations over the years have reduced these acts of violence,” he added.

According to the Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Division, 67 cats were rescued from different places in Sylhet from July 2020 to June 2022. Seven of them died.

The 60 survivors were released into the places where they were rescued from. Of these, 26 were cubs. A lecturer of Dhaka University’s zoology department Muntasir Akash said, “According to our information, a total of 377 people and fishing cats had confrontations in Bangladesh (from 2016 to 2021); 180 fishing cats were killed in those confrontations.

However, more deaths are reported in Moulvibazar, Habiganj, Natore, Magura, and Faridpur.

We’re researching the reasons for their death at the moment.”

He added that the animals are unique creatures. They are synonymous with wetlands.

Weighing a maximum of 15 kilogrammes, these small animals are slightly bigger than domestic cats with a robust palate for fish.

“This is why the rapid destruction of wetlands is a major threat to their species. As a result of this destruction, they’re compelled to catch fish from farms,” he said further.

“Fishing cats are an endangered species worldwide. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed them as an endangered species. The animals don’t harm humans,” said the lecturer.

Divisional forest officer of Sylhet’s Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Division Rezaul Karim Chowdhury said, “People in Sylhet are now realising the need for wild animals in nature with the combined efforts of all stakeholders. If this practice can be developed everywhere in the country, the animals can be better protected.”

Many news pieces call the cats “tigers”, which spreads misunderstanding and fear among people. So, authorities are trying to raise awareness in this regard, he said.

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