project news

Finding fishing cats in Cambodia

News item submitted by Frontier
News item dated 16 Apr 2009

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Frontier is initiating a new project to record the status and distribution of the highly endangered fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) in Botum Sakor National Park, Cambodia. It is estimated that only around 2,500 fishing cats remain in the wild, but the species’ plight has received astonishingly little attention worldwide.

Fishing cats are just as charismatic as a lion, and as threatened as the tiger. These purring piscivores are twice the size of your average moggie, with distinctively short tails and webbed paws adapted for underwater hunting. Highly distinctive patterns of small spots and stripes which break up over the shoulders make individuals easily identifiable. Fishing cats live up to their name, with a diet consisting almost exclusively of fish. They wait patiently on river banks for meals to swim within striking distance, and often dive into the water in pursuit of prey. 

Botum Sakor may be one of the last remaining strongholds for the worldwide fishing cat population. It consists of lowland moist forest with ample rivers and lakes, providing an ideal habitat for the species. Frontier is in the process of initiating a camera trapping project in areas where evidence of the cat has recently been recorded, in order to estimate the number of individuals remaining in the park. We hope that this monitoring programme will reveal a healthy population of the species.

Fishing cats are threatened by habitat destruction, pollution of waterways and irresponsible hunting practices such as snare-trapping. Last month our staff discovered two tiny fishing cat kittens (see photograph) in a local village, whose mother had apparently been killed in a fire. Unfortunately the helpless kittens died before efforts could be made to relocate them. This sad story only serves to highlight the desperate need for increased conservation effort in the area.

You can take part in efforts to save fishing cats and other species such as gibbons, wild dogs and Siamese crocodiles by signing up to volunteer on our Cambodia project.

Read more about our Cambodia Project