An Electrocuted Fishing Cat, Howrah, West Bengal

Soumyadip Santra


Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

The fishing cat is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and is thus accorded the same legal protection as the tiger. Yet, its numbers continue to decline due to loss of wetland habitat and illegal hunting. There is an urgent need to monitor populations and take proactive measures to protect these vulnerable animals.

A Fishing Cat was partially electrocuted at a pond in Baikunthapur village, of Haora (Howrah) district in West Bengal. The pond owner, along with some others, then killed the cat and sold off the meat. They then tried to destroy evidence by throwing away the head and skin of the cat in a nearby canal.

When informed of the incident, the Forest department carried out an investigation, which led to the recovery of the head of the cat. An FIR has been filed.

That the Fishing Cat is our State Animal and a schedule I species — like the tiger — is very well known in these parts. The offenders could not have killed the cat due to a lack of awareness, but despite it. A similar incident in 2015 led to the prosecution and punishment of the offenders. We urge the government to take prompt and exemplary action this time as well.

While no one knows how many fishing cats remain, it is widely acknowledged that the species has seen severe declines all over Asia due to loss of its wetland habitats, illegal hunting, and retaliatory killing for seeking its natural prey in village ponds. Forest Departments and conservation NGOs need to intensify awareness building and monitoring to keep remaining fishing cat populations safe.

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