The elusive fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is one of the 26 species of small wild cats in the world. It’s a globally endangered species and is the countries second largest wild feline species. Their general preferred habitats are wetlands/mangroves or any habitat that has a large body of water, however in Sri Lanka, they are assumed to be found island wide.
Fishing cats in general are a species that has learned to avoid landscapes with a high human density, however, in Colombo Sri Lanka, this is not the case. Many people would talk about seeing baby leopards crossing the streets at night, so in 2006, a team comprising of local scientists and scientists from the Smithsonian Institution carried out a camera trap study in Colombo’s wetland habitats. At the end of this study they found that there was a healthy population of fishing cats in Colombo, due to the interconnecting network urban wetlands in the city.
After the end of the civil war in 2009, urban development had taken hold, and many of Colombo’s urban wetland habitats were under threat by clearing and land filling. There were many concerns about urban wildlife, and many people had witnessed wildlife fleeing from heavy machinery. So in 2013, the study was taken into it’s second phase under the EFL.
During this phase researchers will use camera traps to determine the current status of fishing cats in urban wetlands and how development has affected their distribution within these habitats. They will also use GPS collars to track the movement of resident cats within these habitats to understand the ecology and behaviour of fishing cats. Using this data researchers hope to work with relevant parties to create a urban wetland management and conservation plan.
The project is no longer under EFL, and has been moved under Small Cat Advocacy and Research.