In India, fishing cats are mainly found in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans, on the foothills of the Himalayas along the Ganga and Brahmaputra river valleys and in the Western Ghats. The fishing cat is included in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and thereby protected from hunting. On the east coast of India, only a few intact small populations of fishing cats are known to occur, and these are subject to heavy habitat loss, persecution and poaching by humans. To date, there have been no extensive surveys on the occurrence of a fishing cat population, their habitat and diet requirements, in the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh. Only two published records from the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary mangroves (Kolipaka 2006, Mukherjee et al. 2012) apart from couple of recent reports from local news papers. Besides, only anecdotal information exists on the distribution and ecology of the species in this region. Therefore, we felt an urgent need to carry out long-term conservation measures to save the species from local extinction.
We have documented fishing cat presence ( tracks, scat, historical sightings, road kills and camera trap photos) in the following areas along the east coast of Andhra Pradesh.
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- Set up remotely triggered wildlife cameras to document the presence/absence of fishing cats in and around wetland habitats suitable for their occurrence.
- Document any prevalent threats (such as habitat encroachment, pollution of wetlands from nearby towns/villages, poaching, persecution and retaliatory killing) and their severity against the survival of fishing cats.
- Collect other direct and indirect evidence of fishing cat occurrence (such as scats, pugmarks, and sightings by local people) along with documentation of historical knowledge and records of fishing cats in and around wetland habitats.
- Develop GIS-based habitat maps for fishing cats in south India (with the use of data collected as part of objectives 1-3).
- Promote awareness among local people living in towns/villages near fishing cat habitats through conservation education programmes, thus motivating them towards community-based conservation of fishing cats and their habitat.