Kolkata: Alipore Zoological Gardens will soon begin a conservation and breeding program for the species’ population.
âThe fishing cat is the state animal of Bengal. But their population is threatened as the state’s wetlands have been severely depleted over the past decade. So we decided to increase the population of the animal by starting a conservation and breeding program. Once we have increased their population, we will release them into the wild, “said Asis Kumar Samanta, Director of Alipore Zoo.
The existing population of fish cats, listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, is twelve at the zoo.
Fishing cat, known as “Baghrol” in Bengali, is included on Appendix I of the 1972 Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act. Killing a fishing cat can result in a prison sentence of three to seven years and / or a fine of up to. lead 30,000 rupees.
A full-grown fishing cat is twice the size of a house cat – it weighs over 15 kg – and has spots and stripes on its body. Many mistake it for a leopard or a tiger cub.
The animal lives mainly on fish and lives mainly near wetlands, along rivers, streams, oxbow lakes, in swamps and mangroves.
“The state government has taken some steps to preserve the wetlands in recent years, but there have been incidents where people have captured and killed these animals,” said a senior official at Alipore Zoo.
According to the official, people are still lacking awareness of this endangered species that is critically endangered.
“The fish cat hardly attacks people,” explained the senior zoo official.
The regular fishing cat awareness programs run by some NGOs have ceased amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and several incidents have been reported in Howrah, Hooghly and South 24-Parganas in which the animal was beaten to death.