Bangladesh has a significant amount of suitable fishing cat habitat with a great potential to support fishing cat populations but it is threatened by human-fishing cat conflict.
The fishing cat project in Hakaluki Haor started in 2017 under collaboration with Professor M.A. Aziz at Jahanginagar University. The project aims to mitigate conflict and reduce the number of fishing cat killings in conflict hotspots (See the details in Chowdhury et al. 2015. Sayam is the member of this group, please see his project).
Initially, three objectives were selected; (1) to identify the habitat requirements of the fishing cat to restore wetland vegetation, (2) to narrow down the target population to implement conflict mitigation measures with limited resources by understanding why fishing cats are being killed, and (3) to have core supporters in local communities to implement further conservation measure with the ultimate goal of community-led conservation.
Following the above objectives, we identified vegetation structure in Hakaluki Haor which may be able to accommodate fishing cats and help them to facilitate hunting fish via camera traps and scat analysis. Unexpectedly, we also found that villager’s intention to kill fishing cats is unlikely to be formed by perceived economic loss, indicating that an economic compensation scheme may not work well here. The scale of the project is gradually expanding with village supporters and graduate students.
Based on that result, we have started (1) to explore the opportunity to integrate fishing cat habitat restoration with plantation scheme for flood management, (2) to challenge the social norm that approves killing fishing cats by changing the value of the fishing cat in primary school and by further survey seeking further an actionable approach and (3) to ensure the source patches near Hakaluki Haor in the framework of metapopulation dynamics.
The status of the fishing cat in Myanmar has been poorly known despite the size of potential habitat. The fishing cat project in Ayeyawady Delta started in 2018 under collaboration with the Zoology Department of Pathein and Yangon Universities. The project aims to understand the status of the fishing cat in the Delta to ensure their long-term survival.
Currently, four objectives are selected; (1) to understand the occurrence of the fishing cat along with human disturbance gradients in order to identify priority area, (2) to examine the use of the fishing cat in local communities in terms of subsistence and commercial purpose, (3) to seek alternative income and protein resource without losing intangible benefit to their livelihoods of hunting and (4) to build capacity for youth who have passion for small cats and small carnivore conservation.
Our next step will be (1) to identify fishing cat-friendly aqua-cultural practice in terms of size of ponds, water drainage, and vegetation corridors between ponds, (2) to explore the strategy to reduce indiscriminate snares in the area by working with ex-hunters, (3) to test whether camera trapping can serve as an alternative way of hunting by ensuring access to mangrove and fishery areas, and (4) to expand the scale of filed work program for university students to promote small cats and small carnivore conservation.
Project in Bangladesh initiated: 2017
Project in Myanmar initiated: 2018
Current status: Ongoing
Founder / Primary Investigator: Ai Suzuki
Ai is currently a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Tokyo Metropolitan University, and a Research Fellow at the Kyoto University, Japan. Her interests lie in conservation of small cats in Asia and how to fulfil the research-implementation gap in conservation. She established the non-profit organisation WilCoLa in 2019 to implement the process of research-action continuum.