A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
Thailand Fishing Cat Research Update
March 2, 2011Posted by on
This is the latest update from Namfon Cutter and the rest of the wonderful folks at the Fishing Cat Research and Conservation Project in Thailand.
Since the project was established in the Khao Sam Roi Yod site, we have captured 7 female and 10 male fishing cats using box traps and fitted them with VHF radio collars in order to study their movements over a primarily agricultural landscape in the Khao Sam Roi Yod area, Prachuap KiriKhan province, Thailand. We’ve attempted to locate all individuals two times each day.
Additionally, we collected locations more frequently during a two week period to better understand 24 hour activity patterns and use of daily resting habitat. Our eventual sample size was reduced due to the number of collared fishing cats killed or that otherwise were not able to be located at some point after collaring. We thus used:
Camera trap survey results
We set up camera traps to study fishing cat distribution,movements, behavior, and for enumeration of individuals.In a total of 541 trap nights, we have been able to identify 31 individual fishing cats, including all of the individuals that have been captured for radio collaring. Camera trapping results show that both males and females use the same areas and occasionally use the same travel routes-often during the same night. Camera trap also revealed that both male and female fishing cats scent mark, as both sexes have been found to spray camera traps that were set up.
One of the collared fishing cats data from 1 male and 4 females for which we recorded more than 800 locations for detailed movement analysis. Home range estimates of the cats analyzed were 7.3 km2 for the male and an average of 2.8 km2 for the three females. The average home range overlap of the male over female home ranges was 7.28% and 2.94% among females.
It is likely that movements encountered in this study are strongly influenced by land use patterns and the distribution of sources of freshwater and daytime resting sites. We expect that our current analysis of these patterns will inform efforts to better conserve this population.
We recently conducted an aerial survey of habitats by using a 2-seater paramotor which gave us a better perspective of habitat quality. The purpose was also to identify new possible day-time refuges for fishing cats and for potential survey in the future.
Poaching issues and strategies
To reduce poaching and retribution killing of fishing cats, we work with local residents and government officers. In mid-2010, with the support of the Kuiburi district chief, we established a district level Fishing Cat Conservation Committee. The district chief has been proactive in working against poaching and has issued formal warnings (and a threat of more serious action in the future) to individuals known to have killed fishing cats.
Fishing cats sometimes take chickens from local properties. Our goal is to provide support for local residents who have had problems with, or anticipate problems with fishing cats raiding their chickens. Starting in January 2010, we respond to all requests or reports of this type of problem by conducting camera trap surveillance of the area and providing materials and labor to reinforce chicken enclosures as part of our conflict mitigation strategy. Often these incidents are the result of raids by domestic dogs or cats but many people blame fishing cats anyway. To date, 15 chicken houses in five villages—Nongjok , Don Makham, Nongbua, KhaoDaeng, and Koke-luk have been built or reinforced.
Feral and Domestic animal control
With a lot of support from the Monitoring and Surveillance Center for Zoonotic Disease in Wildlife and Exotic Animals (MoZWE) several vets have helped us neuter dogs and cats that were either feral or pets within the community. So far we have castrated 17 domestic cats and15 domestic dogs. Two feral dogs and 2 feral cats were also neutered.
We are planning to expand our survey into another site–in the main wetland area of Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park and Thailand’s newest Ramsar Site. We have established a positive relationship with the community in this area and village leaders are enthusiastic and supportive of playing an active role in the conservation of fishing cats. The communities in this area have a sustainable resource use mentality that has evolved from protecting their primary livelihoods—fish and shrimp farming, rice cultivation.We plan to transfer approaches and lessons learned in working at the current site to this new area.
We are hopeful that as these activities expand and more people understand the rarity and ecological significance of fishing cats, we will see long-term benefits for fishing cats in the region.
For more information, see the Fishing Cat Research and Conservation Project website.
Two ambitious photojournalists are interested in doing a multimedia story on Namfon Cutter’s fishing cat project in Thailand. They are independent journalists, but have a letter of interest from National Geographic after submitting their proposal to them. Wouldn’t it be great for the little water cats to get that kind of press?
The team needs to raise funds to support their trip and have set up a page on the Kickstarter website where people can give donations to support their project. Donations can be as small as $10. Even if you don’t want to donate, you should check out their websites!