International Society For Endangered Cats

A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World

Cats In China: Fishing Cat

The Fishing Cat Prionailurus viverrinus has an apparently broad but discontinuous distribution in Asia. It is classified as an endangered species by the IUCN Red List because of severe population declines throughout much of its range over the last decade. An appalling lack of reliable evidence for its occurrence within the presumed range has become apparent.

This cat is primarily found in the Terai region of the Himalayan foothills in Nepal and northeastern India. It appears to occur all over Sri Lanka, and is considered widespread and locally common in Bangladesh. Camera trap studies and sign surveys have confirmed the presence of Fishing Cats in two coastal areas of Thailand, no evidence of the species was found in two wildlife sanctuaries. Their presence is not confirmed by hard facts in Laos, and no sign of them was found in Vietnam during a survey conducted by wildlife officers. However, the officers admitted problems with species identification.

The Fishing Cat is often not recognized as a Chinese species.  In 1986, it was reported to have probably disappeared from the western border regions of China.  One record from Taiwan from 1962 is now considered to be erroneous, while two other records from Yunnan from 1996 remain unclear. The existence of a stable population in China is unlikely, but there could well be Fishing cats occasionally roaming Into Guangxi or Yunnan near the Vietnam border.

© Dr. Alex Sliwa

Main threats

The greatest threat to the Fishing Cat across its range is destruction of wetlands and mangrove habitats through settlement, conversion to agriculture and aquaculture, excessive hunting, and wood-cutting.  The Fishing Cat may also be threatened by pollution of rivers through agriculture or waste water from fish farms. The depletion of fish stocks from over-fishing is prevalent in many Asian wetland environments and is likely to be a significant threat.  Fishing Cats are shot or poisoned because they raid poultry sheds and are believed to kill young domestic livestock.  Their pelts can still be found on wildlife markets.  They are also caught in fish traps or snares set for other species.  On Java, remaining wild populations were suspected to suffer from genetic decline because of population fragmentation.

Current and future protection

The Fishing Cat is protected by national legislation over most of its range. Local wildlife authorities in Yunnan and Guanxi should be made aware of the possible occurrence of the species in their provinces.

Source: IUCN/CSG Cat News Special Issue Autumn 2010

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