With webbed feet and a tail for a rudder, Asia’s fishing cats face shrinking habitats. But conservation efforts in West Bengal are helping it swim against the tide
For more than a decade, wildlife biologist Tiasa Adhya has spent many a day (and night) in a small wooden boat, silently gliding through dense vegetation in the wetlands and mangroves of West Bengal, scanning the banks for signs of a rarely seen wild cat – the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus).
“Fishing cats are fascinating animals,” she says. “They have co-inhabited riverine deltas and floodplains alongside humans for centuries. Ancient cultures like the Khmer empire show evidence of fishing cats.” As co-founder of the world’s longest-running fishing cat research and conservation project, Kolkata-based Adhya is dedicated to this endangered felid, one of the least-studied and understood wildcats.