The endangered fishing cat has been caught on camera roaming in the southwest of the country for the first time in more than 12 years in images released by a conservation NGO.
The images of the fishing cat were caught on cameras set up in Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk provinces by Cambodia’s Center for Biodiversity Conservation (CBC), the group said in a statement.
Ret Thaung, the project leader from Fauna & Flora International (FFI), which is partnered with the Royal University of Phnom Penh in the CBC, said yesterday she was “very surprised” by the discovery of the felines—the first official record of the species in the country since 2003.
“We didn’t think they were going to be extinct but it’s very hard to find them. We were very surprised and excited that we could locate the fishing cats in the sanctuary,” Ms. Thaung said.
Following leads gathered during surveys of local villagers, CBC researchers placed 32 cameras at five locations across the country to monitor wildlife.
The cameras also recorded a variety of other threatened species including the critically endangered sunda pangolin, the endangered hog deer, the vulnerable smooth-coated otter, the large-spotted civet and the sambar deer.
The fishing cat—which is larger in size than a domestic cat, lives predominantly off fish and can cover long distances underwater—is thought to be extinct in Vietnam, while there are no confirmed records in Laos, Ms. Thaung said in the statement.
According to the International Society for Endangered Cats, the species is common in areas of eastern India and Bangladesh but recent studies suggest the global population is in significant decline.
Despite the two sightings, more needs to be done to protect the species, which have been hunted for their meat or killed in retaliation for damaging the nets of fishermen, the statement said.
“To prevent their extinction, first we need to work for their habitat protection and also to protect from the local people who are involved with the species,” Ms. Thaung said by telephone.
A conservation plan is underway in the areas where the cats were filmed, the statement said.
© 2015, George Wright. All rights reserved.