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World’s First Fishing Cat Census In Chilika

Context:

The Chilika Lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon, has 176 fishing cats, according to a census done by the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) in collaboration with the Fishing Cat Project (TFCP).

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About fishing cat
  2. About Chilika Lake

About fishing cat:

  • The fishing cat is a feline with a powerful build and stocky legs, almost twice the size of a conventional house cat.
  • It is a strong swimmer who dives into the water regularly to catch fish, as its name suggests.
  • It has been observed diving for fish.
  • It is nocturnal and feeds on frogs, crabs, snakes, birds, and carcasses of larger animals in addition to fish.
  • It can breed all year, however the peak breeding season in India is believed to be between March and May.
Conservation status
  • IUCN Red List: Endangered
  • CITES: Appendix II
  • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I

Threats:

  • The degradation of wetlands, which are the fishing cat’s preferred habitat, is one of the most serious dangers species faces.
  • The majority of India’s wetlands are under threat as a result of human settlement, agricultural drainage, pollution, and wood-cutting.
  • The reduction of the fishing cat’s principal prey-fish as a result of unsustainable fishing techniques is another issue.
  • It is also poached for its skin on rare occasions.

About Chilika Lake

  • Chilika Lake is a brackish water lagoon, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha state on the east coast of India.
  • It is situated at the mouth of the Daya River, flowing into the Bay of Bengal.
  • It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest brackish water lagoon in the world after The New Caledonian barrier reef.
  • In 1981, Chilika Lake was designated the first Indian wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
  • It has been listed as a TENTATIVE UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • It is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian sub-continent, hosting over 160 species of birds in the peak migratory season.
  • Birds from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea and other remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Kazakhstan, Central and southeast Asia, Ladakh and Himalayas come here.
  • Geological evidence indicates that Chilika Lake was part of the Bay of Bengal during the later stages of the Pleistocene period (1.8 million to 10,000 years BP).

Threats to Chilika Lake ecosystem

  • Over the years, the Chilika lake ecosystem of the lake encountered several problems and threats such as:
  • Siltation due to littoral drift and sediments from the inland river systems
  • Shrinkage of water surface area
  • Choking of the inlet channel as well as shifting of the mouth connecting to the sea
  • Decrease in salinity and fishery resources
  • Proliferation of freshwater invasive species and
  • An overall loss of biodiversity with decline in productivity adversely affecting the livelihood of the community that depended on it
  • Fights between fishermen and non-fishermen communities about fishing rights in the lake and consequent court cases.

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October 2022
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