I hope everyone who celebrated American Thanksgiving had a good one! Last week I left for the holiday after reading about some really exciting news, which I didn't miss and about which I will have more to say as soon as I've read every reputable article I can get my hands on.
The Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is a wildcat of medium size which can be found in southeast Asia. It is the largest extant example of the Prionailurus genus, growing up to 31 inches (78 cm) in body length with a 12-inch (30 cm) tail. They can weigh as much as 35 pounds (16 Kg). Their skulls are elongated, giving them a flat-nosed look with their ears set far back on their head. The claws of the Fishing Cat cannot be fully retracted, and despite their affinity for water their toes are less webbed than their Leopard Cat cousins.
Fishing Cats can be found primarily in the Terai region of the Himalayan foothils (eastern India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal), although they have a broad but broken distribution throughout Asia. Their presence was recently confirmed in Cambodia. Fishing Cats are excellent swimmers. They can swim for long distances, and unlike many other kinds of cats, they don't mind submerging themselves completely underwater and swimming. About 75% of their diet consists of fish. The rest is made up of other aquatic or amphibious animals like molluscs and frogs, as well as reptiles, birds and rodents. They are mainly nocturnal animals.
The Fishing Cat is identified by locals by many other names. In West Bengal, where the Fishing Cat is the state animal, it is called baghrol or maachbagha (fish tiger). In Sri Lanka, it is known as Handoon Deeva. Chaurya Bagh is its name in Garhwal Himalaya. Their specialized hunting and diet means that they can be found primarily along rivers, streams, and in mangrove swamps.
Fishing Cats will mate at any time of the year, although reproduction is most commonly timed so that kittens are born in the spring. After a gestation period of about 63 to 70 days, female Fishing Cats will give birth to a litter of two or three kittens. Expectant mothers will claim secluded dens, such as a thicket of reeds, in order to provide the kittens with protection until they are about two months old, when they will begin playing in the water and can move with ease.
Fishing Cats are under threat from habitat degradation, as they depend on wetlands for their survival. Overfishing is another threat to these cats as well, as it depletes the amount of available prey. They are listed as Endangered by the IUCN, and they are protected from hunting in China, Cambodia, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Pakistan (even though no evidence of the Fishing Cat's presence in Pakistan has been confirmed for a long time).