Cat in the net

The fish­ing cat is threat­ened by habi­tat de­struc­tion in Howrah


Ia two-hour drive from Kolkata to reach our study site, a place in Howrah dot­ted with cul­ti­vated marshy reed beds, rice fields and ponds. In the evenings, one can hear a pe­cu­liar sound— barks of a dog em­bed­ded in a cat’s tone. This is the sound of the fish­ing cat ( Pri­on­ail­u­rus viver­ri­nus), an an­i­mal as big as a do­mes­tic dog with stripes and blotches streak­ing its griz­zled grey coat. Known lo­cally as baghrol or gob­agha, it vis­its the area to catch fish in the ponds and is an in­te­gral part of the so­cial ecosys­tem.

On June 5 this year,while the world was cel­e­brat­ing World En­vi­ron­ment Day, a dif­fer­ent kind of cel­e­bra­tion was tak­ing place in Howrah. Five res­i­dents in Hafi­j­gunj vil­lage in Mun­sirhat tehsil hunted five fish­ing cats.How­ever,the men com­mit­ted an er­ror: they got them­selves pho­tographed.

On June 10, a pho­to­graph of one of the poach­ers about to be­head a fish­ing cat was posted on a so­cial net­work­ing site and went vi­ral across the world. It caused an out­rage which, in turn, gave birth to a global pe­ti­tion where more than 5,000 peo­ple from 49 coun­tries urged the chief wildlife war­den of the West Ben­gal for­est depart­ment to bring


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