National Geographic tell us that extensive camera trap surveys in key fishing cat habitats have failed to produce one positive sighting of this medium-sized, water-loving wild cat species.
It is sad to say that the last sighting of the fishing cat in Java was before 1990, believe it or not. The fishing cat habitat in Indonesia was exclusively in Java in a number of national parks and other protected areas in the interior of the country.
Leopard cats (a small wild cat species) and leopards have been spotted by camera traps but not a single fishing cat.
Fishing cats used to be found in 11 countries in Southeast and South Asia. We are told that they are virtually extinct in Vietnam and Cambodia. A small remnant population exists in Thailand but not enough for the population to be sustainable. Conservationists have not adequately surveyed fishing populations in Burma (Myanmar).
As usual, the threats to this wild cat’s survival come from humans who destroy their habitat, kill them in retaliation for losing livestock, road accidents and drowning in fishing nets.
The so-called experts on the survival and extinction of all species, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species tell us that population numbers are declining across the entire range. There has been a global population decline of 30% or more over the past 15 years.
Jim Saunderson, a world renown expert on small wild cat species and the manager of Global Wildlife Conservation’s Small Wild Cat Conservation Programme said:
“The replacement of coastal mangroves with industrial fish and shrimp farms has caused a massive loss of prey and habitat. To feed itself and their kittens, fishing cats have no choice but to turn to poultry and farmed fish, bringing them into conflict with people – retaliation is both swift and deadly.”
He goes on to say that heroic efforts are required with respect to conservation to protect this wild cat species in Java, if there are any left, and in the other south-east Asian countries.