The conservation status of fishing cats according to the IUCN Red List Category & criteria is Endangered A2cd+4cd ver 3.1. Despite being an endangered species, fishing cats in Sri Lanka - and in most parts of Asia - are a poorly studied species. In Sri Lanka they are most commonly seen inhabiting marshes and other wetlands, including in urban areas. However, with rapid urban development taking place, these wetlands are being filled. Therefore, it is now crucial to understand the ecology and behaviour of fishing cats in these urban wetlands, and integrate the conservation of these wetland habitats into urban development plans, as green areas.
In 2006, a pilot study was conducted to confirm and establish the presence of fishing cats in Colombo's urban wetlands. The study was conducted over an year, during which fishing cats were caught on camera, in several of these wetlands. However, the study had to be concluded due to security issues in Colombo and suburbs, as this was during the last stages of the country's civil war. In 2013, four years after the war ended, Colombo saw rapid development and many of the urban wetlands were cleared or filled with complete disregard for the importance of these habitats, and their biodiversity. The Environmental Foundation (Guarantee) Limited has recorded reports of fishing cats and other wildlife fleeing these wetlands when large machinery entered them. It was then that we decided to reconfirm the presence of cats in the wetlands, and understand if the cats still reside within these wetlands or if they had been pushed out of these habitats due to development practices.
Therefore, for this study, we will:
1) Estimate current fishing cat presence in Colombo's urban wetlands while urban development is being carried out, using camera traps.
a) Understand if development has affected fishing cat numbers in Colombo.
b) Understand fishing cat displacement within urban wetlands.
2) Integrate green areas for urban planning and create conservation awareness, using the fishing cats as a focal species we hope to:
a) Create a green city for green urban development, which in turn will help maintain healthy habitat biodiversity.
b) Develop the concept of an urban BioParks as a forum for conservation awareness and education, and for the conservation of biodiversity and ecological services.
Once all relevant data has been collected and analysed, we will work with the government, and other stakeholders in conserving these wetlands, by showing them that these habitats are not only vital for fishing cats and other urban wildlife, but also as sinks for flood runoff and control. In turn, we will work with these stakeholders to create a comprehensive wetland conservation and management protocol, so that these habitats could be protected and not cleared in the future.
Project 150510828 location - Sri Lanka, Asia