CAT in WATER: The Fishing Cat Wants to Swim
Rip Ear, a wild male fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), triggers a camera trap hidden on a fish farm in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. This endangered and elusive cat has rarely been photographed in the wild. Scientists estimate fewer than 10,000 remain scattered around Thailand, Bangladesh, India and a handful of other countries. A few years ago, researcher Passanan "Namfon" Cutter discovered a new and rather robust population of fishing cats living intertwined with a fishing village in southeast Thailand. \nAs part of her research, Cutter photographs fishing cats using simple camera traps and bait in the form of raw chicken bought from the grocery store. I worked under the guidance of Cutter and her assistants, using the same bait to get this image. The cats are already living in an impacted environment, finding their food from a variety of human and natural sources. I used a DSLR camera trap with TrailMaster infrared trigger, three flashes, the handyman skills of Ruj the research assistant and scouting skills of Lung Oeow a fish farmer to get the shot.\nFishing cats are under pressure from extreme habitat loss, especially from shrimp farming, and revenge killing. While we were there, Rip Ear showed up with a new scar across his eye. It's possible he is battling another male (also spotted in the area) as the land around him becomes more developed. During my time there, we saw his home almost entirely converted into a new shrimp farm. We were lucky though. Even with the development, Rip Ear paid our camera a visit towards the end of a 7-week expedition, as if to say he will keep surviving amidst the change, so long as a little room is left for him to roam. \nAs an aside, we found out that the land around Rip Ear's home is available to rent for an astoundingly small sum by U.S. standards, about $1,700 for the year. Before leaving Thailand, some of our images along with the initiative of The WILD Foundation raised enough money to rent fishing cat habitat in the area for one year…so far. Conservation of the fishing cat still has a long way to go to find permanent solutions, but it’s nice to know that people came together to help buy this endangered species some time, at least in Sam Roi Yod.