The increasing incidences of human attacks on fishing cats in West Bengal, often resulting in the deaths of the animals, has become a major cause of concern for the state forest department.
The department officials admit that a lack of awareness amongst the people of these fishing cats, which is incidentally the state animal in West Bengal, is the main reason behind the attacks.
A senior department official said that there are lots of misconceptions about these fishing cats, which are often mistaken as mini-leopards because of the patterns on their coats.
When these fishing cats enter the human habitations, the local villagers often kill them out of this misconception.
“So, there is a necessity to create an awareness drive about fishing cats among local people,” the official said.
In order to eradicate the misconceptions, the orest department has decided to accelerate the pace of its awareness drive by conducting increasing number of workshops involving NGOs dealing with animals rights issues as well as experts and teachers from the zoology sector.
“We started the zawareness drive in November last year but organising workshops has not been frequent. But now we want to increase the numbers and frequencies of such workshops with the assistance of independent experts and NGOs,” the department official said.
Last year, the department conducted a census of fishing cats in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans area.
Under that project camera-traps were laid.
Analyzing the footage, it has been revealed that currently there are 385 fishing cats scattered over the four ranges of Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary, National Park East, National Park West Bengal and Basirhat.
That fishing cat census in the Sundarbans was the second of its kind in the world after the first one on this count being conducted at Chilika lake in Odisha in June last year in joint collaboration between The Fishing Cat Project (TFCP) and the Chilika Development Authority.
The number of fishing cats detected in the Chilika region then was 176, which was less than 50 per cent of the number detected in the Sunderban census this time.