The fishing cat is a medium-sized wild cat distributed in South and Southeast Asia. Due to its elusive character, this species is not well studied. Fishing cats are aquatic specialists and are typically found close to wetlands such as rivers, streams, oxbow lakes, swamps, mangroves as well as commercial fish ponds, where they feed primarily on fish. A rapid disappearance of wetlands throughout their range and persecution by humans has put them on the brink of extinction in many countries.
In Nepal, they are distributed along the Mid Hills (Terai) region with discrete populations in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, and Parsa, Chitwan, Bardiya and Shuklaphanta National Parks. Outside the protected areas, fishing cats are mainly recorded from Jagdishpur reservoir (a Ramsar site). No evidence is available on a possible genetic exchange between these populations and the different populations may well be isolated from each other, which may result in inbreeding depression.
To fill the information gap on the ecology of fishing cats, a PhD project aims to study population size and distribution, threat status, ecology and population linkages of fishing cats as well as their relationship with local communities. To this end, Leo Foundation has signed an agreement with the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC).