Ecology and Behavior of Fishing Cats in Urban Habitats of Sri Lanka

Dr. Eric Wikramanayake

A mid-size cat that looks like a small leopard, the fishing cat has charismatic value to qualify as a flagship species for conservation of urban green areas in Sri Lanka. Using camera traps, we have confirmed their presence from several sites in and around Colombo. The study indicated that fishing cats are active within 100 meters of dense human habitation. But we also found that fishing cats are trapped by people because of real and perceived threats to poultry; thus there is a human-wildlife conflict. The trapped animals are usually handed over to the zoo authorities who subsequently release them elsewhere but some animals are killed.

These 'urban fishing cats' are also threatened by habitat loss. The marshes and other wetlands they inhabit are being rapidly filled for housing developments, despite the important ecological role they play as sinks and drainages for flood water. Our study attempts to learn more about the distribution and ecology of the fishing cat in urban habitats and treat it as a focal, charismatic species to conserve the important wetlands and the ecological communities within them.

Since virtually nothing is known about its ecology and behavior, we now propose to use radio-telemetry to determine the ranging behavior and ecology of this species in urban and wild habitats. This study will also provide insights into how predators modify behavior to survive in human-dominated landscapes.

The study is conducted in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo and the Open University of Sri Lanka.

Suchitra Balagalle
Open University, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Dr. K. Padmalal
O pen University, Colombo, Sri Lanka