Endangered fishing cat triggers panic in Bengal’s suburban town
Video footage of a large fishing cat walking down a deserted lane in Konnagar, a municipal town in Hooghly district less than 25 km from Kolkata, created panic among residents who mistook it for a leopard.
The fear was triggered by an incident reported in the first week of January in Bankura and Jhargram district where multiple pugmarks of a tigress and her cub were spotted by the forest department. Later, more pugmarks were found at Ghatsila in Jharkhand.
The footage of the fishing cat, the state animal of West Bengal, was captured by a close circuit television camera installed in a house at Kanaigram in Konnagar.
Fishing cats are listed as vulnerable species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The Dankuni wetlands, located less than 10 km away from the spot where the cat was spotted, is a fishing cat habitat.
“We have examined the footage. It is a fishing cat and not a leopard. Fishing cats do not harm humans,” said Ravi Kant Sinha, chief wildlife warden of West Bengal.
Over the past few days local people claimed to have seen parts of carcasses of birds, dogs and cats. They had been carrying sticks while leaving home at night or early morning. Some people in adjacent villages said they could hear loud roars at night.
“The footage shows the cat walking past a parked mini-truck. If we compare its size with that of the truck’s tyres, we can easily conclude that it is not a leopard. The animal had stripes on its back and not spots, which makes it a fishing cat,” said Biswajit Roy Chowdhury, a member of the state wildlife advisory body.
“Forest officials went to the spot to collect pugmarks. It seems to be a fishing cat,” said Rajib Banerjee, state forest minister.