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ESR 54:1-13 (2024)  -  DOI:

Density estimation of the globally threatened fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus through a participatory science approach in the Chilika lagoon, eastern India

Tiasa Adhya1,2,*, Soumya Banerjee3, Partha Dey2, Susanta Nanda4,5, Soumyadip Santra6, Iptishamun Nesha6

1Centre for Conservation of Natural Resources, The University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology, 74/2, Jarakabande Kaval, Post Attur Via Yelahanka, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560064, India
2Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance, PO Box 1488, Navasota, Texas 77868, USA
3Research Range, Sundarban Tiger Reserve, Canning Town, 24 Parganas (South), West Bengal 743329, India
4Chilika Development Authority, Plot No. 493(P), Palashpalli, Pokhariput Road, Bhubaneswar, 751020 Odisha, India
5Odisha Forest Department, Aranyabhawan Plot No. 2/12 Chandrasekharpur, Bhubaneswar, 751023 Odisha, India
6Shyampur Siddheswari Mahavidyalaya, University of Calcutta, Ajodhya, Shyampur, Howrah 711312, India
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus is an Indo-Malayan wetland-dependent felid which is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Its main prey, fish, has low energetic demands and is abundant in productive aquatic habitats. This facilitates high piscivore densities and potentially alters expected scaling patterns that link population density to the body mass of small cats. With local community participation, we estimated the density of the fishing cat in Chilika, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon, located in the state of Odisha, eastern India, with community participation. The study was carried out in 2 phases in different habitats during 2021 and 2022: a homogeneous marshy habitat and its buffer (Northern Block), and a heterogeneous matrix of different land-use types (Southern Block). We deployed a total of 144 camera traps across 4380 trap nights. Using spatially explicit capture-recapture (SECR), we estimated mean (±SE) fishing cat density to be 0.69 ± 0.1 ind. km-2 in the Northern Block and 0.67 ± 0.33 ind. km-2 in the Southern Block. The population abundance estimates for the Northern and the Southern Blocks were 159 ± 23 and 185 ± 91 respectively. In the former, SECR modelling indicated an effect of anthropogenic habitat modification upon the species’ home range extent. Our density estimates are amongst the highest reported for the species outside protected areas. The results imply that Chilika holds an abundant population of the fishing cat, the continued persistence of which requires mitigation of local and external threats to fish populations. Furthermore, our study, with its inclusive approach, sets a precedent for the use of camera trapping for obtaining robust density estimates of species with uniquely marked individuals in wetland habitats.

KEY WORDS: Fishing cat · Fish · Camera trap · Chilika · SECR · Participatory science · Semi-aquatic niche

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Cite this article as: Adhya T, Banerjee S, Dey P, Nanda S, Santra S, Nesha I (2024) Density estimation of the globally threatened fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus through a participatory science approach in the Chilika lagoon, eastern India. Endang Species Res 54:1-13.

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