The Javan cat uses its paws to lure fish–nature’s true angler. But it’s in trouble.
The Javan fishing cat gently uses its paws to mimic insects on the top of the water, essentially luring curious fish right into its jaws. But people in the small Southeast Asian island of Java haven’t seen the cat in more than two decades.
Anthony Giordano is a conservation biologist who has launched a survey to asses the status of the, now deemed endangered, Javan fishing cat.
“Is it the rarest cat in the world? It quite possibly could be, if it’s still alive.”
The Javan fishing cat was last documented in the 1990s, when the last survey was held. And that was only confirmed by finding its tracks.
“Fishing cat tracks are fairly distinctive. There’s very little you can confuse it with particularly on an island like Java,” says Giordano. “Fishing cat tracks are really interesting in the sense that unlike other cats, on average you’ll see the claws in their prints due to their semi-retractable claw system.”
Java has a similar feline on its island: the leopard cat. Both cats look similar but only the fishing cat has webbed paws built for water and its unique fishing skill. People on the island have seen the leopard cat but not the fishing cat.
Java has seen incredible growth and development, specifically in the wetlands and mangroves of the island- the fishing cat’s habitat.
“Java only has about 12 per cent of its original mangroves. This is the death knell for fishing cats,” says Giordano.
The Javan fishing cat has been victim of habitat destruction and poaching which may have wiped out their entire species.
But Giordano and other hopeful scientists are hoping that the survey has positive sightings of these elusive cats.
“It’s a small cat, but don’t tell the fishing cat that. It’s a really badass cat — they’re not to be trifled with,” he says. “They’re also adaptable.”
The conservationists in charge of the survey will start with interviewing communities across the island to see if anyone has seen the cat. Next, they will distribute educational information to promote public awareness about the cat’s habitat loss. Finally, they will canvas the island and make sure that suitable habitat for the cat– wet, marshy areas– are protected as best as they can be.
If you would like to donate to the project, and keep track of the progress on finding the Javan fishing cat, go here.