M3 Features

Eco-tourism project for the fishing cat

February 24, 2014

The Royal Bengal Tiger is our national animal, but which is our state animal? Hardly any of us are aware of it. Now, Presidency University, along with the state biodiversity board, is planning to develop a first-of-its-kind eco-tourism project revolving round the state animal of West Bengal — the fishing cat, in a bid to conserve the fast dwindling population of this small, but ferocious — and endangered — cat and its ever shrinking habitat in Howrah.

“This is definitely the first time in the state — and, probably, the first time in the country — that an eco-tourism project revolving round a state animal has been planned,” said Pranabesh Sanyal, former chief of the state forest department and currently a guest faculty in the geology department in Presidency University.

The proposal was submitted to the West Bengal Bio-diversity Board for funding recently after preliminary studies revealed that the marshes and wetlands sprawling over 7,000 hectares in the Panchla and Shyampur areas of Howrah, barely 30km from the heart of the city, account for by far the most dense population of this elusive creature in the entire state.

“Studies from pugmarks, scat collection, camera traps, sightings and data collected from locals suggest that there are about 400-500 of these cats in the area,” Sanyal said. Now, they are hardly found since the wetlands are fast shrinking.

According to the ecotourism proposal, locals will be trained to conserve the marshlands with two species of long grass, hoghla and khari, an ideal habitat for this wild creature. Their stems and leaves are used to erect walls, and weave mats and roofs of huts and are also sent to other states where they have a market. The villagers will be able to earn handsome returns from this. And it will, in turn, save the habitat of the animal.

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