Fishing Cat That Quacks Like A Duck Surprises Scientists By Hunting In Trees

The study, published in the journal Mammalia, unveiled a unique behavior exhibited by the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) in Bangladesh. These medium-sized wild cats, primarily known for their aquatic hunting skills, have been discovered hunting in the treetops, marking the first time such activity has been observed. Fishing cats, which live in South and Southeast Asia, are considered vulnerable by the IUCN due to various human-induced threats. According to a 2020 paper, only 6 to 11 percent of the areas inhabited by fishing cats and two other wild cats in the Prionailurus genus are protected.

What sets fishing cats apart from other wild cats is their peculiar vocalizations that somewhat resemble a duck’s quack. This unexpected quack has been verified in several reports.

The unusual finding came from cameras placed in the tree canopy in northeast Bangladesh while scientists were studying bird colonies. These cameras captured fishing cats snatching chicks from bird nests as high as 8 meters (26 feet). Although fishing cats have several adaptations for aquatic hunting, their treetop hunting is a new addition to their predatory behavior.

The discovery answers a longstanding mystery regarding how fishing cats can survive in areas prone to seasonal flooding, as it appears they supplement their diet of river fish with occasional bird chicks. However, their treetop hunting does not offer protection against their most significant threat: human conflict. The study mentions that approximately one new human-fishing cat conflict is reported in Bangladesh every two weeks. Therefore, prioritizing conservation efforts targeting fishing cats is essential, as all feasible mitigation measures need to be scientifically assessed.

Additionally, a stable population of wetland bird colonies, possibly the result of fishing cats subsidizing their diet, could prove beneficial for both the wetlands and local communities that rely on them. The need to expand and protect habitats for these rare and elusive cats, alongside other species in the Prionailurus genus, cannot be overstated, according to the study’s co-author, Mats Björklund.

.st1{display:none}See more