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Protecting key habitats for Fishing cats in Nepal with Himalayan Nature

Taronga is working with Himalayan Nature to protect key habitats for the endangered fishing cat in Nepal, as part of the Taronga Field Conservation Grants program.

Here’s the latest update from our Research and Conservation Coordinator, Monique Van Sluys, who has joined the project team in Kathmandu and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve:

The lodge where I was staying had a hide for bird watching and we decided to go there at dusk in the hope of seeing fishing cats.

We’d seen footprints nearby in the morning, so we knew there were fishing cats active in the area. We waited in silence for about 20 minutes. Just when I thought it was too dark to see anything, Iain Taylor from Charles Sturt University spotted something walking at the water's edge.

I could not believe it - it was a fishing cat! It stopped right in front of the hide and I had a perfect glance at its back (with binoculars).

The following day we went on a boat trip in a motorless inflatable boat, drifting downstream with a local boatman 'guiding' the boat. Whenever we saw what seemed to be a suitable habitat, we stopped to look for fishing cat footprints. We found several.

The flight back to Kathmandu after a week in the field was not without emotions, as the weather was awful. I could not see anything for the whole flight as a cold front was sitting over Nepal, from the Himalayas to the lowlands in the south.

I visited the Himalayan Nature headquarters and spent some time with staff, talking about their projects. Their team really works hard and is very community-oriented.

Yesterday I visited a 'vulture restaurant', supported by Himalayan Nature and also WWF. The idea is to have a 'retirement place' for old cows – as a hindu country killing cows is not acceptable – that can also work as a place to attract vultures.

It's still in its early stages, but the community wants to develop an eco-tourism/awareness program about the vultures. I was asked to present binoculars to the community in recognition of Taronga's support to conservation in Nepal. It was a very small gesture, but it was received as a huge present by the community.

-  Monique

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