The Cincinnati Zoo has one fishing cat, an older female. Behind the scenes at the zoo’s Night Hunters habitat, keepers can pump live fish into her artificial pond. The fishing cat swipes at the water to snag a fish with her piercing claws.
“She will put her whole head underwater to catch a fish. She taught her kittens how to fish in the pond. They love the water,” Carpenter said.
The felines are in decline across most of their range across India, Thailand and six other countries, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The group placed fishing cats on its “red list” of vulnerable or threatened species.
In Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, the little predators are proving to be resilient and adaptable living alongside 5.6 million people. The wild cats evolved to survive in wetlands. But in the city, they have become adept at keeping a low profile, said Anya Ratnayaka, a researcher with Global Wildlife Conservation.
Fishing cats traverse the city’s high walls, low culverts and underground drains during their nightly hunting patrols, she said.
“They are also incredibly good at hiding from people,” she said.