On the occurrence of the Fishing Cat Prionailurus viverrinus Bennet, 1833 (Carnivora: Felidae) in coastal Kerala, India

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R. Janardhanan
S. Mukherjee
P.V. Karunakaran
R. Athreya


The Fishing Cat Prionailurus viverrinus is classified as Endangered in the IUCN Red List and yet its distribution range within India is not resolved. In spite of its potential habitat being present in coastal Kerala, there are only a few, unsubstantiated records of the cat. Moreover, its occurrence in Sri Lanka strengthens the possibility of its presence (historical or current population) in southern India, including Kerala. This survey was conducted to assess the occurrence of the Fishing Cat in coastal Kerala through personal informal interviews with local people and molecular analysis of scats. The study failed to find any evidence of the occurrence of Fishing Cat in the coastal areas of Kerala. We discuss two possibilities - one, of the species existing earlier but driven to extinction in recent decades, due to high levels of land conversion through anthropogenic activities in these areas and the other of the Fishing Cat having never occurred in coastal Kerala. A speculative reasoning for its absence from the region could be related to the difference in salinity levels between the eastern and western coasts of India which has already been documented. Moreover, fewer freshwater sources merge into the sea in coastal areas of Kerala as compared to the eastern coast of India. This could limit the distribution of the Fishing Cat. The argument was also supported by the lack of any authentic report till date or of local names for the Fishing Cat in the region.

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