A few days ago, the villagers of North Pirpur village of Rajapur police station of Uluberia sent the news of a baghrol (Bengal fishing cat) sighting after the cat had fallen into a well to the forest office. The cat was rescued and taken to an animal clinic. If that act was humane, another fishing cat was killed by beating it brutally on Thursday. Worse, hundreds of villagers crowded the place where the cat was killed to get selfies with the corpse. Animal lovers have condemned the incident.
But in spite of increasing numbers, there have been incidents of beating baghrols out of fear. Many people do not care to understand that this creature, which looks like a leopard, does not attack humans at all, much as it may be awe-inspiring as the size is much larger than that of a domestic cat.
Although the cat is considered vulnerable in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List, several of these fishing cats have been beaten to death in the recent past in Howrah and South 24 Parganas. In some areas, this animal is also referred to as a rabbit!
Twenty-five cases of fishing cats beaten to death were reported in Howrah. Chairman of the West Bengal Biodiversity Board, Ashokkanti Sanyal, said, “There was news of a ‘tiger’ being killed in a scuffle before the election. We believed the board would go there to raise awareness among the people. But that could not be done because of the elections. However, the Calcutta University survey team has been raising awareness for the last two years. After receiving a full report on some areas where they exist, the council will also start awareness camps in those areas. That work will start from scratch.”
A wildlife survey conducted on the fishing cat, declared as a State animal, showed that their habitats extended between East Midnapore, Nadia, Howrah, Hooghly, North and South 25 Parganas, Murshidabad and southern Bengal. Even in Kolkata police area, there are still a large number of animals of the species in Bantala. An interim report on the survey was submitted recently to the West Bengal Biodiversity Board.
Associated with this project are the University of Calcutta, the Zoological Survey of India, West Bengal Biodiversity Board and a private firm named ‘News’. The project has been under the supervision of Gautam Kumar Saha, Professor of Zoology at the Calcutta University for the last two years. Gautam said, “Although seen in the districts of southern Bengal, the presence of these cats has not yet been confirmed in the districts of north Bengal. The same applies for Bankura and Purulia, East and West Burdwan, West Midnapore. However, in districts where they have not yet been seen, a further round of surveying is expected before reaching a final decision. ”