SUBJECT : Fishing Cats in troubled waters

Vijayawada, May 23rd: The Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary with the potential to become the world’s first reserve of the Fishing Cat has become a bone of contention. Ironically two government departments seem to be at loggerheads over it. While the Revenue Department wants to lay a road through it, the Forest Department is against it. The Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus ) is the State animal of West Bengal. In 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) classified the Fishing Cat as endangered. Fishing Cat population is threatened by destruction of wetlands. It lives mostly in the vicinities of wetlands, along rivers in swamps, and mangrove forests.

The Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary runs alongside the Krishna estuary.

According to the AP Forest Department website, the sanctuary is one of the rarest eco-regions of the world with vast tracts of pristine mangrove forests. Conservationists believe that it is the last remaining tracts of pristine mangrove forests in South India. The mangrove forest is rapidly disappearing for want of adequate protection.

The Fishing Cat is about twice the size of the domestic cat, having a stocky, muscular build. They are considered to be primarily nocturnal.

The mangroves line the entire estuary protected by the sanctuary. The region is believed to hold one of the most significant populations of the Fishing Cat in the world and yet no concrete survey of it has been taken up. The other animals recorded at the sanctuary include the Indian python, Common Sand Boa, John’s Sand Boa, and the more than eight rare snakes that have been classified as rare.

Trouble started with the district administration giving orders for laying a black-topped road through the sanctuary in preparation for the Krishna Pushkarams. Thousands take a holy dip at the mouth of the river considered highly holy. It is also considered a destination for offering obsequies to relatives and ancestors.

Official seeks protection

A pucca BT road is being planned in place of the muddy road that exists now. But no pucca roads are allowed in wildlife sanctuaries, forest officials say.

Nothing less than the National Wildlife Board has the power to approve the laying of road through a sanctuary.

The forest officials ran into rough weather when they told Krishna District Collector Babu Ahmed that a road could not be laid through the sanctuary.

But the district administration reportedly told them that the road would be laid and they could do whatever they wanted to stop it.

Caught between the devil and the deep sea, the Forest Range Officer has written to the higher-ups to arrange police protection to “implement rules governing wildlife sanctuaries.”

Meanwhile, conservationists have entered the scene and want to take the issue to the Supreme Court Empowered Committee. The Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary is becoming yet another human-wildlife conflict zone.

Source: The Hindu