Shining A Light On Aquarius At The Big Cat Sanctuary
by The Big Cat Sanctuary
This month we’re shining the light on one of our smallest cat residents – the one and only Aquarius, our wonderful Fishing Cat. Aquarius was born at the Rare Species Conservation Centre in Dover in April 2011, joining our family at The Big Cat Sanctuary along with his brother and sister, Neptune and Angel, July of the same year. Angel transferred to Drayton Manor Zoo in December 2012, whilst Neptune moved to Zoo Parc de Tregomeur in May 2016, following a recommendation to breed.
But, what is a Fishing Cat?
The Fishing Cat is a wonderful species that is found in wetlands, rivers, and mangrove forests in South and Southeast Asia. Like many other rare species, not much is known about them in the wild. Fishing Cats are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List, with recent surveys suggesting that their population in all inhabitable countries is declining at an alarming rate. The main threats to their numbers are habitat destruction, poaching and a general lack of awareness throughout their range.
Aquarius is a very lovable cat, who is held in great affection by all members of our keeper team, but it is Keeper Simon who shares a special bond with Aquarius; “I just think they are brilliant creatures – I love the look of Fishing Cats, their almost otter-shaped heads and semi-webbed paws which both help them to be strong swimmers.”
Fishing Cats are similar in size and shape to common domestic cats. However, it is the features mentioned by Simon above that make them so well adapted to their water-based natural habitats. Although similar in size and shape, Fishing Cats are much larger than domestic cats, weighing in at around 9-10kgs (compared to the average 3-5kg weight we see in our household feline friends).
“I feel that we are very lucky to have a Fishing Cat in our collection here at the Sanctuary,” says Keeper Simon, “smaller cats have such large, cheeky personalities. However, zoos are less likely to have smaller cats and I love being able to introduce people to this interesting, different species and educate them about the fascinating wild cousin of the domestic cat.”
Earlier in the month, we were incredibly honoured to have Ashwin Naidu, Co-Founder and Director of the Fishing Cat Conservancy join us for our #ConservationConversation event of the year. We gained some brilliant insights into the invaluable work that the Conservancy is carrying out to address the issues surrounding habitat loss due to aquaculture and agriculture in coastal Andhra Pradesh, and its impact on fishing cats and the local ecosystems. The event was introduced by our very own Head Keeper Briony, who focused on the range of small wild cats that we have residing here at the sanctuary, and the small cat projects we support around the world.
We were very proud to be able to present Ashwin with a donation of £1,000 from The Big Cat Sanctuary and the Zoological Society of Hertfordshire Paradise Wildlife Park towards their important and vital work and projects. A huge thanks to Ashwin for travelling across the globe to speak and share his knowledge and expertise with us; Ashwin we hope to have you visit us again soon
The Big Cat Sanctuary
Address: Headcorn Road, Smarden, Ashford, TN27 8PJ