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The staff at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall are hoping that romance is on the cards, as a new male fishing cat (pictured) goes on display.
The male, called Ozil, will join Newquay’s existing fishing cat Freya and it is hoped that this rare pair will go on to produce kittens.
Fishing cats are medium-sized wild cats that can be found in the wetland areas of southeast Asia, northern India and Sri Lanka, such as swamps, marshes, lakes, creeks and mangrove forests.
As their name suggests, this species of wild cat catch their prey by ‘fishing’ for fish, frogs and crustaceans. They have been observed gently touching the water with their paws to produce waves, mimicking insects landing on the surface of the water, and catching the attention of fish. Fishing cats are strong swimmers, helped by their partially-webbed paws, and will dive into the water to catch their prey.
Unfortunately, fishing cats are classed as ‘vulnerable’ in the wild, due to the destruction and pollution of their wetland habitats. Wetlands are among the most endangered environments on Earth, and Wild Planet Trust – the charity that runs both Newquay Zoo and Paignton Zoo – has been working to conserve threatened wetland habitats here in the South West for almost 100 years with a reserve at Slapton Ley on the South Devon coast.
As the number of fishing cats decline, organisations like Newquay Zoo are playing an important role in helping to house and breed the species as part of a European breeding program and to spread awareness of this lesser-known cat.
Megan McEvoy, Newquay Zoo Carnivore Keeper, said: “Our female fishing cat Freya is very shy, so it can sometimes be a challenge to spot her. However, with the addition of Ozil, visitors will have double the chance of seeing this beautiful animal. With any luck, we may have some kittens in the future too!”
Newquay Zoo is part of Wild Planet Trust, a registered charity dedicated to helping halt species decline through science, education and conservation. Breeding rare animals like fishing cats not only helps to increase the ex-situ population, but allows scientists to observe the behaviours of the species.
The fishing cats can be found next to the Philippine spotted deer enclosure in the middle of the zoo. Click below to find out more about fishing cats: