Our chickens are great: two black Cochin Bantam chickies which we purchased from a pet shop, along with two shiny cages for them. Out trapping is done in a humane way. No one gets hurt. The chickens are kept in separate enclosures close to the trap cages, and provide sound and visual cues that are supposed to catch the fishing cats’ attention. Once the cat is in the area, we use other methods to trap it. The chickens and the cats never mingle, and everyone is happy!
The chickens were bought and transported with their cages, a bag of rice and two empty yogurt cups – water bowls! – to our study site. Setting things up the chickens caused quite a stir and we were instantly surrounded by most of the workers at the study site. Numerous questions were thrown at us, “what breed were the chickens, how old, were they going to be killed, how long will they be used, what would happen to them after we caught the cat” etc. etc. The workers stood around us for about 20 minutes, crooning over the chickens when a booming voice from across the car park – their supervisor – said “What is wrong with you all? Haven’t you guys seen chickens before!?”, and with that, the crowd evaporated into thin air.
We made our way to the trap site, and while we moseyed on down, we thought of names for our chickens. Naming them was serious business. Careful thought and consideration was put into this process, and 30 seconds later we had: Humphrey and Stan. The names were perfect. Strange, but perfect. Utterly proud of the names we came up with, we continued on our journey, when suddenly Maduranga noticed that Stan was female. We had to start over and find a fabulous female name. Sally, Sophia and Stephanie? No, those wouldn’t work.
Fi and I racked our brains, but just when we felt we were making no progress at all, Maduranga suggested Sampath. Of course!
Why Sampath? Here’s why.
Dr. Ganga (she was the head vet at our National Zoo a few years back) and Neville (Section Manager of Small Carnivores at the Aspinall Foundation Port Lympne) have worked together for years, and whenever there are new kittens at the Aspinall Foundation, she sends Nev a list of local names (they name their cats using local names from their countries of origin). So when two rusty kittens were born at the zoo a few years ago, Neville named the male Ruwan, and his sister Sampath. When Fi told Maduranga and I this story last year, we both nearly passed out from laughing! Thus, it was decided. The female chicken would be called Sampath.
And that’s when Fi’s and my competitive streaks ignited. Trash talking ensued, psyching out the others chicken followed, wagers were made, Maduranga started meditating – I’m actually quite impressed at his level of patience. If I was him, I would have abandoned us a long time ago! If Sampath lured a chicken into her cage, then Fi would have to buy us cake, and if Humphrey lured a chicken to his cage, then it would be me buying the cake. Fair enough.
Unfortunately, the fishing cat had other plans. No sooner had we laid our traps, baiting them with wonderful sights and sounds, the fishing cat started playing his games. It’s a popular belief that cats love boxes. Well apparently, fishing cats, don’t. This fellow avoided our cages like the plague. I mean, he wouldn’t go anywhere near them. It was as if some sort of restraining order had been issued against him.
So now, it’s a waiting game. It’s us versus the cat. Who will fold first. Will the cat succumb to his curiosity and enter our cage? Or will we lose our minds while we anticipate its next move. However, one thing is very clear: this cat is really enjoying toying with us.