I frequently get emails from people who are interested in seeing how they can help with the project, and one of the most fun ways to do so is by engaging in citizen science. Citizen science is science that’s conducted by people who are not full-time scientists, and is hugely important for small conversation projects like ours. The concept is gaining popularity worldwide, and we would love to see more Sri Lankans become citizen scientists!
Recently, I was privileged to deliver a WNPS lecture on small wild cats in Sri Lanka. A big portion of the talk was of course dedicated to my work at the Urban Fishing Cat Conservation Project, here in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
While I’ve given talks before, I was simply blown away by the interest shown by this particular audience, and I spent over an hour after the event, chatting to many people who shared my enthusiasm for protecting our fishing cats.
Something that nearly everyone asked me, both at the talk, and in the days after, is how can I help? I hope this post answers that question!
My submission to Small Wild Cat Conservation News 2016, with a few additional titbits.
Getting people in Sri Lanka to pay attention to anything that does not involve the Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) is definitely a challenge. Many do not find smaller mammals very interesting, which makes getting funding from local companies especially hard. However, in November 2015, I approached MAS Active Linea Intimo (MAS LI), a branch of MAS Holdings, which is one of the largest manufacturers of apparel in the region. Chances are, they manufacture a lot of the fancy sports wear you own! The CEO of MAS LI, Chelan Goonetilleke is a known wildlife enthusiast, so I tried my luck in pitching my proposal to him. While driving to the factory in the Board of Investments (BOI) zone in Biyagama, east of Colombo, I kept going over my presentation in my mind, but tried to play it cool. I had been turned down numerous times before, and Chelan had only 30 minutes to sit with me, so I knew I was not going to get a second shot at it.
Last October a team from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZSCF) landed in sunny Sri Lanka to discuss a dugong project. In-between these discussions, they dabbled with grantees who received funds that year. I, was one of them. Here’s the amazing film they made on the urban fishing cats in Sri Lanka!
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!
Last year, we were approached by Plimsoll Productions, about participating in a documentary called “The Story of Cats“. We were to be filmed for the segment on fishing cats (obviously!). Since ITV doesn’t air in Sri Lanka, one of Fi’s friends dropped her a text saying that she saw us on TV. So after quite a bit of searching, I came across the video. Due to streaming rights, I can’t post the link here. You’ll have to do some digging yourself.
If any of you have been to the old Environmental Foundation (Guarantee) Limited office, you know that it’s in the heart of Thimbirigasyaya. A hot and dusty spot, slap bang behind a petrol shed, and like all great petrol sheds, we are often welcomed with the aroma of fresh pressed petrol fumes every once in awhile.
After about 2 years of science, it is finally time to get the proverbial ball rolling on the whole awareness aspect of my work. I’m a strong believer that awareness and education plays a massive role in conservation efforts. Yes, science does a lot, but most people aren’t scientists. Have you tried reading a journal article? They are really technical and unless you know the background, can be quite daunting. So how could I expect someone from a non-science background to read the sciency stuff? But, awareness is fun, so I am glad that we got funds to do this!
Two weeks ago, we accidentally caught a fishing cat.
The cage triggered, because the wire which we used to keep the door open, had snapped. But before I go into too much detail, let’s go over a few things. Things that must be done before trapping a cat.