Fishing Cat Debuts at National Zoo

New Fishing Cat Debuts at Smithsonian’s National Zoo

In cat speak, “Hubba hubba.”

Lek, meet Electra. Electra, meet Lek. They might only be able to peek at each other right now in side-by-side enclosures, but soon, these two fishing cats could just help their species get one more kitten away from extinction.

The Smithsonian Institute’s National Zoo debuted their newest addition to the Asia Trail fishing cat family, Thursday, February, 24, 2011 — Lek a 1-year-old male fishing cat from the Cincinnati Zoo. Lek and Elektra are two of just 38 fishing cats in the United States. Scientists hope the pair will breed as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan. Right now as few as 10,000 of their brethren remain in the world.

Drastic declines in fishing cat numbers in the last five years, likely from wetland destruction and poaching, prompted the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to change the cat’s status from vulnerable to endangered last year.

The breeding program could not only bolster populations of this extremely rare species, but give biologists new insights into the lives of a cat that so far has remained mostly a mystery.

“Fishing cats are a species that we don’t know a lot about yet,” said Courtney Janney, animal keeper at the Zoo in a press release. “Unlike other cat species, fishing cats aren’t known for being climbers or jumpers; instead they go in to the water on a regular basis. They have unique adaptations that allow them to live in the underbrush of riverbanks. They’re really a unique species.”

So Electra, Lek, enjoy some fine diving and fish on the house, and let the fireworks fly.

Support the Kickstarter project to document them in the wild  here.

You can learn more about the cats and the breeding program here.

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