Fishing Cats are Afoot (PHOTOS)
11/17/11 – Namfon woke us with a sturdy knock and bearing two cups of organic coffee at 6 a.m. The early rise was worth it. Our first full day here, and camera traps belonging to the researchers reveal a fishing cat visitor!
Our fisherman friend Lun Ow (Uncle Ow) greeted us at the research site dangling two camera traps and his machete. He brought news that the bait had been eaten, and sure enough, a gorgeous fishing cat smiled at us from one of the cameras. At least we like to pretend it smiled. Namfon has to check the patterns on its coat, but she thinks it might be a new cat.
Lun Ow and Namfon joke that the next two cats will be called Mo and Jo.
Yesterday, Rut (Namfon’s assistant, whom we call MacGyver for his ability to solve any problem), Lun Ow, Jo and I explored a potential new camera-trapping site. A half-drained fish pond shows fishing cat tracks galore. Four-toed paw prints dot the sulphur-smelling muck like dance steps on a sidewalk. There is another special surprise. One set of patterns is decidedly smaller than the other. We have found evidence of a momma and baby.
The tracks blanket the ground so thoroughly, our hearts soar at the thought that they will return and we might photograph them. This was not a possibility that we expected so soon in our visit.
We spend the afternoon making ready our first camera trap setup. The spot is not the most picturesque, and contrary to the advice of my photographer friends, there are no trees or rocks or plants for that matter, to attach the camera to. We must use stakes – less than ideal.
But we do get to experience a trip to a Thai lumber yard. With Rut’s help, I pick out a board of coconut wood, and we trundle back to Rut’s house. Out come the saw, drill and measuring tape. In a mix of English and Thai, Rut, Namfon and I suss out the camera trap situation. Rut is speedy, and before I know it, the stakes are ready. He used a machete to make the points, and I am truly impressed.
Back out at the research site we begin setting up the trap. It takes forever. How do you attractively light muck?
Namfon tells me Rut wants to know if I’ve done this before. “In my alleyway,” I reply.
I leave out the part where the only “wildlife” being photographed was my friend Ethan and I testing out the trap.
As the sun sets, I decide the setup isn’t going to get any better for my efforts this night. We’ll just see what happens. More than likely the cats need to get used to it anyway. My main goal is that things will still be working in the morning.