By definition, small cats are physically small in size and, by their nature, frequently shy and secretive and living in isolated, inaccessible habitats. So it is not surprising that small cats can be difficult to find in the wild. In the absence of field data, scientists sometimes assume that any suitable habitat potentially contains healthy small cat populations. The reality may be quite different when field surveys are finally initiated, as we are finding with fishing cats in Thailand. In 2004, the Fishing Cat SSP, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and several other AZA institutions begin funding field surveys by Thai biologist Namfon Cutter to search for fishing cats in prime wetland areas in southern Thailand.

After three years of camera trapping in three different protected areas, Namfon finally obtained her first photograph of a wild fishing cat in the Thale Noi Reserve. These data on the growing scarcity of wild fishing cats were instrumental in the recent reclassification of fishing cats as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN Red List. With further support from the Cincinnati Zoo, Namfon is continuing her camera trap surveys for fishing cats in Southeast Asia as one component of her Master’s Degree program at the University of Minnesota. Read more Fishing Cat Project.