The National Zoo in Washington D.C. is celebrating a victory with the birth of two Fishing Cats, an endangered species. The twin kittens are the first to be successfully bred and produced at the zoo.
Born to 7-year-old Electra on May 18, the kittens and their mother are being monitored through a closed-circuit camera to give them time to bond. The family will be introduced to the public later this summer.
Fishing Cats are disappearing in the wild from riverbanks in India and Southeast Asia due to water pollution, poaching and shrimp farming. In the past 18 years the wild populations have decreased by 50 percent. The International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the species as endangered in 2008.
Fishing Cats get their name because they are good swimmers and excellent fishermen. They have webbed feet and a tail that helps them steer in the water. They trick fish by tapping on the surface of the water, pretending to be insects and then hook the fish with their claws when they swim to the surface.
Electra and Lek, who fathered the kittens, are part of the North America Species Survival Plan that works to ensure the survival of endangered species. Of 32 cats in the program the pair is only the second to successfully breed in captivity. The last Fishing Cats were born at an accredited zoo in 2009. The National Zoo hopes the birth of the twin kittens means they have unlocked the breeding code and more babies will soon be on the way.
“Many months of behavior watch, introductions and research allowed us to get to this point,” said Zoo Director Dennis Kelly in a press release. “It’s very rewarding that our efforts have paid off. The future of their wild cousins hangs in the balance, so it’s imperative that we do all we can to ensure their survival.”
Although Electra and the kittens will be out of public view for a while, visitors will be able to meet Lek on the Asia Trail, just in time for Father’s Day on June 17.
Photo Credit: NationalZoo