Bengal’s Fishing Cats Steal the Show at a Minicert in Kolkata

04 November 2023

Echoes of Earth, a music festival with sustainability and the environmental movement at its core, invited HEAL and our partner The Fishing Cat Project to its first miniconcert in Kolkata called ‘Ensemble of the Wild – Discover the Majestic Sundarbans and its Rich Biodiversity.’ The event took place on 04 November at Hard Rock Cafe in Kolkata.

At the event, we facilitated a storytelling educational session titled ‘Prisoner of Contradictions to Patron of Wetlands: Understanding the Fishing Cat Better.’ The session was divided into sub-sessions consisting of interactive games, film shows and discussions.

Team HEAL in collaboration with The Fishing Cat Project commencing the eventful night with its storytelling educational session

The central concern revolved around this fact – the Fishing Cat has been endowed with the title – the State Animal of West Bengal – yet majority of Bengal does not know this. Hence, the Fishing Cat continues facing a combination of threats, apathy, and contradictions. For instance, it is not a Tiger but is beaten to death when people mistake it for one. Its habitat—wetlands ecosystems‐‐ are supposed to be protected by law but are also designated as wastelands, creating a loophole that facilitates their destruction. As wetlands continue to vanish, thrice as fast as forests, the fishing cat’s fate hangs in the balance, and so does ours. After all wetlands do and will protect us from adverse effects of climate change, provide us with water and food.

We explored this theme in our joint segment, which kicked off the much-awaited event.

First off, we engaged the audience in a game called ‘Web of Life’ to help them appreciate the mangrove ecosystem of the Sundarban forests. This was followed by the screening of a short film about the fishing cats of Chilika, created by The Fishing Cat Project Next, we facilitated a discussion on the vulnerable status of Kolkata’s wetlands and HEAL’s efforts to protect them. And to cap it off, we showed a heartwarming video that raises hope for the fishing cat’s survival in West Bengal.

Our team facilitating the game – Web of Life among the audience members
Teammate Durba cutting the yarn string that represents the removal of a species from an ecosystem and causing the metaphorical web of life to disintegrate
Teammate Meghna Banerjee drawing the audience members’ attention to the importance of wetlands for fishing cats and humans

Opportunities to share the fishing cat’s story with an urban audience in the heart of Kolkata city are hard to come by, and we are glad to have received it. It is only by taking the ‘conservation conversation’ to more such events that we can bring vulnerable species and their plight into the consciousness of every citizen and make conservation mainstream.