Meet Minnow, the Cincinnati Zoo’s first and only fishing cat ambassador. Minnow helps spread awareness about fishing cats at the Zoo, and she has inspired her trainer, Linda Castenada, to support research and conservation of the endangered fishing cat in the wild.
The fishing cat is a medium-sized cat from the wetlands of Southeast Asia that feeds on rodents, birds, frogs, fish and other aquatic species. Good swimmers, fishing cats have been observed to dive into water after fish as well as to scoop them out with their paws.
During the Cat Ambassador Program’s summer show at the Zoo (called the Cheetah Encounter), Minnow shows off her expert hunting and fishing skills. As far as we know, she is the only current fishing cat ambassador working on stage in an AZA-accredited zoo. Fishing cats are shy and secretive by nature, which makes it challenging to get them comfortable in front of an audience. Linda, who has worked as the Coordinator and Lead Trainer with the Cat Ambassador Program since 2007, was up for the challenge. Since the age of four when she got her first pet cat, Suzi, Linda has always been a cat person.
With Minnow, it took a lot of patience and paying attention her natural behavior to condition her to display her hunting skills successfully in front of an audience. Following a very set routine is one of the keys to maintaining her comfort. And rewarding her with her favorite fishy treats!
After several years of working with Minnow, Linda decided she wanted to do more to support fishing cats in the wild where the conversion of natural wetlands for aquaculture and the persecution of fishing cats for raiding fish and shrimp farms threaten their survival. Linda recently took on a new role as the Education Advisor to the Fishing Cat Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to conserve species through research, breeding, education and conservation. Her mission is to increase awareness and raise funds for fishing cat conservation. To this end, Linda established the Fishing Cat Fund as well as a Fishing Cat SSP page on Facebook.
She also secured support from the Cincinnati Zoo’s 2014 Internal Conservation Grants Fund for the Fishing Cat Conservancy’s program to conserve the fishing cat and its mangrove habitat around the Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary in India. Through the use of questionnaires, camera-traps, and in-field tracking with local communities, the Fishing Cat Conservancy and the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society documents fishing cats in the region and involves local people in conservation education and awareness programs about fishing cats and their habitat.
This summer, I encourage you to catch Minnow in action during a Cheetah Encounter show and learn more about wild cats and their conservation around the globe.
6 thoughts on “Minnow the Fishing Cat and her Trainer, Linda, Help Protect Fishing Cats in the Wild”
Our 4 year old daughter, Addyson, adores cats of all kinds. Around age 2 she decided that she was a Pampas cat. She spent most of the day (every single day) acting like a cat. Two summers ago we took Addy to your wonderful Cheetah Encounter show. She saw Minnow and fell in love. One day shortly after she decided that she wanted to teach her cats at home to swim. When we explained that most cats do not like the water her response was “Yes they do. Don’t you remember the Fishing Cat at the zoo? She swims!” and for almost 2 years now, she has been a Fishing Cat. She introduces herself as a Fishing Cat, she hisses when angry, purrs when happy (yes, really purrs) and so on. Thank you SO much for all of your work with these cats! Addy loves them (and all other cats, big and small) and can’t wait to get big enough to work with them herself! Keep up the WONDERFUL work!
My 4 year old loves the Cheetah Encounter Show, too, and re-enacts it at home all the time with Sir Francis Bacon and the fishing cat! I am glad to know her name now!
the cat is an animal that is much preferred by humans
I like fishing cats
Interesting and adorable