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Baghrol Basa: The Fishing Cat Experience

Baghrol Basa

The world’s most unique experience built around the Fishing Cat

The name Baghrol Basa – Baghrol means fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) in Bengali language and Basa meaning nest or house. According to local people fishing cats build nests using local reed and grass. The fishing cat is a medium sized (5-15kgs) wildcat that inhabits the wetlands of South Asia and East Asia. It is a spotted cat and has very coarse hair, unlike our domestic cats whose hair feels soft to the touch. These cats are adapted to a life in the watery, swampy environment and only recently we have become aware that the fishing cats are also found in human-dominated landscapes.

Baghrol Basa homestay is a collaborative project between villagers and a group of fishing cat enthusiasts. The homestay was conceptualised with a goal to highlight the fishing cat as the flagship species of West Bengals’ swamps and to generate local people revenue through tourism. We hope that this dual-pronged socio-economics centred conservation model will encourage local villagers to tolerate a wide variety of wildlife species that move in their private farmlands and fish ponds. After careful consideration, we also started an innovative compensation scheme to support those villagers who are burdened by heavy economic losses from local wildlife.  By creating local interest, minimising losses to people from wildlife and projecting the fishing cat as the pride of Bengal, we are safeguarding wildlife unique to the Bengal swamps. It is not only the fishing cat that benefits but also a wide variety of wildlife species, and all this can be accomplished with local people’s involvement and help.

Fishing cats are one of the least understood wildcats and very little is known about the habits and the behaviour of the fishing cats. Until 2017 they were listed by the IUCN as an endangered species. In 2017, based on field evidence, a decision was taken to downgrade the threat status of the fishing cat to vulnerable. The endangered status was most likely assigned by the IUCN as a precautionary measure in the absence of reliable data on the cat. In India, the fishing cats are found all along the east coast, all along the banks of the Ganga River and in the foothill forests of the Himalayas. Its presence is not recorded on the west coast with the exception of a few records in Gujarat. While there are a few wetland protected areas in the above areas,  they are isolated and surrounded by intensely used human use areas.

Baghrol Basa homestay is an old 17th-century house once owned by a rich local Jamindar or landlord. It was restored to its old glory using traditional restoration techniques. Along with homely comfort, one can also enjoy the natural pools of water, engage in fishing and experience the local Bengali village culture. We offer our resident guests authentic Bengali recipes that our chefs painstakingly recreated.

Observing wildlife in the swamps that too in human dominated landscapes is tricky and we perfected a unique safari model. Our wildlife activities are conducted at night time, from dusk and end at dawn. The guests rest during the day and enjoy the comforts of the property and experience local culture. At night, we observe wildlife that is mostly cryptic and nocturnal in nature. Our safari is a unique opportunity to observe the fishing cat –  the top predator and other nocturnal animals.

 

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