3 rare Asian fishing cats born in Ohio zoo

One of three Fishing Cat kittens is seen at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011.
AP Photo

POWELL, Ohio - Three Asian fishing cats have been born at an Ohio zoo as part of a program aimed at protecting endangered species.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said Tuesday two male kittens and one female kitten were born July 29. The kittens are with their mother in a secluded area until they're several weeks old.

The kittens each weighed less than half a pound at birth. They're the first for a pair of fishing cats that arrived at the zoo last year as part of a species survival plan.

The zoo says water pollution, clearing of forests and exploitation of fish stocks threaten the species.

The Smithsonian Institute describes fishing cats as follows:

"Fishing cats range from about 25 pounds for males to about 15 pounds for females.These cats have a long, stocky body, relatively short legs, a broad head, round ears, and a short tail. Their olive-gray fur has black stripes and rows of black spots.

The fishing cat's general distribution is southwest India, Sri Lanka, countries of the southern Himalayas, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, China, and the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra. However, these cats are not found all throughout this broad area because of their habitat preferences. They are strongly tied to densely vegetated areas near water, in marshes, mangroves, rivers, and streams.

The cat attracts fish by lightly tapping the water's surface with its paw, mimicking insect movements. Then, it dives into the water to catch the fish. It can also use its partially webbed paws to scoop fish, frogs, and other prey out of the water or swim underwater to prey on ducks and other aquatic birds. It is powerful enough to take large prey, such as calves and dogs."

Fishing cat, ohio
Three Fishing Cat kittens are seen at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011.
AP Photo