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← The link between fishing cats and mangrove forest conservation

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Showing Revision 9 created 10/30/2019 by Brian Greene.

  1. (Imitates fishing cat)
  2. That's my impersonation of a fishing cat,

  3. which actually sounds more like this.
  4. (Prerecorded fishing cat sounds)

  5. It's a cat that loves water,

  6. loves to fish,
  7. and lives in some of the most unique
    and valuable ecosystems on earth:
  8. the wetlands and mangrove forests
    of South and Southeast Asia.
  9. Aren't they fishing awesome?
  10. (Laughter)

  11. Fishing cats are one of about 40
    species of wildcats.

  12. Like tigers and lions, only much smaller.
  13. They're probably around twice the size
    of our average domestic cat.
  14. In Indonesia,
  15. people call them "kucing bakau,"
  16. which literally translates
    to "the cat of the mangroves."
  17. But I like to call them
    the tigers of the mangroves.
  18. Now, we don't know fishing cats
    as well as we do tigers,

  19. but what we've learned is that these cats
    can be a flagship species
  20. to a globally important ecosystem,
  21. and a visual bait attached
    to a strong line for conservation.
  22. Are you hooked yet?
  23. (Laughter)

  24. Like many endangered species,

  25. fishing cats are threatened
    by habitat loss,
  26. mainly because of our international demand
    for farmed fish and shrimp,
  27. and the deforestation
    of nearly half the historic mangrove cover
  28. in South and Southeast Asia.
  29. Mangroves, on the other hand,
  30. are much more than just habitat
    to the fishing cat.
  31. They are home to a fantastic
    array of species,
  32. like jackals,
  33. turtles,
  34. shorebirds
  35. and otters.
  36. (Laughter)

  37. Mangroves also prevent soil erosion,

  38. and they can be the first line of defense
    between storm surges, tsunamis
  39. and the millions of people
    who live next to these forests
  40. for their day-to-day survival.
  41. The fact that puts
    the icing on the cake --
  42. or the earth, I should say --
  43. is that mangroves can store
  44. upwards of five to ten times
    more carbon dioxide
  45. than tropical forests.
  46. So protecting one acre of mangroves
  47. may well be like protecting five
    or more acres of tropical forests.
  48. Would you like to eliminate
    you entire life's carbon footprint?
  49. Well, mangroves can offer you
  50. one of the best bangs
    for your conservation buck.
  51. Deforestation, extinction
    and climate change

  52. are all global problems that we can solve
  53. by giving value
    to our species and ecosystems
  54. and by working together
    with the local people
  55. who live next to them.
  56. This is one of three river deltas
    in coastal South India
  57. where communities came together
  58. to change the face and potentially,
    the fate of this planet.
  59. In less than a decade,
  60. with international support,
  61. the state forest departments
    and the local communities
  62. worked together to restore
  63. over 20,000 acres
    of unproductive fish and shrimp farms
  64. back into mangroves.
  65. About five years ago,
  66. guess who we discovered
    in these restored mangroves?
  67. When we shared images
    of these fishing cats with local people,

  68. we were able to build pride among them
  69. about a globally revered
    endangered species and ecosystem
  70. in their backyards.
  71. We were also able to build trust
    with some people
  72. to help them lead alternative livelihoods.
  73. Meet Santosh, a 19-year-old boy

  74. who not only became
    a conservation professional
  75. after working with us
    for just over a year
  76. but also went on to involve
    many local fishermen
  77. in helping study and protect fishing cats.
  78. Meet Moshi, a tribal poacher,

  79. who not only stopped hunting
  80. and became our most
    prized conservationist,
  81. but also used his traditional knowledge
  82. to educate his entire community
    to stop hunting fishing cats, otters
  83. and the many other threatened species
  84. that live in the mangroves
    in his backyard.
  85. Fish and shrimp farmers, like Venkat,

  86. are now willing to work
    with us conservationists
  87. to test the sustainable harvest
    of ecosystem services like crabs,
  88. and possibly even honey, from mangroves.
  89. Incentives that could get them
    to protect and plant mangroves
  90. where they have been lost.
  91. A win-win-win
  92. for fishing cats, local people
    and the global community.
  93. These stories show us
    that we can all be part of a future

  94. where fishing cats
    and the lost mangrove forests
  95. are protected and restored
    by fishermen themselves,
  96. creating carbon sinks
  97. that can help offset
    our ecological footprints.
  98. So while the fishing cat may be small,

  99. I hope that we've been able
    to help make it a big deal.
  100. One that we can all invest in
  101. to help sustain our lives
    on earth a little longer.
  102. Or as our friend here would say ...
  103. (Prerecorded fishing cat sounds)

  104. Thank you.

  105. (Applause)