When rescuers were called to the aid of a tiny kitten, they knew they would have to act quickly. And the tiny ball of fur was starving and shivering in the cold so, in order to keep him warm, one man held the baby to his body. But, eventually, they realized that the animal was no regular feline.
Before the surprising discovery, though, individuals from The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) had come to the young cat’s aid. The organization was established by Edwin Wiek over 15 years ago and aims to liberate wild animals that have been kept in captivity. It also aspires to educate those in the community and further afield about animal conservation in addition to providing veterinary care in the Thai province of Phetchaburi.
In December 2016, meanwhile, a Thai family contacted the animal rescue organization. That’s because they had found a tiny kitten sprawled in the road. And judging by the miniscule size of the poor creature, he could only have been a day old at most.
To make matters even worse, the baby’s mom couldn’t be found anywhere. And that was particularly worrying since kittens rely on their mother’s milk until they are at least four weeks old. Without it, it is possible that they will die. So, with no time to lose, a WFFT team rushed to the scene to help.
When the rescuers arrived on the scene, moreover, they saw just how small and fragile the young cat was; it seemed as if he had only been born several hours ago. The concerned team then began to question the Thai family to see if they had any further information on why the kitten had ended up on the street. Thankfully, they did.
Specifically, the strangers revealed that they had found the kitten’s mom some years ago when she was a baby herself. They rescued her from a nearby paddy field, brought her up and when she was strong enough released her once more. However, she apparently never forgot their good deed and often came back to the house to check in with her saviors.
One such visit, in fact, had come the day before. This time, the cat had just delivered a litter of kittens. However, when she later moved her children to another location, she had seemingly dropped one as she did so. And, sadly, the family had no idea where the cat and her other kittens had gone to.
As a result, the kind-hearted family decided to place the kitten outside in a box, in the hope that the mother would eventually come back for her baby. But, unfortunately, she never did. That’s when the good Samaritans finally contacted the WFFT.
By the time rescuers got there, though, the feline was in desperate need of help. In particular, he was extremely cold and hungry for some milk. In a bid to give him some warmth, then, one rescuer cuddled the animal. But, upon further inspection, it would become clear that the little one was in fact no ordinary kitten.
Indeed, it was revealed that the baby was actually a newborn fishing cat. Fishing cats are a species of wild felines found throughout Southeast Asia. They tend to live in wetlands such as swamps, lakes, rivers, streams and mangroves. However, they have also been known to live in forests – particularly dry ones.
Given that their habitats are often near bodies of water, then, it’s perhaps no surprise that the animals are excellent swimmers. And as their name suggests, their diet mainly consists of fish that they hunt. That’s not all they eat, however: fishing cats are known to feast on rodents, birds and insects, too.
Sadly, though, the population of fishing cats in Southeast Asia has become significantly smaller than it used to be. In fact, the International Union for Conservation of Nature now consider the animals to be vulnerable. Threats to their existence include the decimation of their habitats and over-fishing of their nearby waters by humans.
However, in some areas, poachers also target the unusual creatures. “Poaching and retribution killing were the major causes for a high fishing cat mortality of 84 percent in Thailand,” the WFFT said in a December 2016 post on its website. “Habitat loss and destruction, along with the killing of fishing cats by local people throughout the species’ range, has led to a global population decline suspected to be 30 percent or more in the past 15 years.”
“The fishing cat faces a high risk of extinction throughout its range and is thought to be amongst the most vulnerable of the small and medium-sized cats in Southeast Asia,” the post continued. As a consequence, it was important that the WFFT gave its most recent rescue all the help it could.
So after retrieving the fishing car kitten from the Thai street, the rescuers transported him to the WFFT veterinary clinic. There, he could receive expert care in order to give him the best possible chance of survival. And in the process he received a name inspired by another member of the cat family: Simba, which is the Swahili word for “lion.”
Meanwhile, in the December 2016 website post, the WFFT team would tell the world about the new arrival. “Today this little kitten is two days old and seems to be a little fighter. For now, he is under round-the-clock care from our vet team.” The post added, “[He is] spending his time in a special incubator that creates a perfect environment where his special needs can be met.”
“As Simba is so young and very small we cannot for certain be sure that he will [make] it, never mind start planning for his future,” the update continued. “For now, he is good. We will have to wait and see what the coming days will bring. We will keep you posted on his progress.”
Tragically, though, and despite the WFFT’s best efforts, Simba died two days later. He was just four days old. “Sadly, little Simba passed away at 3:00 a.m. last night under the watchful eye of WFFT vet Aon. RIP little one,” read a tribute on the organization’s Facebook page.
And the heartbreaking news was met with understandable sadness online. “So, so young, you did amazing, amazing work as always,” wrote one Facebook user. “I hope vet Aon is okay, it can be so heartbreaking. Sending hugs and love to you, hopefully the little one can be reborn more lucky.”
But although Simba didn’t get the happy ending he deserved, there’s no doubting that vets did all they could to save the poor baby. And thanks to the amazing work the WFFT do, perhaps there’s hope for fishing cats yet. After all, the waterways of Southeast Asia would be a much duller place without them.