Status survey and conservation of Marsh mongoose in East Kolkata Wetland

Red listing:
Marsh Mongoose, Herpestes palustris, is considered as `Endangered’ according to IUCN criteria, C.A.M.P (1998). This is the only species of the genus Herpestes which is endemic to India or more precisely to West Bengal. The species was first discovered from the marshy and swampy areas in the eastern part of Kolkata City in the year 1965. The species was fairly common in the area during that time as evidenced from the number of specimens in the series.

Later, the species was recorded from Botanical Garden (Howrah) ,Diamond Harbour (South 24 Pgs, Sukchar ( North 24 Pgs ) by Ghane and Chaturvedi (1973) , Agarwaletal (1992) . However, large –scale reclamation of the east Kolkata wetland started in sixties. Subsequently, greater part of the type locality of Marsh Mongoose had given space for the new satellite township – Bidhannagar (Salt Lake). During 1945, the total wetland of eastern part of Kolkata was about, which reduced to only 3905 ha mainly due to severe urbanization.

These mongooses have very interesting habits & habitats. They live around large but shallow water bodies covered with thick growth of aquatic plants. Fossorial, terrestrial – occupies other burrows mainly along the slopes of water bodies. Diurnal, comes out of the burrow after few hours of sunrise. They follow a particular route for foraging and prey on mollusks, crabs, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammalian species which it may overpower. Frequently goes to the water mass in search of fish and mostly moves singly but occasionally found in troupe particularly in the afternoon. And finally returns to the burrow just before the sunset.

Funded By: Dept. of Environment, Govt. of WB
Project Duration: 2005 (1 year)

No species programme had been taken earlier for conservation of this species and its type habitat. It was immediately necessary to implement at least a status survey involving local people by making them aware about the significance of conservating Marsh Mongoose, which is endemic to their area.

To identify the existing suitable habitats of the Marsh Mongoose in North and South 24 Parganas, Hugli, Nadia and Howrah districts.

To find out the number of populations and their size.

To identify the specific threats in the different identified habitats.

To make the local people aware about the significance of conservation of the species.

Conservation measures: Included in the schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 as amended on 2002. However, after this initiative, no species programme has so far been taken for the conservation of species and its habitat.

Observations of food habits: They feed on small fishes & crabs. But occasionally they take snakes & frogs. As an exceptional case a local people reported that a Marsh Mongoose has killed a Cattle Egret for food. They generally forage for collecting fishes through the water hyacinth bed without being submerged in the water. Only the feet become wet. The courtship and mating has started from March 1st week.

Observation of Threats:

Habitat loss due to urbanisation and industrialization is the main threat the species faces. Though a good population was observed in East Kolkata Wetland but is still considered as ‘endangered' by IUCN as the species is endemic to this region.

A large portion of natural wetland of East Kolkata has been converted to fisheries for prawn cultivation, where the wetlands are mostly devoid of any aquatic vegetation, which is required for the foraging of Marsh Mongoose.

In most cases both the sides of the main canals in East Kolkata Wetlands have been concretized. But Marsh Mongooses mainly burrow along the slopes of waterbodies or canals