The ex situ population of fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) face many challenges to its sustainability such as mate incompatibility, low founder numbers and disease prevalence. The North American population was monitored for a three‐year period during institutional transfers and breeding introductions. In total, 26 fishing cats, including 15 different breeding pairs were monitored during 20 transfers. Most institutional transfers occurred in the fall months (September, October and November; 62%; n = 13) and males were transferred more often (62%; n = 13). Breeding success (observed copulations) was recorded in 33% (n = 5) of pairs but only 13% (n = 2 pairs) produced offspring during the study period. Institutions with successful breeding pairs had a greater number of indoor, off‐exhibit enclosures (2.67 ± 0.29 enclosures; n = 5) compared to facilities with unsuccessful pairs (1.69 ± 0.25 exhibits; n = 6; p = 0.035). In addition, facilities housing successful pairs performed positive reinforcement training more frequently (14.77 ± 3.27 training days/month) than facilities with unsuccessful pairs (4.00 ± 2.73 days/month; p = 0.035). A binomial generalized linear model showed that friendly vocalizations (p = 0.000) during physical introductions of intended breeding pairs predicted copulation success. Introductions performed when a female was exhibiting estrous behavior (p = 0.020), was also predictive of copulation success. Results from this study are the first comprehensive analyses of captive management in the fishing cat. Environmental factors and management approaches are highlighted that could advance animal welfare and improve reproductive success in this species.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.