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Article by Caroline Knight | 29th January 2019

Roaring Success For The Big Cat Sanctuary, Smarden

The Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden is celebrating expansion and improvement, with some new bespoke enclosures. This has extended the centre’s capability for keeping wild cats, which are within the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme.

The new enclosures are furnished with heated mats, a waterfall and pool, play tunnels, exotic greenery and lots of enrichment features for the inhabitants to enjoy.

The feline residents include Aquarius the fishing cat (pictured above), one of the smallest cat residents, who was born at the Rare Species Conservation Centre in Dover in 2011. Fishing cats are found naturally in wetlands, rivers and mangrove forest in Asia. They are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List, their main threat being habitat destruction and poaching.

Big Cat Sanctuary keeper, Simon, shares a special bond with Aquarius, saying: “I just think they are brilliant creatures – I love the look of fishing cats, their almost otter-shaped heads and semi-webbed paws which both help them to be strong swimmers. I feel that we are very lucky to have a fishing cat in our collection here at the sanctuary… zoos are less likely to have smaller cats and I love being able to introduce people to this interesting, different species and educate them about the fascinating wild cousin of the domestic cat.”

The Big Cat Sanctuary is not generally open to the public, but the charity relies on donations in order to care for their animals and support breeding programmes. It offers several specialised experiences including Big Cat Encounters Photographic Workshops, Big Cat Adoptions and Overnight Big Cat Safari Experiences.

• Visit thebigcatsanctuary.org

Image: Alma Leaper

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