Ecologists find large population of otters

December 21, 2009 at 5:41 pm Leave a comment

Expressbuzz, Dec 21, 2009
BHUBANESWAR: After reporting several species of plants for the first time in the State from Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary, ecologists have found out oriental small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinereus) from the protected forests in Kalahandi district.

A key species in wetland environment, otters are recognised as one of the top predators of freshwater ecosystem and there are 13 species distributed worldwide. In India Aonyx cinereus is seen from Himachal Pradesh to Assam hill ranges and in some parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala down south.

In order to formulate a conservation strategy for the species a survey was undertaken recently by Vasundhara to find out the current status, distribution and the role of local communities in their protection and conservation of otters.

According to researcher Himanshu Sekhar Palei, the species has been reported for the first time in Orissa and from Karlapat in particular.

During the study animal signs in the form of spraints were found deposited along river banks, the majority being spotted in Karlapat stream as the water depth was maximum and flow rate was minimum. Except Kiapadar and Sagada stream all other rivers showed positive signs ranging from 50 to 100 per cent, he added.

Though otters are susceptible to habitat degradation, change in water quality, forest fire, haunting and fishing they can still be protected through community conservation initiatives and it is evident from the study that local communities are really helping in protecting and conserving otters in Karlapat.

The survey has found a healthy population of small-clawed otters in 16 streams of the sanctuary. Earlier, the animals were poached for their skin and fur. However, some local communities have started worshipping them as protectors of aquatic ecosystem. On the other hand, since these animals are not competing with locals for fish, the research team believes that the otters can co-exist with the human beings in the same ecosystem.

Another interesting part of the study, according to Palei is, otters also prefer crabs and the tribes of Betkot believe that if anyone eats otter, his/her body will not be decomposed even after death.

Entry filed under: Kalahandi, Karlapat, Kalahandi, Region watch, Wildlife Sanctuary.

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