Context: Researchers have confirmed the presence of the elusive Eurasian Otter one of the least-known of India’s three Otter species in the Western Ghats after more than 70 years. While the species is widespread across Europe, northern Africa and several south Asian countries, it is not as frequently seen as smooth-coated or small-clawed otters in India.

Otter species

India is home to three species viz; Common Otter Lutra lutra, Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata and the Small-clawed Otter Aonyx cinereus (Kruuk 2006). All the three species found in India have been given legal protection under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972.

Key facts:

  • Otters are members of the mammalian family called Mustelidae. They are shy and have elusive habits, adapting to a variety of habitats ranging from marine to freshwater environments.
  • IUCN Status: Near Threatened.
  • It is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

Major threats to Asian otter population are loss of wetland habitats due to construction of largescale hydroelectric projects, conversion of wetlands for settlements and agriculture, reduction in prey biomass, poaching and contamination of waterways by pesticides. Poaching for pelt and other body parts that are believed to possess therapeutic properties. Few nomadic hunting tribes eat otter flesh. Reductions in prey biomass (fish stocks) and infrastructural developments have led to disappearance of otters from the many streams and rivers which were once major otter habitats.

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