Enviornment Prelims cum Mains

Western Ghats is home to the Eurasian otter

Why in news?

  • Researchers have confirmed the presence of the elusive Eurasian otter (least known of India’s three otter species) in the Western Ghats.

Background

  • Researchers at Valparai’s Nature Conservation Foundation came across the dead otter after a vehicle ran over it near a fragmented rainforest in Tamil Nadu’s Valparai two years ago.
  • Based on the dead animal’s photographs (especially of its nose and tail), several small carnivore experts concluded it was neither the small-clawed nor the smooth-coated otter (the commonly sighted otter species in south India).
  • Later, scientists affiliated with the Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species at Hyderabad’s Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology conducted genetic analyses of its tail tissue to confirm that it was indeed the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra).
  • The team reported the finding in a bulletin of the IUCN Otter Specialist Group earlier this year.

About Eurasian Otter

  • IUCN status of Eurasian Otter is “near threatened”.
  • The Eurasian otter is a semi-aquatic species living in a wide range of freshwater habitats and along coasts.
  • The Eurasian otter has been recorded historically from the Western Ghats (Coorg in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri and Palani hill ranges).
  • However, this is the first photographic and genetic confirmation of its presence in Western Ghats
  • The species is widespread across Europe, northern Africa and several south Asian countries.
  • It is not as frequently sighted as smooth-coated or small-clawed otters in India.

Threats

  • Otter roadkills caused by increasing fragmentation of forests
  • Modification of their original habitats are becoming increasingly common now.
  • Though protected by the Wildlife Protection Act (1972), otters are often illegally poached for pelts (dressed hairy coat of a mammal).

Way ahead

  • The paucity of information doesn’t help, with otters facing multiple threats.
  • Detailed surveys and studies are the need of the hour.

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