Wildlife & Biodiversity

In a first, Uttar Pradesh begins otter census

Beginning in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, the exercise will end by the end of March, 2019

By Rohit Ghosh
Published: Wednesday 06 March 2019
Credit: Getty Images

For the first time, Uttar Pradesh is taking a census of otters in its protected areas. The exercise that began in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR), will be completed by the end of this month.

“Otters are an important part of the forest ecosystem. A thriving population of otters means a healthy ecosystem,” said H Raja Mohan, director of PTR. “We have installed as many as 30 cameras in the reserve for the purpose,” he added

A mammal, an otter spends much of its time in or close to water bodies. Otters live on fish.  

PTR is in the foothills of the Himalayas, south of Nepal. Covering an area of approximately 800 square kilometres, the reserve sprawls across parts of Pilibhit, Lakhimpur Kheri and Bahraich districts.

With the Sharda and Ghaghara rivers encircling a considerable part of the reserve, it is rich in water bodies.

The forests of PTR are to home to tigers, leopards, elephants, different species of deer and monkeys and reptiles like snakes, mugger crocodiles and gharials.

“We keep a tab on the number of bigger animals like tigers or elephants but now we decided to have a census for otters,” said Mohan. “A growing or healthy population of otters means the water bodies of the reserve are pollution-free. Clean water bodies mean a healthy ecosystem of the forest.”

“Water sustains wildlife. Otters thriving and getting sufficient food to eat means the water bodies in the reserve are in a fine state and the aquatic life in them is healthy,” Mohan said.

He stated he had checked some of the camera footage and found the results encouraging.

The den of an otter is known as holt and it is close to water bodies.

“Many of the holts are in marshes or under water and hence inaccessible. Hence, cameras are the only solution,” said Mohan. “Our cameras have captured healthy-looking otters playing in the water and female otters fetching food for their pups. These are good signs.”

Three species of otters are found in India.

“Till now, only one species has been found in PTR. I will be happy if we find at least one more species in the reserve,” said Mohan.

He said the census report would be shared with the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India. “They may come up with some suggestions. I am also in touch with some otter experts,” Mohan said.

Otters will be counted in other forests of Uttar Pradesh once their census has been done in PTR.

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