Smooth-coated otters mark their presence in Uppalapadu

Rare species found in wet lands help in balancing eco-system, says Forest Deptartment officials

February 28, 2021 01:29 am | Updated 01:29 am IST - GUNTUR

The mammal is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List,

The mammal is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List,

Conservationists are elated as a rare species of Smooth-coated otter has been sighted at the Uppalapadu Bird Sanctuary, near Guntur.

The sight of otters peering their head above the water, and swimming has caught the attention of forest department watchers, who say that the water tank is able to hold more species and helps in the conservation efforts. Known by its binomial name Lutrogale perspicillate , the mammal is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List since the year 1996.

“We are delighted to see otters in Uppalapadu and its sighting is a testimony to the conservation efforts at the sanctuary for over 30 years. Otters feed on juvenile birds, reptiles like snakes, etc., and help in preserving the balance in ecosystem,” said District Forest Officer, Guntur, M. Siva Prasad.

The Uppalapadu Bird Sanctuary, located at about 20 km from Guntur, has evolved over the years and is often touted as a shining example of human coexistence with the migratory birds, is home to about 12,000 birds — mostly, spot-billed pelicans and painted storks, which have made the water tank spread over four acres their home after arriving during the nesting season beginning in September-October. There are others too, spot billed duck, darter, black headed ibis and open billed storks, all of them local migratory birds.

Now, the sighting of otters is keeping the forest department excited. Mainly seen in groups, smooth-coated otters feed on juvenile fish, reptiles, amphibians and are known to follow a distinct pattern of hunting trying to induce panic in their prey.

Mr. Prasad said the unique characteristics of otters, a short and sleek fur, rounded head, hairless nose and webbed feet makes it an excellent hunting mammal in water. Otters vary in size, with the larger of them measuring up to 59 to 64 cm in length, weighing in between 7 and 11 kg. They occur usually in larger water bodies and where freshwater is available. They are known to breed throughout the year and some species breed between October and February.

Conservation efforts are met with challenges of poaching, loss and destruction of wet lands.

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