Otters re-emerge in Kadalundi estuary

Ecologists enthusiastic about ‘healthy eco-system,’ fisherfolk unhappy

Published - May 13, 2019 11:16 pm IST - MALAPPURAM

Otters moving along the mudflats into the mangroves at Kadalundi.

Otters moving along the mudflats into the mangroves at Kadalundi.

Otters have re-emerged in the estuarine region of the Kadalundipuzha, giving fresh hope to ecologists focusing on the Kadalundi-Vallikkunnu Community Reserve.

Groups of otters were recently seen in the mudflats and mangroves in the Kadalundi estuary, which is home for thousands of migrant birds flying in from beyond continents during winter.

Ecologists vouch that the presence of otters is an indication of a healthy eco-system. “The presence of otters indicates that the riverine or riparian eco-system is strong. Here in Kadalundi, we can presume that the estuary is highly productive with a good amount of fishes and other aquatic lives,” said M. Nasser, professor of zoology from Calicut University.

Vanishing act

Although there had been otters in the estuary decades ago, the carnivorous aquatic mammals disappeared in recent years for unknown reasons.

T.R. Athira, who studies behavioral patterns of shorebirds reaching Kadalundi, noticed a bevy of otters playing in the mudflats recently. There were juveniles also among them.

“For a researcher, otters are a great sign. Their sighting has emboldened me to delve deeply into the unique ecosystem of mudflats and mangroves at Kadalundi,” said Ms. Athira.

Her guide K.M. Aarif, who had spent about a decade studying the foraging habits of migrant visitors of Kadalundi, said it was good news that otters were breeding in the mangroves of Kadalundi.

“From an ecological point of view, it is a wonderful indicator especially as we had a lot of apprehensions in the aftermath of the devastating floods in August last year,” said Dr. Aarif.

Dr. Nasser said that otters would seek to avoid any kind of interactions with human beings. Fishermen and local people in and around Kadalundi are, however, not excited about the presence of otters. Many of the fishermen in Kadalundi have had a bad date with the mammals with sharp teeth.

‘A nuisance’

“They are a big nuisance for us. Apart from devouring the fish that we catch, they destroy our nets and fishing gears,” said Hamza Koya, a local fisherman at Kadalundikkadavu.

As they breed in dens in mangroves, people living in the vicinity are not happy. “We have been living in fear as there may be wild animals in the mangroves. We have not seen any otter so far,” said Amin Faizal.

However, the fact otters rarely come in contact with human beings is a solace for the local people.

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