Conserving Otter Habitats in Goa

Otters serve as bio-indicators of the riverine ecosystems. Of the 3 species found in India, Small-clawed Otters and Smooth-coated Otters are found in Goa. While Smooth-coated Otters occupy a lot of human modified habitats the Small-clawed Otters mainly restrict themselves to forest streams.

While both species were once common, recent observations as well as informal surveys have indicated a fall in the population in the last 5 years. Nationally, the reasons for the decline in population may be attributed to habitat loss resulting from anthropogenic activities like mining, dynamite-fishing and construction of Hydro-electric Projects. Poaching for skin and meat forms another threat to these species.

Very little is known about these species in the wild and this is the first study focused on these small mammals in Goa. Lack of data will certainly impede any conservation efforts that may be undertaken. Therefore, this study has been formulated to address this lacuna in information.

The aim of the study is to:

  1. Examine Otter habitats and document Otter activity
  2. Investigate primary and secondary threats to Otters and their habitats

This project will survey rivers, estuaries and fresh water streams in the state of Goa, India. Based on preliminary data, a few Otter populations are being recorded. Human modified Otter habitats will also be studied to determine their potential for future and assess the need of conservation efforts.

As many Otter habitats lie in human dominated landscapes, it is critical that local communities have a positive outlook towards Otters. Through this project we are also trying to study human-otter interactions as we look to address the probable conflict scenarios.

The work done in Goa will also contribute to Otter conservation nationally