Current Affairs 2023
Scientists from the University of Jammu’s Institute of Mountain Environment camera-trapped three Eurasian otters in the Neeru stream of the Chenab catchment, confirming the presence of the species in the area. The findings suggest that some stretches of the Neeru remain unpolluted, providing hope for the otter's survival.
Mar 16, 2023
3 min read
The Eurasian Otter, also known as the European Otter, is a semi-aquatic mammal that belongs to the family Mustelidae. Otters are found in every continent except Australia and Antarctica, and the Eurasian otter covers the largest range of any Palearctic mammal, covering parts of three continents – Europe, Asia, and Africa. The species is classified as ‘near threatened’ on the IUCN Red List and is an indicator of high-quality aquatic habitats.
Recently, a team of scientists from the University of Jammu’s Institute of Mountain Environment camera-trapped three Eurasian otters in the Neeru stream of the Chenab catchment. This finding confirms the presence of the otters in the upper Chenab catchment and suggests that some stretches of the Neeru remain unpolluted.
The Eurasian otter is a flagship species, and its presence is encouraging for the health of the Neeru stream. Otters are excellent indicators of high-quality aquatic habitats, and their presence in a particular area indicates that the water quality is good.
However, the species is persecuted as a pest in countries such as India, China, and Nepal, and its populations in Europe and Asia have declined in recent years due to hunting for food and pelt, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change.
The IME scientists conducted extensive investigations that included a questionnaire survey and camera trapping to establish the presence of the otters. The study area is drained by the Neeru, a 30-km perennial stream that originates in the Kailash Lake at 3,900 meters above mean sea level and drains into the Chenab at Pul-Doda. The stream flows through several small villages, semi-urban, and urbanized areas, with Bhaderwah being the largest settlement.
Questionnaire surveys conducted in 2016-17 revealed that the animal – locally called huder or hud – once inhabited the entire length of the Neeru and its tributaries. Unable to establish a direct sighting, the scientists followed the faeces of the animal and set up five infrared cameras. Three Eurasian otters were captured on the cameras over five days in October 2020.
The scientists called for more intensive otter surveys in the nearby smaller basins of Neeru, Kalnai, and Sewa, and other large tributaries of the Chenab for improved conservation and management of the species in the region. Rapid human population influx, infrastructure expansion, and pollution have altered the hydro-morphology of the Neeru stream, affecting the otter population. Therefore, there is a need to take steps to conserve the species and its habitat.
In conclusion, the presence of the Eurasian otter in the Neeru stream is an encouraging sign for the health of the aquatic ecosystem. However, the species is under threat, and steps need to be taken to conserve it and its habitat. The findings of this study highlight the importance of conducting surveys to monitor and conserve endangered species, such as the Eurasian otter, and to take steps to protect their habitats.
Based on a report in the Hindu titled 'Eurasian otter raises hope for J&K stream
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