Decades ago, the smooth coated otter became extinct at the Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur. It has been sighted in the Ramganga, which flows right through the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand. In Kota, where the Chambal flows, a boat owner who doubles as a conservationist says he has spotted a healthy breeding population of these otters. The creatures are more likely to be spotted in winter months.
The otters live in family groups of a male, a female and the current set of cubs.
The large, stoutly built otter has short, velvety fur. That is what gives it its name. Its throat is pale, and there is a paler shade of the dorsal colour on the belly. The final half of the tail is markedly flattened and the feet, relatively large, are webbed. It has short, sharp, strong claws. The skull is rounded, with massive teeth and a short muzzle.
In 2014, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reviewed its status. Finding its population in fast decline, IUCN listed it in the ‘Red List’, as vulnerable.