The otters of Hampi have a new conservation reserve

Hampi:

  • Tungabhadra river flows in Hampi,  a Unesco World Heritage Site and popular backpacking destination. 

Cmooth-coated otters (Lutrogale perspicillata):

  • The largest of the otter species in Asia 
  • Studies have shown that otters are a highly adaptable species, and here they were afforded greater protection than their counterparts in more vulnerable areas.
  • There is little known about the status of otter populations in the country, partly because most otter habitats are not part of the network of protected areas that receive much of the conservation attention.
  • The smooth-coated otter is an animal of the plains. 
  • Today, otters are up against resource extraction from the rivers they inhabit: they are increasingly sharing space with sand miners, their habitat is threatened by dams, and being fish eaters, they are viewed by fisherfolk as direct competitors where the two overlap. But here in Hampi, despite a riverscape altered by the Tungabhadra dam, otters are often sighted as both fishing and sand mining are less of a threat
  • The recently declared Tungabhadra Otter Conservation Reserve along 34 km of the river, is a bonus.
  • While a ‘conservation reserve’ differs vastly from national parks and sanctuaries in terms of protection, it nevertheless is recognition of the fact that this stretch of river is of high conservation value and home to a population of smooth-coated otters and other river-dependent fauna such as endangered softshell turtles and mugger crocodiles.

Changing ecosystem

  • Despite being notified as a conservation reserve, dynamite fishing though is still prevalent in parts of the reserve.
  • Dynamite fishing kills indiscriminately, and destroys livelihoods.
  • It sometimes maims the person engaging in it, but the effects on the river are horrendous.
  • While poaching and dynamite fishing seriously threaten the species there is a new addition that is sweeping the river: the colonisation of water hyacinth, one of the world’s most invasive plants.

Source:TH

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