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Thread: Highly Endangered Aquatic Mammals Awaiting Sanctuary

  1. #1
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    Default Highly Endangered Aquatic Mammals Awaiting Sanctuary

    Found this article on net. It is indeed interesting as most of the times we forget these lesser known animals.


    Highly Endangered Aquatic Mammals Awaiting SanctuaryMalini Shankar:


    KRISHNAGIRI, India, Sep 24 (IPS) - An aquatic species whose pelts are in high demand by the fur trade are gradually disappearing – and they need a sanctuary fast. Yet not one is forthcoming.

    The lack of political will and ineffective documentation, among other factors, make the formation of a protected area for the highly endangered freshwater otters a tricky issue, said Sanjeev Kumar of the Kenneth Anderson Nature Society, who heads a group of volunteers conducting sample surveys of wildlife.

    Freshwater otters have been decimated by poachers in their entire breeding range in the north India plains. The few that remain of this species are found only in southern India, particularly in the state of Tamil Nadu.

    A 2006 study, ‘Against the Current’, by otter researcher Kaushalya Shenoy of the Wildlife Trust of India, a non-government organisation based in New Delhi, documented 40 sites in southern India where the highly endangered fresh water otters have been sighted.

    But barely a couple of places remain in India where they can breed and feed in secure environments. The Kaveri river, which flows through the Krishnagiri district in the state, is one of these.

    An otter, or wildlife, sanctuary will ensure the long-term conservation of these animals. The ideal habitat for freshwater otters is rock-strewn riverbeds, and swift-flowing rivers, preferably in thick forests.

    Freshwater otters are aquatic mammals that inhabit freshwater bodies like rivers meandering through forests and high seas. They come in grey and brown colors, with webbed feet, bushy tail and whiskers. They prey on fish and are considered pyramid species in the riparian or river ecosystem, playing a vital role in maintaining the cleanliness of river beds.

    Otter habitation is thus a fairly good indication of a healthy ecosystem. "Otters, being top predators of aquatic ecosystems, shape the aquatic species’ communities, particularly those of fish, Dr S.A Hussain, wetland ecologist at the Wildlife Institute of India — a government research organisation in Dehradun, the capital city of the Uttarakhand state — told IPS.

    It appears that the Tamil Nadu government will only take action addressing the current state of the fast-disappearing species if there is adequate documentation. "It is the lack of adequate and thorough documentation that is the woe of the forestry sector," said V. Ganeshan, divisional forest officer of the district of Krishnagiri in Hosur town in northwestern Tamil Nadu.

    Demand for the highly prized otter pelts has been blamed for the decimation of hundreds of otters since the 1990s. According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India — which tabulates and maintains a credible database of wildlife crime in India — 766 otter skins were seized in illegal trade transit in 2006.

    "Though otters are widely distributed and play a major role in the wetland ecosystem as a top carnivore species, not much attention has been given to understanding their ecology," said Shenoy in her study.

    Freshwater otters in the Kaveri River basin ecosystems in Tamil Nadu share their home with a range of wildlife, including the biggest freshwater fish—the Golden Mahaseer— upstream. Mammals in the forests surrounding the river include Asian elephants, leopards, the Indian Gaur, wild dogs, the Sloth Bear, and striped hyena, alongside a variety of other animals.

    Thirteen other varieties of venomous and non-venomous snakes, including water snakes, besides the monitor lizard and crocodiles, consider these dry deciduous forests their home. Anthony Kariappa, a forest watcher in the Rasi Manal on the banks of the River Kaveri anti-poaching camp, said there are around 700 crocodiles along the stretch of the river.

    Despite such biodiversity, officials of Tamil Nadu have yet to declare the Kaveri River an otter, if not a wildlife, sanctuary.

    Without a ‘protected area’ status for otter habitats, the ecosystem’s threat will be further aggravated by harsh anthropogenic or human-induced factors such as logging and grazing.

    Other anthropogenic factors adversely affecting the fragile ecosystem include illegal blast fishing and human settlements equivalent to 21,358.5 hectares of encroachment of forests, which plague the dense Kaveri forests and therefore threats to otters.

    Cattle grazing and consequent communicable diseases, human-induced forest fires, poaching of lesser mammals like wild boar and spotted deer also threaten the ecosystem. Mining is ‘not yet’ a threat but is a potential factor if the forests remain legally unprotected, said Ganeshan.

    In the absence of a sanctuary, the few freshwater otters that remain are under increased threats from poachers seeking fresh grounds for their illegal activities.

    Otters are also sensitive to environmental changes such as poor water quality, toxicity in aquatic food chains and disturbance to the terrestrial habitats adjacent to waterways. "The disappearance of otters is often associated with, among other things, degradation of wetland habitats," said Hussain in his report, which tackles the food and feeding habits of smooth-coated otters and their significance to fish populations.

    "It is believed that the otter species is declining, owing largely to habitat destruction and reduction in prey availability," added Hussain.

    Link to the original article is given below:
    http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=48572
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

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    Hi Mrudul,
    The otters and lesser fauna also need attention. I have caught poachers of otters and they use dogs. This at Godaveri River in Adilabad. A sanctuary for the less charismatic species is a must. Fisher folk also kill otters as they are seen as direct competitors to their resources. The problem is that working plans are made exclusively for a particular species without understanding the requirements of an eco-system.

    Cheers,
    Rajeev M.

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    I agree. Otter may not be as charismatic as a tiger, however, every animal or bird has a role to play in the eco-system. It is not a question of selectively preserving an animal or two.

    The Project Tiger and Project Elephant may have been named after a charismatic species, but it ensured the protection of the habitat and lesser know animals and birds flourished.

    Similarly, our river need to be protected. Otters and various amphibians serve as a indicator of the health of our waterbodies. Creating a sanctuary to protect these species will also help in protecting our rivers, thereby ensuring our water security.

    Cheers,
    Sabyasachi

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    Poaching is a Menace but water pollution and habitat destruction and are doing a lot more damage and it doesn’t look like there are any workable solutions to this in a third world country like ours particularly so with water pollution. It is an irony that water which is the source of life is also an all penetrating delivery mechanism and creation of a reserve with in a restricted area will have but very little effect as the damage to the ecology and Food chain will continue. But then something is better than nothing ….at least the habitat destruction part will get addressed to some extent….

    Roopak

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