The southern Indian state of Karnataka has notified a dedicated otter conservation reserve along the Tungabhadra river to protect the species from rising human presence, poaching and hunting.
Eurasian and smooth-coated otters found in the area have been threatened by poaching, water poisoning, sand mining and discharge of untreated effluents. Villagers on both sides of the river cultivate sugar cane, banana, paddy, groundnut and maize.
“The Department of Forest, Environment and Ecology, through a gazette notification recently, declared an area, 34 km in length, downstream of the Tungabhadra riverbed as ‘Otter Conservation Reserve’. The reserve stretches from Mudlapura village near the dam in Koppal taluk till the bridge over the river in Kampli of Hosapete taluk in Ballari district.
“The proposal was pending with the government for the last three years. With this notification, the forest department now aims to ensure that no developmental projects like drinking water or hydel are set up around Tungabhadra as it will affect the otter population. The animal is listed under Schedule-2, Part-2 of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The decision to declare this area a reserve was taken during a meeting of the State Board for Wildlife of Karnataka held on July 15, 2014.
“Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife, Ajay Misra, told Deccan Herald this was a first such reserve. It was proposed because the area is rich in otter population. The Cauvery and Kali rivers are protected by wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves around them.
“Otter population is also found in these areas. On the other hand, the Tungabhadra region had none, despite a healthy breeding population. There was no focus on conservation, too.”