World Otter Day: Emmitt Otterton? Here, in Madhya Pradesh? Believe it or not, Yes; Otters found their way back during first COVID lockdown

However, there is a growing need to protect them and, on this World Otter Day, we hope to see a change in policies to help these sea creatures.

Tina KhatriUpdated: Tuesday, May 24, 2022, 08:30 PM IST
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Otters seen in Gandhi Sagar Sanctuary | SACHIN MATKAR, one of our readers

Indore (Madhya Pradesh): Emmitt Otterton, among the most popular characters in the world of animated movies, playing a pivotal role in the movie Zootopia, is actually real! Wonder how? Where? Well, it’s right here in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

However, there is a growing need to protect them and, on this World Otter Day, we hope to see a change in policies to help these sea creatures. Loss of otters creates a severe disturbance in local food webs, habitat, biodiversity and balance in aquatic environment.

Otters from the family of weasels are essential to the river and sea ecosystems. Otters are rare in India and stand at risk of extinction. They are listed as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN Red List. Currently, the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, protects otters from being sold in India. However, what is needed now is to protect their habitat.

To celebrate this cute and unique species with a vow to protect them, World Otter Day is celebrated every year on the last Wednesday of May. This year, we are celebrating otters on Wednesday (May 25, 2022).

In Madhya Pradesh, we can find Eurasian Otters, which are original natives of Europe, at the Gandhi Sagar Sanctuary.

‘Shy otters say Hah’

‘I recently spotted and recorded otters with their unique sounds. Otters communicated with a unique sound of ‘Hah’ to call each other by the riverside, but were too shy to come out in front of the camera.

The otter population controls and cleans fresh water sources, especially rivers’

— Sachin Matkar from Wild Warriors that works with the State Forest Department (He received special recognition from the department for capturing the rare otters on camera)

‘Otters reappeared during lockdown’

‘Otters were assumed to be extinct in the state, but they surprised the forest department by finding their way back during the first lockdown enforced to control the spread of Covid-19 in 2020. Otters’ presence is an excellent sign, but since they had, possibly, vanished before, they need to be protected strictly’

— Rajnish Singh, assistant conservator of forests in the Government of Madhya Pradesh

Forthcoming change at the otter’s habitat

Otters are, sometimes, spotted at the Gandhi Sagar Sanctuary. This sanctuary will soon see more changes that could affect the otter population again.

The state forest department has transferred spotted deer and swamp deer in huge numbers to the sanctuary to prepare it for the introduction of tigers.

Very soon, the state forest department plans to introduce tigers—and even cheetahs—to this sanctuary deeming it to be fit enough for predators.

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