Green Minute News:
With Otter population declining in India (especially outside PAs), scientists call for habitat preservation, prevention of conflict, & targeted education to improve Human-Otter Co-existence.
A recent study on understanding people’s relationship with Otters in Kanha-Pench Corridor recommends otter associated costs for fishermen who report rising fish steals and damage to fishing gear (amounting to 10 percent of their mean annual income). Scientists from Centre for Wildlife Studies surveyed 551 people in a 3,300 sq km forest corridor in Madhya Pradesh to understand Human-Otter interactions and people’s attitudes towards otters.
Otters are an elusive, aquatic group of carnivores known for their fantastic swimming abilities and loud squeaks: Home to three species, India’s otters face threats due to habitat degradation, disappearing of wetlands, illegal trade, hunting, and conflict with local communities. In areas where people and otters share space, it was necessary to understand how otters impact people’s lives and how this, in turn, affects people’s attitudes and behaviors towards otters.
Vinni Jain, the lead author of the study states, “During our conversations with fishing communities, we found that otters frequently steal fish from nets, damage equipment, and enter lakes where commercial species are being reared. Although some people were tolerant of these losses, and even appreciated the presence of otters, many others had low tolerance and expressed the desire to retaliate against otters for the damages.”
The scientist adds, “We also found that higher education levels, increased distance from PA, and increased frequency of encountering otters were associated with positive attitudes towards otters, while fishing as an occupation was associated with negative attitudes. This shows how repeated monetary loss can negatively influence people’s perception of wild animals. Surprisingly, those who saw otters frequently were more likely to have positive attitudes. We think this might be because otters are not perceived as dangerous to people and can be very endearing, even when they are ripping up nets or stealing fish.”
Krithi Karanth, co-author of the study, states, “People’s connection to otters are intertwined with their firsthand observations and socio-cultural connections. If you have seen otters, you cannot help falling in love with them. Economic losses could lead to lowered tolerance and retaliations against. India being home to some of the most critical populations of otters globally needs to devise locally relevant conservation interventions that fosters these connections and mitigates these losses.”
Researchers recommend conservation efforts towards otters should focus on habitat preservation and prevention of conflict with the fishery sector. Conservation efforts need to focus on effective and environmentally friendly techniques that fishers can employ to prevent Otters from entering fishing nets, and traps, they add.
The study titled “Living alongside otters: examining human-otter interactions and attitudes towards otters in Central India for conservation in shared landscapes” was published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation. The authors include Vinni Jain (Centre for Wildlife Studies) and Krithi K. Karanth (CWS & Duke University).
(PHOTOS CREDIT CAPTION: IMAGE-1 : SHASANK M B, IMAGE-2 : VINNI JAIN/CWS, IMAGE-3 : HARSHA NARASIMHAMURTHY, IMAGE-4 : SAGAR GOSAVI )