The otter ecology course was a great success. It was attended by fourteen participants from five different states in India.
very little or no knowledge about otters. Participants got an overview of all 13 otter species of the world and were trained to conduct research on Smooth-coated (Lutrogale perspicillata) and Asian Small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinereus). The workshop concluded with each participant being capable of carrying independent surveys in search of otters. The workshop participants are empowered with knowledge on otters which they can share with their friends and families.
We look forward to their contribution to otter conservation.
It was a unique experience that was truly wonderful for me personally. I got to learn so much about wild otters and more. Overall, it was an experience that I absolutely loved. The trekking and hiking to find wild otters in the midst of mangrove forest and by the stream was amazing. I loved every bit of the course. The Wild Otters team and the participants were lovely people who only made the whole experience better.
Even though I am a student of wildlife biology, I came to know that otters existed in India only a couple of years ago. So, when I read about the Otter Ecology Course being offered by Wild Otters, Goa, I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about these enigmatic creatures. I expected that by the end of it, I will be able to properly distinguish between the two species that we were going to study, including their habitats, diet, behaviour, etc. But having completed the course, I can say that we learned so much more than that. The camera trap footage that we saw was extremely helpful in showing why humans remain oblivious of otter presence, how they interact with other animals, wild and domestic, their family dynamics, and grooming and territorial behaviour. The instructional material that we received covered the most important points of otter ecology, including how to recognize their dens, grooming areas and faeces, which came in handy on the field and as reference material for future use. We visited the habitats of both the species, getting to know the difference in preferences between the species with regards to morphology, diet, home range and habitat. We were given an overview of the kind of research being done in India regarding otters, and the dire need for more studies throughout the country to realistically estimate otter distribution and population density. Towards the end of the course, we conducted an open discussion regarding further research that can be done to bridge the gaps in our otter knowledge and to bring them out of obscurity to a place where people, organizations and governments recognize the need for the conservation of these amicable and ecologically essential species. We also discussed what we as individuals, budding researchers and amateurs alike, can do to contribute to otter welfare by conducting surveys to detect their presence in previously unknown areas, and by educational presentations to schools. The staff was very friendly and well-informed. Atul, Hannah, Jessica, Katrina and Akshita made the participants feel very welcome, and were eager to share their knowledge and experiences. The field base is very conveniently located, and is equipped with most of the necessities for a comfortable stay. The food was great as well; simple, wholesome local cuisine. It was great to meet like-minded people from all over the country, exchanging ideas and experiences, and making connections. We went for a dip in the forest stream, and for a night trek through a nearby track, so it wasn’t just all work. Overall, I got much more than what I expected out of the course, and I would highly recommend it to all wildlife enthusiasts. I would love to associate with Wild Otters in the future, and stay in touch with the wonderful staff.
I recently found out that otters exist in Maharashtra, having had a brief glimpse of an otter at Amboli. Prior to this I had no knowledge of how spread out they are across the country. When I saw the mail for the otter ecology workshop I jumped at the opportunity to get to know these animals better. I found the workshop extremely informative and was impressed by the work done by WILD OTTERS. The workshop had the right amount of practical and theoretical learning and kept everyone on their toes. I must emphasize that in spite of not spotting otters I was happy with the field experience we got with regards to identifying otters signs. Apart from otter signs I liked that we were shown the signs of other animals as well and taught to differentiate between them. The inclusion of a field guide as part of the course was incredibly thoughtful of the team. This makes sure we take our learning with us and apply it in similar habitats. The positive and enthusiastic attitude of the Wild Otters team towards conservation and community participation was very refreshing. According to me this workshop has definitely inspired each member that attended to spread the word about these amazing creatures.
Otters have always fascinated me, for a variety of reasons. Not only are the extremely smart and intelligent animals, but are also cute and adorable. So when the opportunity came to attend a course on otter ecology, I applied without the slightest hesitation. The place itself, the course material that we were taught, the visits to otter habitats, and the company of people I had around me for three day at the Wild Otters Field Base on Chorao Island, Goa was an amazing experience. I learnt so much about the animal, I will never look at it just as a cute mammal. Knowing that India is home to these animals, and there are groups and organizations working on them, I have another window open for me after I complete my graduation in Veterinary Sciences.
What went well: I think it was a wonderful experience because:
- The course was nicely paced
- Content matter was more than sufficient
- Resource people were fantastic - in terms of knowledge, helpfulness and knew how to impart their knowledge and answer queries; friendliness, smiles and giggles were a plus
- Logistics and food (thanks Sharmila) was nicely arranged
- There was scope for discussion on other environmental topics with resource people well as participants
- I'm confident that I can identify and differentiate between Smooth coated otter's and Asian small clawed otter's poop
- I can look for potential otter habitats by scanning the area for poop and other signs like grooming sites and pawprints.
- Got my thinking wheels into motion, I'm planning to look at three sites for otter habitat possibility (2 in Maharashtra and 1 in Uttarakhand)
Attending this workshop was the smartest decision of my life. I actually got to explore the wilderness with a lovely team. You stay in a field station that is in the forest and as lovely as one can imagine, a very supportive team and delicious food. Visiting mangrove forest and then the western ghats looking for otters and their sprints not only shows you the importance of the otter species but also the other species of animals and plants found. You discover a whole new level of beautiful nature which you cannot when you live in cities. I loved this workshop and looking forward for more.
The three day workshop conducted by 'wild otters' organisation was a proficient programme which began with surveys at the smooth coated otter habitat on the first day followed by the small clawed habitat on the second. During these survey we attained the skill of spotting otter signs like grooming and defecating areas and identifying their paths and dens. We also learnt about the working and setting up of camera traps to obtain pictures and videos of the animal in field. These trails were challenging yet adventurous and thus ultimately made us better at traversing such terrains. It was not only otters that we learnt about, but also the associated biodiversity in the habitat. In the evenings we had sessions in which we were briefed about interaction of otters with animals including humans and in particular the fisherman community that is affected most by this fish-eating mammal. Also we were enlightened about the threats faced by these organisms and the measures taken by the organisation toward their conservation. Day 3 consisted mainly of discussions regarding the application of whatever we had learnt. Atul Borkar gave us all ideas on how we could do our bit in conservation in our own locality. This workshop provided a platform for us to interact with like minded individuals. It was a well organised program and we had a lot of memories and knowledge to take back with us.