Occupancy and habitat preference of otters in Goa

Project Purpose

To empower otter conservation efforts by addressing the data deficiency pertaining to distribution and habitat preference of otters in Goa.

Project Overview

This project was the first large-scale scientific study on otters in Goa; prior to which there was no data available on otter presence and distribution. Informal surveys indicated decrease in otter sightings; data deficiency handicapped conservation actions. Our project work addressed this data deficiency and has provided clarity on their conservation needs.

Project site background

Goa is a small state in the west of India. Otter populations in Goa are distributed across the state. Most of the eastern part of Goa comes under Western Ghats (a global biodiversity hotspot); the western part of Goa which frequented by tourists have otter habitats overlapping with human dominated landscapes. Goa has an area of 3702 sq. km. with rivers spread across the state (total perennial river length of 873 km). These rivers are home to Smooth-coated and Asian Small-clawed otters.

Project timeline and status

The project work was started in May 2014 and was completed in September 2015. Field surveys were conducted during January to May 2015. Using this project as foundation for otter conservation work in Goa follow up projects have already been started.

Outputs and Results

Baseline data on otter occupancy

Surveys were carried out across Goa covering 873 km of perennial river length. Estimated proportion of rivers occupied by otters based on all signs was 75.38 percent and 44.62 percentbased on recent signs.

Distribution and habitat preference of Smooth-coated otters

Smooth-coated otters were found in fresh as well as brackish water. Majority of Smooth-coated otter presence was found in mangroves below the altitude of 25 meters and outside protected areas. This highlights the need to integrate management of modified land uses with the management of protected areas in the landscape. The perception and the attitudes of the villagers from otter habitats are important for their secure future.

Distribution and habitat preference of Asian Small-clawed otters

Asian Small-clawed Otters were found only in fresh water. Flowing shallow forest streams were preferred by them. Stream depth of 0.2 to o.4 meters was preferred by Asian Small-clawed otters. Majority of the population was found inside the protected areas.

Sympatry between Asian Small-clawed and Smooth-coated otters

Asian Small-clawed Otter and Smooth-coated Otter were both recorded at the same by the same camera trap. This is the first photographic evidence of sympatry in the world.

Otter Conservation priority areas digitally mapped

We have mapped conservation priority areas giving clarity on where the conservation action needs to be focused. This project has laid the foundation for long term otter conservation in Goa. Follow up otter conservation projects have already commenced focusing on otter conservation priority areas.

Funded by