Establishing the foundation for otter conservation in Goa

Project Purpose

To empower otter conservation efforts by addressing the data deficiency of otter distribution and threats, providing this data to relevant stakeholders; and generating support at the community and the policy level.

Project Objectives

  1. To establish baseline data on otter occupancy, distribution and habitat preference
  2. Identify potential threats to otters
  3. Create public awareness about otters
  4. Disseminate relevant data to policy makers

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 Overview

Our project is the first large-scale scientific study on otters in Goa. There was no data available on their presence, distribution and threats faced. 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 and threats faced. Awareness on otters was spread among the fishing community, policy makers and general public.

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.

Key results achieved

  1. Presence of Asian Small-clawed Otter and Smooth-coated Otter in Goa in now digitally mapped.
  2. Otter occupancy is 75.38% was recorded. This indicates that Goa has huge potential to contribute to the survival of these species.
  3. Baseline data on habitat preferences of Asian Small-clawed Otter and Smooth-coated Otter established.
  4. Otter conservation priority areas located.
  5. 494 otter videos recorded during the study providing deep insights into the elusive behavior of these animals.
  6. Seven probable threats faced by otters were documented. Based on these necessary conservation actions will be taken.
  7. Four media articles published about otters in Goa
  8. Policy makers now have increased awareness on otters.
  9. Paper published in Small Carnivore Conservation Journal regarding the presence of Asian Small-clawed Otter in Goa.

Conservation Value

This project has laid the foundation for long term otter conservation in Goa; follow up otter conservation projects have already commenced. The model can be replicated across different locations to further strengthen otter conservation.

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