Western Ghats

Otters in troubled waters?

Otters in the Kaveri - sharing space with riverine fisheries and sand mining

Apart from being one of India’s most political and heavily modified rivers, the Kaveri also supports a sizeable population of otters (both Aonyx cinerea and Lutrogale perspicillata) along with intensive riverine fisheries. We explore otter distribution, conservation threats and co-existence with fishermen.

Along the River Kaveri

In this project, we explore the distribution of two species of otter along the River Kaveri from its source in the hills of Coorg, down 330 km to where it enters the plains of Tamil Nadu. We also explore perceptions of conflict between fishers and otters and map conservation threats along the course of the river.

Only the last 100 km of the 330 km of river is protected within the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, while the rest flows through intensively cultivated areas with villages and towns all along the way. The river is also blocked by one large dam (the Krishnarajasagara dam, one of India’s oldest) and numerous mini-hydel projects in its nearly 230 km outside the wildlife sanctuary.

In our work, we examine if conservation measures such as protected areas make a difference to conserving species such as otters, while studying their occurrence and persistence in the landscapes outside. This is important because otters are almost entirely restricted to the linear habitat along the river, which also supports large populations of people and their growing needs.

(Many volunteers and friends have been a part of this work in various stages)