Otter sighting in Andhra bird sanctuary raises excitement and questions

  • A smooth-coated otter was noticed in January this 12 months, on the Uppalapadu Fowl Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Whereas the presence of the otter is sweet information, mentioned ecologists, a latest incident of an otter attacking a chicken has raised questions over whether or not otters can be a menace to the birds in any means.
  • Because the density of birds is way increased in relation to the house out there at current, there may be an pressing want to hold out statement and examine of the problem posed, if any, by the presence of otters on the sanctuary.

The surprising sighting of an otter within the lake waters of the Uppalapadu Fowl Sanctuary, on the outskirts of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh not too long ago, has generated pleasure amongst birders, conservationists and the general public. The graceful-coated otter, regionally referred to as Neeti Kukka or water canine, made its look on the finish of January this 12 months, on the sanctuary necessary for the near-threatened spot-billed pelicans (Pelecanus philippensis). “We now have reviews that there are about 15 of the otters within the wetland of the sanctuary that spreads throughout eight to 9 acres now,” mentioned Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), G. Siva Prasad.

The Uppalapadu chicken sanctuary attracts over 15,000 birds, together with massive numbers of the three widespread ones— the open-billed stork, spot-billed pelicans and painted stork. There are additionally spot-billed geese, darters, black-headed ibis and different migratory birds in important numbers. There are hardly any data of sighting of otters within the space.

The graceful-coated otter is listed as susceptible within the IUCN Pink Record of Threatened Species. Whereas the presence of the otter is sweet information, mentioned ecologists, there’s a query over whether or not otters can be a menace to the birds or disturb the chicken haven in any means. A latest incident of an otter attacking a chicken has raised these doubts. Usually seen in teams, smooth-coated otters feed on fish, reptiles, amphibians and different marine life. 

India is residence to a few species of otters: the small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinereus), the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) and Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra). All three species of otters are protected in India below the Wildlife (Safety) Act, 1972 (WPA). Karnataka has the nation’s first otter reserve acknowledging the significance of this species of wildlife and taking mandatory motion to guard them earlier than it’s too late. The Tungabhadra Otter Reserve Sanctuary, a 34-km stretch of habitat alongside the Tungabhadra river from Mudlapura village to Kampli in Ballari district, was notified in 2016.    

India is a hotspot of otter poaching, based on a 2016 report by TRAFFIC, the wildlife commerce monitoring community. Of the 167 otter seizures in South and Southeast Asia between 1980 and 2015 — consisting of round 6,000 otters — 53 p.c seizures concerned India, the TRAFFIC group discovered. This intense otter commerce primarily caters to China’s demand for otter pores and skin and fur and persists regardless of India’s native otter species being protected by nationwide legislation.  

A chicken attacked by an otter not too long ago sighted within the Uppalapadu chicken sanctuary. Picture by Ch. Vijay Bhaskar.

Andhra Pradesh is endowed with fairly a number of sanctuaries and wetlands. Amongst them are Kolleru Lake, Pulicat lake, Nelapattu and Uppalapadu. Whereas Kolleru is without doubt one of the largest freshwater lakes in India with an space of approx 245 sq km and recognized by the Ramsar Conference for cover and conservation of wetlands, Uppalapadu is the smallest. In most of those websites, nevertheless, human encroachments and ecological issues have been impacting chicken and marine life over the previous few many years. Kolleru Lake has shrunk by a 3rd as aquaculture boomed within the East and West Godavari districts, the place it’s positioned. Equally, Pulicat in Nellore district, which is the most important lagoon with wealthy birdlife, particularly flamingos, is struggling too.

The Uppalapadu sanctuary story

For a chicken watcher or perhaps a curious vacationer, the Uppalapadu chicken sanctuary is only a 15-minute drive from Guntur. An early morning go to between September to December (the breeding interval) could be a feast to the eyes. Hundreds of birds on the nesting perches, the timber and the lake are widespread. The occasional swoop by a chicken to snap up a fish or the flight of some can flip right into a memorable journey right here.

The State Forest Division has created amenities for vacationers to benefit from the sights, keep and in addition are placing in efforts to preserve it. There are Eco-Improvement Committees constituted with consultants by the Division to information the efforts, mentioned DFO Siva Prasad.

Nonetheless, the sanctuary in its current measurement is simply too small to assist the dense chicken inhabitants. There’s a must broaden it by a minimum of 5 instances. As well as, efforts must be made to enhance the organic ecosystem and conservation practices, mentioned Mruthyunjaya Rao, who together with the villagers is credited with reviving the Sanctuary and attracting the pelicans again to nesting throughout 1998-2010. The 77-year-old, self-taught conservationist, started his efforts someday in 1989 with common monitoring of birdlife. The village communities pitched in by serving to revive the massive water physique, enhancing greenery and extra and in 1992, a bunch of painted storks began visiting the lake. Their painstaking efforts yielded outcomes a decade later when the primary pelican was sighted in 1998, remembers, Rao.

In accordance with a examine by Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Pure Historical past, there was a rise within the breeding inhabitants (400 people in October 2007 to 1,500 in February 2008) of this chicken in Uppalapadu Lake in comparison with different areas of India, the place there was a drastic decline attributable to human disturbances close to nesting websites, poaching, and missing the pelican’s main meals supply: fish.

Even the Nelapattu Fowl Sanctuary, unfold over 450 hectares in Nellore district, a well-liked breeding spot for the spot-billed pelican, failed to draw good numbers in the course of the Nineties. “The credit score for getting the birds again to Uppalapadu ought to go primarily to the village residents who got here ahead to guard the water physique and helped me and a few devoted forest officers over a decade,” recalled Mrutyunjaya Rao, who lives in Kakinada, about 250 from the sanctuary now. It took almost 15 years of sustained efforts from the village residents and his small group to develop the habitat, timber, nesting areas, and so forth. and switch the place right into a sanctuary with a sizeable chicken inhabitants and get public consideration, he mentioned.

Uppalapadu is now an ecologically well-settled habitat for the pelicans, painted storks and the open-billed stork. The islanded space has a very good habitat, nesting areas on timber and supplies safe house for birds mentioned Okay. Thulsi Rao, a former member of the Andhra Pradesh Biodiversity Board.

The flourishing variety of the chicken inhabitants in a means holds up the sanctuary like a thermometer reflecting the great ecological well being of the realm and organic mixture of meals and nesting for the species. However, the problem is to maintain it.

Because the unfold of the water physique is simply too small to deal with the growing chicken inhabitants, there may be an pressing must create extra nesting amenities each synthetic within the quick time period and rising timber in the long term. Additional, the farmers round must be dissuaded from utilizing or overusing synthetic fertilisers and chemical compounds, whose residues are flowing into the lake and posing a menace to the fishes and bugs and thereby to the birds, he noticed. 

As well as, human encroachments too are posing an issue right here. There are insurance policies to halt all these and enhance conservation, however must be applied with the assist of the native folks, mentioned Rao. A forest service officer, Rao has labored with the United Nations Improvement Programme (UNDP) on a coastal marine biodiversity challenge in addition to 18 years in Nallamalla forests, particularly tiger reserve areas, saving the nice Indian bustard as a part of his tenure with the State Forest Division.

Learn extra: Meet the person conserving otters in Maharashtra’s Western Ghats

The otter and pelican challenges

Because the density of birds is way increased in relation to the house out there at current, there may be an pressing want to hold out statement and examine of the problem posed, if any, by the presence of otters. The eco-development committee, forest officers and a few native fanatics ought to coordinate and do it mentioned, Mrutyunjaya Rao. In accordance with him, there have been reviews of otters surfacing within the lake waters for a number of months.

Lamenting that there was extra emphasis on the promotion of tourism than ecological improvement, he feels the federal government ought to purchase extra farmland across the lake and enhance the habitat and nesting locations. The opposite pressing points to be addressed to guard and preserve the sanctuary are that the federal government ought to clear up the long-pending consuming water issues of the neighbourhood farmers who play a key position and do extra consciousness and conservation programmes, mentioned Rao.

A view of the birds nesting on the Uppalapadu sanctuary, which attracts pelicans, painted storks, darters and so forth. Picture by Particular Association.


Banner picture: Otters in a chicken sanctuary at Uppalapadu close to Guntur in Andhra Pradesh. Picture by Ch.Vijay Bhaskar.

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