Smooth-coated otters spotted in Kharghar creek in Navi Mumbai
Birdwatchers spotted a pair of endangered smooth-coated otters in Navi Mumbai’s Kharghar creek while on a birding trip on Friday afternoon. The species, whose presence around Konkan coast has been previously documented, are listed as “vulnerable” as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list of threatened species globally. They are also protected under Schedule 2 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The otters were spotted and photographed by birders S Ramprasad and Sanjeev Balsara near Sector-16 in Kharghar, which is a popular birding area. “We were excited and took some pictures before the creatures disappeared. They were very fast-moving,” said Ramprasad, whose pictures were later corroborated by researchers at Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
The presence of these otters, one of six species found in Asia, has been documented in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts earlier. In 2017, the first-ever census of smooth-coated otters along Maharashtra coast pegged their population at around 500. The census had found between 437 and 591 otters across 12 creeks in Sindhudurg.
With small eyes and ears, a flat tail and webbed paws, smooth-coated otters hunt in groups for safety, found the census conducted by the state mangrove cell and Pune-based NGO Ela Foundation. The study had also identified threats to the otter’s habitat such as sand dredging, water pollution from pesticides, and industries leading to high turbidity in some creeks where they hunt for fish.
In 2019, a pair of otters was seen in Roha, Raigad district. “Friday’s sighting is possibly the first time in several years that these otters have been seen so far north. It indicates that the area may have a healthy fish population. Further vigilance and study are required to know whether these otters were in Kharghar creek in search of food or if they are living there,” said Rahul Khot, assistant director, Natural History Collection Department, BNHS.
Navi Mumbai-based environmentalist BN Kumar, who runs NatConnect Foundation and has been campaigning for the creation of a biodiversity protection plan, said, “This sighting is all the more reason for authorities to take stock of and find measures to protect such wildlife. We have created a list of 20 areas across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) including Kharghar creek, that require a higher level of protection. We will present our findings to BNHS for their consideration this week.”