The Eurasian Otter, also known as the European Otter or Common Otter, is a semi-aquatic mammal found throughout Europe and parts of Asia. They are members of the Mustelidae family, which also includes weasels, badgers, and ferrets.
Eurasian Otters have a sleek, streamlined bodies, which helps them to move quickly through the water. They have webbed feet and strong, muscular tails that they use to swim and navigate underwater. Their fur is thick and waterproof and is usually brown with a lighter-coloured underside.
These otters are active mainly at night, when they hunt for fish, crustaceans, and other aquatic animals. They can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes underwater and are able to swim at speeds of up to 15 kilometres per hour.
Eurasian Otters are a threatened species due to habitat loss, pollution, and hunting. Conservation efforts have been put in place to protect their populations, including the restoration of wetland habitats and the reduction of pollution in rivers and streams.
Recently, a group of three Eurasian Otters were sighted in the Neeru stream, which is part of the Chenab catchment area located in the region of Jammu and Kashmir.
Eurasian Otter UPSC
Three scientists from the Institute of Mountain Environment at the University of Jammu recently captured three Eurasian otters in the Neeru stream of the Chenab catchment area. Their discovery not only confirmed the presence of these animals in the upper Chenab catchment, but also revealed that certain sections of the Neeru remain unpolluted. The Neeru is a tributary of the Chenab River.
As the Eurasian otter is considered a flagship species and a sign of high-quality aquatic habitats, its presence in the Neeru stream is a positive indication of the waterway’s health. This species is classified as “near threatened” on the IUCN Red List, emphasizing the importance of their conservation efforts.
UPSC Current Affairs Preparation Notes on Eurasian Otter
The taxonomy of the Eurasian Otter is as follows:
In terms of conservation status, the Eurasian Otter is classified as “near threatened” by the IUCN, and is listed in Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act and Appendix I of CITES.
The Eurasian Otter has one of the widest distributions of all palaearctic mammals, spanning three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. In India, it can be found in the northern, northeastern, and southern regions. However, it is believed to be extinct in Japan, despite having had a wide distribution there in the past.
The Eurasian Otter possesses sleek brown fur, which is typically lighter on the underside. Its body is long and lithe, and is equipped with a thick tail and short legs. Adaptations for an aquatic lifestyle include webbed feet, the ability to close its small ears and nose while underwater, and a very dense, short fur that traps a layer of air to insulate the animal.
This species is capable of inhabiting a wide range of aquatic habitats, including lakes, rivers, streams, marshes, swamp forests, and coastal areas, regardless of their size, origin, or latitude.
In the Indian sub-continent, Eurasian Otters can be found in cold hill and mountain streams. During the summer months (April-June) in the Himalayas, they may even ascend up to 3,660 meters.
UPSC Exam Preparation Notes on Eurasian Otter
Developmental activities like canalization of rivers, removal of bankside vegetation, dam construction, draining of wetlands, and aquaculture practices have resulted in habitat destruction. The acidification of rivers and lakes has caused a decrease in prey species, further exacerbating the problem. Poaching for pelt is also a significant threat to the species.
Coastal populations of Eurasian otters are vulnerable to oil spills, while inland populations are at risk of exposure to organic pollutants like nitrate fertilizers, untreated sewage, and farm slurry. Another potential risk comes from traps designed to kill other species, such as underwater cages that drown muskrats.
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In conclusion, the Eurasian Otter is a significant animal from the point of view of biodiversity and ecological balance. Its classification as ‘near threatened’ on the IUCN Red List highlights the need for conservation efforts. The recent sighting of three Eurasian Otters in the Neeru stream of the Chenab catchment in Jammu and Kashmir is encouraging news for the health of the aquatic habitat in the region. However, the Eurasian Otter faces several threats to its survival, such as habitat destruction, poaching for pelts, and pollution of aquatic habitats. Understanding the threats to the Eurasian Otter and implementing conservation measures is crucial to preserving the species and maintaining ecological balance.