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IUCN/SCC Otter Specialist Group Bulletin
ŠIUCN/SCC Otter Specialist Group

Volume 33 Issue 2 (October 2016)

Citation: Jena, J, Bhargava, D, Borah, J and Dey, S (2016). Notes on the Occurrence of the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra L.) in the Forest of Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh, India . IUCN Otter Spec. Group Bull. 33 (2): 59 - 63

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Notes on the Occurrence of the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra L.) in the Forest of Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh, India

Jyotirmay Jena1, Dhirendra Bhargava2 , Jimmy Borah3 and Soumen Dey1

1WWF-India, Satpuda Maikal Landscape Programme, Jabalpur-482020, Madhya Pradesh, India  Email: bapinou@gmail.com 
2Chief Conservator of Forest, Balaghat Forest Circle, Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh, India
3WWF-India, Species Division, Lodi Estate, New Delhi, India

Jyotirmay Jena.  Click for larger version Dhirendra Bhargava. Click for larger version Jimmy Borah. Click for larger version Soument Dey. Click for larger version
(Received 8th March 2016, accepted 2nd September 2016)
Abstract: Eurasian otter presence was recorded in Balaghat forest range of Madhya Pradesh while conducting camera trapping study for large carnivores. The species shows a wide spread distribution from Europe, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Northern Africa, South East Asia. Though Eurasian otters have been recorded from Northern and Southern India, this is the first ever photo capture of Eurasian otter from Balaghat Forest Circle of Madhya Pradesh state in Central India
Keywords: Lutra lutra, Eurasian otter, ecosystem, distribution, central India
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Otters play an important role in the aquatic ecosystem as top carnivores and thus influence the function of the ecosystem. Often considered as an indicator species of the fresh water ecosystem or fluvial ecosystem, they provide indication of the overall health of the aquatic ecosystem. Globally, the Eurasian otter is distributed starting from Europe, south-east Asia, India, Nepal, Russia, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and also some parts of Africa (Roos et al., 2015).

In India, the Eurasian otter is distributed from the foothills of Himalayas (Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh) to Sikkim and Assam in northeast of India (Prater, 1948; Hussain, 1999). The species is also recorded from Southern India. Though otter presence in Balaghat dates back to 1907 (Low, 1907) as mentioned in the district gazetteer, it remained un-noticed to the scientific community.

Though Eurasian otter is found in variety of habitat such as lakes, rivers, streams, rivers, swamps, coastal area and estuaries their distribution in India was recorded only in the above mentioned area. Also very little is known about the status of their populations from the country. It is believed that there has been a rapid decline due to loss of habitat and poaching for meat, pelt and pet (Hussain, 2002; Mohapatra et al., 2014). In this article we report presence of Eurasian otter from Balaghat forest circle of Madhya Pradesh state of India, which is also the first photographic evidence from the area.

The Balaghat Forest Circle is one of the intact and contiguous forest patches in Central Indian Landscape and important part of Kanha-Pench tiger conservation unit. The forest of Balaghat circle is connected to three protected areas namely Kanha, Pench, Navegaon-Nagzira tiger reserve and facilitate dispersal of tigers. Hence the area is very much important in terms of landscape level conservation. However the conservation focus of the landscape has been around some of the charismatic species such as tiger (Panthera tigris). But the landscape supports a wide array of faunal and floral diversity. Though the faunal assemblage of protected areas are well understood, very little is known about other wildlife beyond the protected areas, in forests such as Balaghat. Otters historically have been recorded in the large river of the landscape such as Narmada and from Kanha Tiger Reserve (personal communication with Forest Officers). However, presence of otters beyond the protected area is little understood or documented. During our recent camera trapping study for large carnivore in Balaghat, we photo captured otters in several areas of the Balaghat forest circle (Fig. 1).

Serial No Photo Date of Photo capture Distance from water (in meters) Elevation (in meters)
1 Edge of wooded area with sparse grass at night; otter walking along.  Click for larger version 5th December 2015 520 546
2 Edge of wooded area with sparse long grass, at night; otter walking along. Paler underside and body shape clear.  click forlarger version. 6th January 2016 553 579
3 Rocky river bank at night, with otter entering the water. Click for larger version.
Same rocky river bank at night, with otter leaving the water.  Click for larger version
7th & 8th May of 2016 0 314
Figure 1. Camera trap photographs of Eurasian otter from Balaghat forest  (click each image for larger version)

Following the photo capture of the otter from the forest of Balaghat, we tried to collect information about their presence from local community. The local fishermen confirmed the presence of otter in the Dhutti dam of river Wainganga. The second author had direct sighting of otters (one occasion) after subsequent visit to the dam. (Fig. 2). Also further camera trapping from the dam site resulted into successful photo capture of the otter (Table 1). Though Balaghat forests support good number of wildlife populations, this is the first ever photographic record of Eurasian otter from this forest as well the occurrence is reported for the first time.

Maps: India showing position of Madhya Pradesh in the centre of India, the position of Balaghat in the south west of Madhya Pradesh, and a detailed map of Balaghat showing rivers, lakes, the protected areas, the camera trap locations and the place where the otter was seen, and the postion on the Wainganga River where the direct otter sighting was made at Dhutti Dam.  click forlarger version.
Figure 2. Map showing Eurasian otter photo capture and direct sighting location from Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh, India (click for larger version)

The Eurasian otter has been listed in Appendix I of CITES and Near threatened as per IUCN Red List, due to decline in population. In many areas the information on distribution as well population status is lacking.

Table 1: Summary of the first three principal components influencing site selection by otters in the Rio Piro River Basin, presenting all records, and sites with mucus present or absent within depositions. Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis. Rotation Method: Oblimin with Kaiser Normalisation. Rotation converged in 11 iterations (all, and mucus absent) and seven iterations (mucus present).

Variables Principal components
All Present Absent All Present Absent All Present Absent
River width 0.462 -0.031 0.477 0.053 0.182 0.042 0.549 0.491 0.579
Escape cover distance
   Maximum -0.016 0.988 -0.015 0.995 -0.007 0.995 -0.004 -0.033 0.000
   Minimum 0.068 0.001 0.058 0.042 0.066 0.030 0.058 -0.974 0.035
   Median -0.001 0.882 -0.003 0.941 0.019 0.941 0.009 -0.415 0.007
   Range -0.032 0.925 -0.027 1.004 -0.034 1.012 -0.017 0.375 -0.008
Water depth
   Maximum 0.915 0.015 0.927 0.013 0.833 0.014 -0.334 -0.016 -0.306
   Minimum 0.048 0.084 0.081 0.079 -0.082 0.065 -0.867 0.114 -0.856
   Median 0.514 0.039 0.556 0.061 0.250 0.062 -0.730 -0.130 -0.696
   Range 0.976 -0.021 0.976 -0.015 0.975 -0.008 -0.050 -0.070 -0.030
Interquartile range 0.930 -0.018 0.927 -0.038 0.944 -0.036 0.175 0.111 0.175
Percentage of variance 35.6 34.8 35.9 28.8 29.5 28.9 15.0 15.3 14.9

The recent ongoing survey in Balaghat presently only covers approximately 820 sq. km. The forest type varies from Sal dominated forest to miscellaneous forest, and numerous annual and perennial streams crossing over the area. A large chunk of the study area is still remote and the anthropogenic pressure is comparatively less. The presence of otters in the Balaghat forest requires more extensive studies in terms of population and habitat use. As a territorial forest division area with relatively lesser protection regime compared to the protected areas in central India, Balaghat would require more intensive policy based actions, research on factors affecting its survival and awareness campaigns among communities for the long term survival of the species.

Acknowledgements: The authors are grateful to the Principal Chief Conservation of Forest (Wildlife) Madhya Pradesh for permitting us to work in Balaghat Forest Division. We also thank Dr. S.A. Hussain and Dr. Nicole Duplaix for their expert suggestion in identification of the species. We are grateful to the field staff of WWF-India, SML team particularly to Mr. Avinash Dubey for his immense contribution to regular monitoring of camera traps. Also the authors are grateful to Dr. Dipankar Ghoshe, Director Species Programme, WWF-India for his continuous encouragement. We would like to thanks WWF-UK and WWF-Sweden for funding the entire study in Balaghat.


Foster-Turley, P., Santiapillai, C. (1990). Action plan for Asian otters, In Pat Foster-Turley, Sheila Macdonald and Chris Mason (Eds.) Otters, an action plans for their conservation. IUCN/SSC, Otter Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland. 126 pp.
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Les loutres ne sont pas territoriales au sens classique du mas dans leur habitat peut être utile à des fins d’activités de loisirs, ou plus largement pour gérer les conflits faune sauvage/humains.
Revenez au dessus

Resumen: Notas sobre la Ocurrencia de la Nutria Euroasiática (Lutra lutra L.) en el Bosque de Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh, India
Registramos la presencia de la nutria en la zona del bosque de Balaghat, en Madhya Pradesh, mientras conducíamos un estudio de carnívoros con cámaras-trampa. La especie exhibe una amplia distribución en Europa, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Norte de Africa y el Sudeste de Asia. Aunque se han registrado nutrias euroasiáticas en el Norte y el Sur de la India, esta es la primera captura fotográfica de la especie en el Anillo Forestal Balaghat, estado de Madhya Pradesh, India Central..
Vuelva a la tapa

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