Pakistan: Endangered species Smooth Coated Otter found in Sindh
The Pakistan chapter of an international organization working for conservation of nature has found the rare and endangered species Smooth Coated Otter, locally known as Ludhra, near wetlands of southeastern district Sanghar of Sindh province of Pakistan.
World Wide Fund for Nature – Pakistan (WWF- P) recently located smooth coated otters in Makhi area of Nara Canal in Chotiari Reservoir, Sanghar district and taken their pictures using the latest camera trap technology.
The otter is an endangered species which inhabits the wetlands of plain areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh provinces.
According to literature, thirteen species of otter exist in the world but only two are found in Pakistan; the Smooth coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) and the Common or Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra). Smooth coated otter is called as ludhro in Sindhi and Oodh Balao in Urdu language. Existence of the otter is confirmed in 11 districts of Sindh including Kashmore, Ghotki, Sukkur, Qambar-Shahdadkot, Khairpur, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sanghar, Jamshoro, Badin, Thatta and Mirpur Khas.
Commenting on the recently taken unique pictures of this endangered species, Rab Nawaz, Director, (WWF – P) said that the Smooth coated otter is considered as indicator of wetlands health and is sensitive to deterioration in the water quality, toxicity and pollution in the lake.
He further said that otters are among the first species to disappear when their environment is contaminated by pollutants. “WWF –Pakistan is engaging communities, government departments, NGOs and other stakeholders for protection of this unique species which is declining at a fast pace,” he added.
He recommended for declaration of otter sanctuary and community based otter conservation initiatives which include alternate livelihood and income generation opportunities for the community people.
Natural Resource Management Officer of WWF-P, Saeed ul Islam said that it is important component of aquatic environment and its average age spans from 10 to 15 years.
Different studies show that a good population of otter exists in and around the Chotiaroi Reservoir. According to one research about 86 otters are found in the area. He also told that approximately 95% of its diet depends on fish. Though, it also eats frogs, crabs, birds and other aquatic invertebrates. It ensures healthy fish stock by eating weak and diseased fish.
He urged for necessary steps for the conservation of otter and emphasized on the need to create awareness among local communities about its significance.
This has also been noted by the researchers that otters live in social groups consisting of an adult male- female pair and their young. The smooth coated otter has adapted itself to live in association with human population and is found to be more tolerant of the human activities.
Currently, otter species are faced with number of threats which include hunting by local communities, habitat degradation and human incursion. In 1972 it was awarded protected status under the Sindh Wildlife Protection Act and its capturing or hunting is considered to be illegal in Pakistan.
Sanghar District of Sindh province, bordering India, shares a vast area of desert with neighboring country and is locally called as ‘Achhro Thar’ (White Desert). Makhi area of the district has a historical background of guerrilla war of Hurs, the freedom fighters – followers of spiritual leader Pir Pagara Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi, martyred by British rulers.
There used to be a big lake and a thick forest from where the Hurs operated against British forces. Later, the British rulers destroyed the forest but the Makhi Lake still exists.