The move will lead to an international ban on trade in the species.
Mumbai: The smooth-coated otter, which is found along the Konkan coast, mostly in Sindhudurg and Goa, is now an Appendix I species (threatened with extinction) under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a global treaty for the protection of endangered species.
Due to excessive trade in otters for their hide, India had sought this status for the smooth-coated otter at the ongoing CITES conference of international leaders. The move will lead to an international ban on trade in the species.
Wildlife experts have lau-ded the move, saying that the state earlier saw incidents of illegal poaching and trading in the species. “Earlier, hunters and traders from north India used to visit Sindhudurg for these otters. While incidents of poaching of smooth-coated otters have reduced, the species is still prone to hunting for its extremely soft skin,” said Dr Satish Pande, founder, Ela Foundation.
Otters are found mostly in creeks and dense mangroves. According to a study by Ela Foundation and Mangrove Cell, around 500 smooth-coated otters are present in the 12 creeks of Sindhudurg. “In our ongoing study, we have found their presence in all creeks of south Ratnagiri as well,” said Dr Pande.
N. Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forests, mangrove cell, said, “Even though international trade in otters has not been witnessed lately, factors like industrial pollution causing high turbidity inside the creeks and sand-dredging pose danger to the otters’ habitat.”
Apart from the smooth-coated otter, the Indian Star Tortoise, too, has been added to the Appendix I list. “India also needs to recognise the thriving illegal trade in star tortoise and change its status from Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, to Sc-hedule I. They are traded largely as pets and due to myths that they bring good luck,” said Sunish Subramanian, wildlife warden, Mumbai.