An otter looks like a mongoose but it is bigger than that. Once otters were available across the world, but because of their fur-like skin, the animal has fallen prey to hunters. So, their numbers have declined.
Otters have been declared a protected animal in India and brought under Section-2 of the Wildlife Act 1972. Their hunting has been banned. Now, the government is trying to find ways to preserve them.
There are 13 types of otter in the world. In India, otters have been classified into three categories: The kind of otters found in the sea, the Eurasian otters and the ones that live in rivers, ponds and lakes. They are known as river otters. The sea otters that love to live in waters eat shellfish by striking it against stones. It means this category of otters know how to use its intelligence as man and dolphins do.
Otters that have originated from Europe, Asia and North Africa, are called Eurasian otters. In India, they can be found in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Odisha, southern states and in Goa.
The second category of otters are covered with very soft fur. They are found in the valley of northern India, southern India, Maharashtra and in Goa. The third category of otters originate from eastern part of the world.
They have small paws and are found in the mountains of Assam, Himachal Pradesh and South India. Otters love to stay away from human settlements. The otters live in seas, rivers and lakes, but their holes can be found on the banks of these water bodies. Otters can be found playing in the sea.
Size of otters
The length of an otter is generally between three and five feet. Its weight varies from five to 30 kg. Its body is as thin and as long as a rolling pin, but the animal is very agile. Its ears and nose are small. Its paws are small and membranous which help the animal swim very fast.
Its teeth and nails are very sharp, which help an otter to catch prey easily as well as eat it. Their body is covered with two-layered fur. This protects them from getting wet and from cold. The tail of the sea otters is shorter than the ones living in lakes and rivers, whose tails are brawny. So, it helps them stand.
When the otters swim their noses and ears are closed, so the water does not enter into the body. At the time of swimming otters can sleep and rest on their back. They are expert swimmers as well as divers. They can dive 60 feet deep into the water. On the other hand, the otters that live in seas can dive deeper than the ones living in lakes and rivers can do.
Food, place of living
The otters are skilled hunters and fond of fish found in the rivers and in the seas. Besides, they prey upon snails, crabs, small birds flying around the water bodies and various aquatic animals.
An otter can eat food which is one fourth of its weight. The otters generally live in the seas, rivers and lakes. They are so clever that they occupy the holes made by other animals.
Life span, breeding system
The average age of an otter is from 10 to 16 years. A female otter can breed after three years of its birth. It breeds in water. The eyes of a baby otter open after one month of its birth. It stays with the mother for one year and, after that, it lives independently.
Dr Shailendra Shrivastava who retired as director general of Madhya Pradesh Police also worked as an officer in the Indian Forest Service. Shrivastava who has done PhD in botany (forest ecology) has been writing articles on wildlife and environment for different national and international magazines for many years. Views expressed are personal