Introduction: What conservation problem or question does your study address?Goa is known for its pristine beaches which is the main tourist attractions for people from all over India and the world. Very few studies have been done on the biodiversity of this region. Otters have not been studied in Goa. Discussions with the villagers around Otter habitats indicate their population has faced a rapid decline in the last 10 years. In this study we surveyed, for the first time, Otter habitats in Goa and documented Otter activity.
Methods: What were the main research methods you used?Field surveys were conducted to get primary evidences of Otter presence. Otter signs like fresh and old spraints, latrine sites and holts were recorded. Otter signs or sighting was considered as an evidence of habitat use. Density of Otter spraints was used as an indicator to determine the intensity of habitat use. Garmin GPS devices were used to mark latitude, longitude and altitude of any otter sign or sighting. Google Earth and GPS TrackMaker softwares were used to process the GPS data.Photographic evidences were documented using camera traps and in-situ photography. Opportunistic camera trapping was carried out with an objective to recording maximum Otter images/videos within the given time frame. Informal discussions, semi-structured questionnaire were used to document the Otter-human interactions.For outreach, interactive presentations and Otter story book distribution were carried out in schools.
Results: What are your most important results?Presence of Otters was documented in 9 habitats in Goa. Lutrogale perspicillata activity documented in 8 habitats. Aonyx cinerea activity documented in one habitat.In a total camera trapping effort of 90 days 228 Otter images and 188 videos were recorded. Evidence of retaliatory killing of a Smooth-coated Otter was found during a field survey.Conflict with fishermen, sand mining and habitat loss were major threats.Otter story books were distributed in 6 schools.
Discussion: What are your important discussion points and what is the relevance of your results to conservation (if any)?Project results have been vital to address the data deficiency pertaining to Otters in Goa. Camera trapping has been very fruitful in providing significant amount of visual data. This also led to the first photographic record of the Asian Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus) in Goa.The results have been very encouraging and will form the base to carry out further studies in Goa. We have already started with the follow up study aiming towards long-term Otter conservation.