A rare photographic record of Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra with a note on its habitat from the Bhagirathi Basin, western Himalaya, India

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Ranjana Pal
Aashna Sharma
Vineet Kumar Dubey
Tapajit Bhattacharya
Jeyaraj Antony Johnson
Kuppusamy Sivakumar
Sambandam Sathyakumar


The Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra is an elusive, solitary animal that has one of the widest distributions of all palearctic mammals. Once widely distributed in Asia, the Eurasian Otter population is now vulnerable to urbanization, pollution, poaching, and dam construction. Eurasian Otter distribution in the Indian Himalayan rivers is little explored, and information from this high-altitude riverine ecosystem is sparse. This publication reports a rare photographic record of the Eurasian Otter which confirms its presence in the high-altitude temperate forest of the Upper Bhagirathi Basin, western Himalayan region. The otter was recorded during investigations of terrestrial and aquatic fauna in the Bhagirathi Basin (7,586 km2, 500–5,000 m) of Uttarakhand State, India from October 2015 to May 2019. Among aquatic fauna, Brown Trout were found to be abundant in high altitude river stretches, with a catch per unit effort of 1.02 kg h–1. Additionally, 26 families of freshwater macroinvertebrates underscored a rich diet available for the Brown Trout, which in turn is a potential food source for the otters. The riverine ecosystem is undergoing dramatic changes because of the increasing demand for hydropower plants in the Bhagirathi Basin. Although mitigation measures are currently in place for fish, the presence of otters further necessitates the need for targeted management for high-altitude Himalayan rivers. There is an imperative need for intensive otter surveys using methods such as camera traps in riparian habitats along the Bhagirathi River and its tributaries.

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