The Kawal Tiger Reserve is undergoing a remarkable transformation, becoming a thriving haven for the elusive smooth-coated otter, known as “Neeti Pilli” in Telugu. These playful and fascinating creatures have established themselves along the banks of the Kadam River, canal bunds, and even the majestic Godavari River. Their presence indicates a healthy and well-maintained river ecosystem, highlighting the crucial role of the reserve in biodiversity conservation.
However, the smooth-coated otter faces significant threats. Water pollution, overfishing, and human activities like dam construction and agricultural practices endanger their habitat. In recognition of these threats, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the otters as “vulnerable.”
Venkat Anagandhula, a research officer at the Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society (HYTICOS), has documented an increasing number of otter sightings within the reserve. Cattle grazers and fishermen frequently report encounters with these playful mammals, often observing them in groups of eight or more. Venkat’s efforts to capture footage of the otters have led to sightings in Badampally, Jannaram Vagu, Chinthagudem, and Kalamadugu.
These observations offer a glimmer of hope for the future of the smooth-coated otter. However, continued conservation efforts are essential. Protecting the pristine water quality of the rivers and ensuring the long-term safety of these otters will require vigilance and commitment from forest officials. The Kawal Tiger Reserve has the potential to become a beacon of hope for endangered species, and the smooth-coated otter’s presence serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of protecting our natural world.