The charming and playful Ceylon Otter (Lutra lutra nair), once common throughout Sri Lanka but now rarely seen, has a new champion in the shape of environmentalist, ecologist, and attorney-at-law Jagath Gunawardena. reports that he and others concerned about the future of these adorable creatures is working behind the scenes to protect their habitats in a bid to increase their numbers.

Says Gunawardena: “Most otters are on the decline mainly because their habitats have been destroyed. Other reasons for the decline include them being subjected to roadkill, dogs, and pollution.”

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, otters have been categorised as ‘near threatened’ since 2004. The Ceylon, or Eurasian, otter is the most widely distributed of all the species, ranging throughout Eurasia up to the Arctic Circle, south to North Africa, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Lesley Wright, a spokesperson from the IUCN, told Roar “that in 1996, the otters were found to be living in the headwaters of all 5 major river systems in Sri Lanka, but not in the estuaries”.

Roar reports that “all otters are shy and elusive mammals”, and that “while media outlets and environmentalists often focus on the conservation of larger mammals such as leopards and elephants, the otter often slips through the cracks, and is neglected”.

According to the IUCN, all species of the otter are considered near threatened, “due to an ongoing population decline, but at a rate no longer exceeding 30% over the past three generations”.

And says Emil van der Poorten, of Galagedera, Sri Lanka, in a trenchant comment on the piece: “It would do a world of good if those ‘do-gooders’ who concentrate on stray dogs in the cities and the macaques who have become the bane of rural Sri Lankan’s lives spent some of their time, money and energy on getting rid of the simians and protecting those mammals that will soon disappear off the face of our island!”


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