Vijayawada: The city has a new wild guest these days. The Krishna river in the city has become the new home for the smooth-coated otter , an aquatic mammal declared as `vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature ( IUCN ). Otters have not been spotted in the Krishna in Vijayawada before, though the animal was sighted in the estuary near Nagayalanka in Krishna district and in parts of the Tungabhadra river in Karnataka.
The river Krishna and its tributaries including Tungabhadra are in high flood after a gap of 10 years. The Krishna is now a continuous sheet of water for 1,400 km from its origin near Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra to its confluence with the Bay of Bengal. This has propelled migration of aquatic life from one part of the river and its tributaries to another. In this process, otters have strayed into the Prakasam Barrage in Vijayawada, which is likely to be their new home.
The five otters, which were sighted on Friday evening, may have migrated from the Krishna estuary, downstream of Vijayawada or from Tungabhadra river in the upstream in Karnataka, where a sanctuary was set up for otters last year. They may have also come from Srisailam dam, where they were seen in large numbers in 2018 after Karnataka released water from its dams.
There is migration of aquatic animals for the first time in a decade as the river is in spate with lakhs of cusecs of water released into the sea. About 15 years ago, a huge ray had strayed into the Krishna from the sea. It was found dead in Vijayawada after the flood receded.
Though there have been research studies on the aquatic life in the Krishna, no one has thus far studied on the aquatic mammals in Prakasam barrage. Most of the studies centred around the Krishna wildlife sanctuary which is home for mangroves, dolphins, dugongs, otters, fishing cats and a variety of avian fauna. Wildlife activists demand that the state government declare Prakasam barrage as a sanctuary for otters now that the animal has made it its new home.
Otters are harmless, but they are killed in large numbers by fishermen. In Krishna district too, there have been instances of fishermen killing otters alleging that the animals stray into prawn ponds and eat away the hatchlings. Otter is a protected animal and its killing is a punishable act.
“Forest and wildlife officials should take up a survey of fishes, reptiles including crocodiles, birds, and aquatic mammals in the Krishna river and its tributaries within Andhra Pradesh. This will give a clear picture of the aquatic wildlife for better protection,” said environment activist V Satyanarayana.
Otter is the second new animal found in Vijayawada in the last three years. Earlier, sucker or devil fish made its way into the Prakasam barrage from the Godavari after the two rivers were linked.