Explore the otter side

Aug 24, 2018, 08:30 IST | Dalreen Ramos

In a bite-sized state of touristy attractions, a new programme invites you to discover an island that's home to a variety of hidden ecosystems

Explore the otter side

“A house to which one returns not with the certainty of welcoming fellow human beings, nor with the expectation of comfort and ease, but to a long familiarity in which every lichen-covered rock and rowan tree show known and reassuring faces.”

White-throated kingfisher
White-throated kingfisher

The Ring of Bright Water, Gavin Maxwell’s literary masterpiece, talks of his home in the Scottish highlands where he lived with otters. The book, published in 1960, found its way to the hands of ecologist Katrina Fernandez in 2012, who after completing her doctorate, turned into an otter specialist herself.

As the scientific director of Wild Otters, an organisation that works towards conservation and research of the mammal in India, Fernandez will be leading a three-day Island Exploration programme based in Goa’s Chorao Island, where the team is putting up.

“Two out of the three species of otters can be found in India — the smooth-coated and the Asian small-clawed. Chorao is home to the former and we chose the island for its higher density of the mammal as well as the infrastructure which makes it a good study site,” she says.

However, that is not all what Chorao has to offer; it is home to a plethora of ecosystems. “There are around 120 to 150 species of birds here. It is home to different habitats of amphibians and reptiles, as well as porcupines and civets,” Kshitij Garg, director and communications chief of the organisation, tells us. The programme, available at a subsidised cost, is designed for participants from all walks of life and they will get an opportunity to improve their observation skills.

“There’s the study of pond life, moth analysis as well as a botany component. Students and professionals will also learn of field techniques in research,” he says. For Fernandez, the aim remains to bring more focus towards the animal.

Katrina Fernandez and Kshitij Garg
Katrina Fernandez and Kshitij Garg

“Although the fishing community on the island is aware of the otter, if you gather people who know about the animal and extrapolate the figure, it is still miniscule. Some cannot even spot the animal in their backyard and we want to change that perception.”

Dos and Don'ts
> Avoid going out alone at night
> Shoes in the field are a must
> Avoid making noise in the field
> Drinking and smoking isn’t permitted in the field base or the immediate vicinity
> Throwing garbage isn’t allowed

What to carry
> Comfortable field clothes and shoes
> Raincoat
> Water bottle
> Sunglasses
> Towel

From August 31, 9 am to September 2, 4 pm
At Wild Otters Field Base, near St. Bartholomew church, Chorao Island.
Email kshitij@wildotters.com
Cost Rs 5,500 per person

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