Otters in troubled waters?

Otters in the Kaveri - sharing space with riverine fisheries and sand mining

Apart from being one of India’s most political and heavily modified rivers, the Kaveri also supports a sizeable population of otters (both Aonyx cinerea and Lutrogale perspicillata) along with intensive riverine fisheries. We explore otter distribution, conservation threats and co-existence with fishermen.

  • The Kaveri emerging from the Mekedatu gorge

  • Small-clawed otter, Kaveri

  • Peak summer 2013: With the sand gone, and the water too...

  • Flowing through the hills of Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Smooth-coated otters on an island, Kaveri

  • Riparian trees are a dominant sight only in the wildlife sanctuary

  • The hills of Talakaveri, source of the Kaveri

  • One of the numerous check-dams constructed for irrigating fields, by the Mysore kings

Along the River Kaveri

In this project, we explore the distribution of two species of otter along the River Kaveri from its source in the hills of Coorg, down 330 km to where it enters the plains of Tamil Nadu. We also explore perceptions of conflict between fishers and otters and map conservation threats along the course of the river.

Only the last 100 km of the 330 km of river is protected within the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, while the rest flows through intensively cultivated areas with villages and towns all along the way. The river is also blocked by one large dam (the Krishnarajasagara dam, one of India’s oldest) and numerous mini-hydel projects in its nearly 230 km outside the wildlife sanctuary.

In our work, we examine if conservation measures such as protected areas make a difference to conserving species such as otters, while studying their occurrence and persistence in the landscapes outside. This is important because otters are almost entirely restricted to the linear habitat along the river, which also supports large populations of people and their growing needs.

(Many volunteers and friends have been a part of this work in various stages)



  • Anith Basavaiah
  • Nityata Foundation



  • Popular Article
    கள்ளச் சந்தைக்குப் பலியாகும் சேட்டைக்காரர்கள். (On Otters of India and their threats)
    தி இந்து நாளிதழ். The Hindu Tamil News Daily. 4th November 2014.

    Jeganathan, P. (2014).கள்ளச் சந்தைக்குப் பலியாகும் சேட்டைக்காரர்கள் - தி இந்து நாளிதழ் உயிர்மூச்சு இணைப்பில், ‘இயற்கையின் வாசலில்’தொடர் எண் – 18. 4th November 2014. Kalla Santhaiku Paliyagum SettaikarargalIyarkayin Vaasalil ArticleSeries No.18 (On Otters of India and their threats). The Hindu Tamil News Daily. 4th November 2014. 

    (The Hindu link here and personal blog link here).

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