In a first-of-its-kind development, a small clawed otter, being hand-raised at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) - Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) - run Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) in the State was released in the Kaziranga National Park.
While the CWRC has rehabilitated several animals in the past, this is the first incident of a hand- raised otter being released back into the wild by the CWRC. The CWRC team consisting of veterinarians, field biologists and animal keepers were at the release site to ensure that the entire operation went on smoothly.
“It is another achievement for the IFAW-WTI-run CWRC. We have released several large mammals, but this one is special because it proves that we are dedicated to the welfare of all wild animals and not just the flagship species,” said Ian Robinson, vice president, International Operations, IFAW-WTI.
This particular otter pup, together with two others, was rescued in September, 2013 by fishermen who found it floating on hyacinth leaves when floods had inundated the Kaziranga National Park. After rescuing the otters, the fishermen took them to Dahgaon, one of the fringe villages in Kaziranga. Thereafter, sources informed forest officials and they rescued the otters on the same day. The Forest Department then handed over the pups to the CWRC MVS team on the same day. Once they were handed over, the MVS team realised that the three pups were yet to open their eyes and needed care.
Over the course of the next few months, two of the three cubs died. The only surviving cub was named Oliver by the CWRC team which ensured that it was given proper care so that it could be released into the wild. In order to achieve that, the CWRC team introduced Oliver to a makeshift water body where it was gradually allowed to fish and develop its natural instincts. Apart from this, it was milk-fed and nursed.
Soon, the instinctive behavioural changes were there for all to see and Oliver was able to swim and catch fish too.
“On October 25, 2014, a radio transmitter was implanted on the male otter by the team of IFAW-WTI veterinarians led by Dr Bhupen Sarma of the College of Veterinary Science, Assam. The otter recovered well after the surgery and resumed its normal routine. It was then decided that the time was right to release the otter into its natural surroundings,” said Dr Rathin Burman, Deputy Director, WTI.
Finally, following the protocol of soft release, the otter was released in the presence of SK Seal Sarma, Divisional Forest Officer and Rabindra Sarma, Research Officer, Kaziranga National Park and the IFAW-WTI team.
After the release, a team of IFAW-WTI field biologists will monitor the 16-month-old otter to ensure its well-being in the wild.