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A Survey of Smooth-Coated Otter (Lutrogale Perspicillata Sindica) and Fishing Cat (Prionailurus Viverrinus) in Chotiari Reservoir, Sanghar, Pakistan Using Camera Traps


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Chotiari Reservoir located in District Sanghar, Sindh, Pakistan is known for its high biodiversity. Several threatened species of animals and plants including smooth coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata sindica) and fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) are known to abound this wetland. A survey for authenticating the presence and active nesting sites of smooth coated otter and fishing cat was conducted during 2012. Two of the four installed camera traps have captured photos of fishing cat whereas two cameras were successful in photographing a family of smooth-coated otter composed of five individuals. The survey confirmed the presence of two species which otherwise considered to be rare or locally extinct.
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INT. J. BIOL. BIOTECH., 12 (4): 579-584, 2015.
Saeedul Islam, Rab Nawaz and Muhammad Moazzam
WWF-Pakistan, 46-K, PECHS Block 6, Karachi 75400, Pakistan (
Chotiari Reservoir located in District Sanghar, Sindh, Pakistan is known for its high biodiversity. Several threatened
species of animals and plants including smooth coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata sindica) and fishing cat
(Prionailurus viverrinus) are known to abound this wetland. A survey for authenticating the presence and active
nesting sites of smooth coated otter and fishing cat was conducted during 2012. Two of the four installed camera traps
have captured photos of fishing cat whereas two cameras were successful in photographing a family of smooth-coated
otter composed of five individuals. The survey confirmed the presence of two species which otherwise considered to be
rare or locally extinct.
Keywords: Camera trapping, Chotiari Reservoir, Smooth-coated otter, Lutrogale perspicillata sindica, Fishing cat,
Prionailurus viverrinus.
Chotiari Reservoirs which is located in District Sanghar, Sindh, is considered as a favorable habitat for a variety
of mammals including 14 large and 24 small mammals (Khan and Hasnain, 2008). A number of these mammals
were not sighted directly but their presence was recorded on information provided by locals or scanty scientific clues
(Rais et al., 2010, 2011). Information about some of these mammals such as smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale
perspicillata sindica) and fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is based entirely on hearsay and accounts of the
locals (Rais et al., 2009). The presences of these species have also been reported from various parts of Pakistan
including Chotiari Reservoir by Khan et al., (2010, 2013) through indirect records. Rais et al., (2009) carried out
study on the population of smooth-coated otter in Sindh province and reported the confirmed presence of only few
individuals. They observed six healthy cubs of smooth-coated otter at Chotiari Reservoir which is the only
confirmed proof of this species in the area. The remaining information about this species was based on indirect
evidence such as foot prints whereas no adult was observed by them.
There are no two opinions that some mammal and reptile species are very hard to observe due to their shy and
nocturnal habits. Although methods of animal counting, assessment and monitoring using foot prints, calls, burrows,
colonies, food remains and scats observations were previously being used, however, emerging new technologies
such as camera trapping, satellite monitoring systems etc. are gaining popularity in animal research (Karanth and
Nichols, 1998; Kucera and Barrett, 1993; Mace et al., 1994; Silveira et al., 2003; Jenks, 2011). Camera trap
technologies are used especially in those areas that hard to access due to dense forests, vegetation cover where live
trapping, sighting or even indirect sighting methods could not be used (Mohd-Azlan and Lading, 2006; Bernard et
al., 2013). In Chotiari Reservoir, no previous record of camera trapping is available for verification and population
assessment of any animal.
In order to authenticate the presence and record any behavioral aspects of smooth-coated otter and fishing cat
camera trapping was used. The present paper reports the results of the camera trapping made in 2012.
Study Site
Sanghar District has large complex of brackish and freshwater wetlands comprised of small ponds, large lakes,
irrigation canals, storage reservoirs (Rais et al., 2008). It is a semi-natural reservoir having a complex of terrestrial
and aquatic ecosystems of freshwater, brackish lakes and shallow marshes having patches of riverine forests,
agriculture lands, and sand dunes in North known as “Achro Thar” (Khan and Hasnain, 2008). The historical Nara
Canal covers its north eastern and eastern boundaries.
The reservoir is spread over 13 kilometers wide and 16 km long area and occupies an area of about 64,000 acres
with water storage capacity of about 0.71 million acre feet. Complex of Chotiari Lakes was flanked by a rich flora of
riverine forest along the embankment of Nara river course (Fig.1). This reservoir is known to have rich mammal
population including smooth-coated otter and fishing cat but no sighting of these animals is reported from the area.
Fig. 1. Map of Chotiari Reservoir showing camera trapping site.
Fig. 2. Camera traps installed for capturing photos.
In order to verify the presence of smooth-coated otter and fishing cat in Chotiari Reservoir a reconnaissance
survey was conducted to assess the hotspot of these mammals by using direct and indirect sighting technique and
local community interviews. An estimate of the smooth-coated otter has been made based on this survey. Habitat
was evaluated during the survey. Safe and active sites were identified for installation of the camera traps. Total of
four active sites were identified with the help of local community. All the sites were situated inside the Chotiari
Reservoir near Makhi Forest. The sites have very limited anthropogenic activities thus considered as appropriate for
camera trapping.
The selected sites were densely covered by the wild plant species as Typha elephantina, Typha domingensis,
Phragmites karka, Phyllanthus reticulatus, Alhagi maurorum Luffa echinata, Schoenoplectus litoralis, Tamarix
aphylla, Tamarix indica, Acacia nilotica and other herbaceous hydrophytes e.g. Bacopa monnieri, Phyla nodiflora,
Cynodon dactylon, Cyperus rotundus, Cyperus bulbosus etc.
Four of Reconyx HyperFire PC 800 with elimination range of 70 ft. taking 3.2 MP color picture by day and
monochrome by night, capable to take 2 frames per second. The camera traps has infrared sensors to detect animal
movement and automatically captured the movements. New batteries were installed that capable to capture 10,000
pictures. The cameras were set on automatic mode with 1 frame per second/trigger on normal mode. Before
installing the cameras was passed through walk test to ensure the results. All the cameras were installed at right
angle just 1.5-2 feet above the ground level (Fig. 2). The data were accumulated with every three days interval from
the cameras and analyzed on the spot.
While selecting the sites for installation of the camera traps an estimate of the population of smooth-coated otter
was made (Table 1) which is based primarily on the account of locals and animals foot prints. The survey indicates
that there is a healthy population of smooth-coated otter in the Chotiari Reservoirs, however, this survey did not
include any direct sighting of the otters.
Table 1. Estimates of population of smooth-coated otter in the Chotiari Reservoirs based on accounts of locals and
foot prints.
Old Bakar Lake near Bakar village
Near outlet
Fish farms between Bakar and outlet of the reservoir
Outlet to Pakseri
Outside of the reservoir, natural ditches and fish farms
Pakseri to Lal Bux
Unnar village
Inside and outside of the reservoir seepage and fish forms
Pumping station
Pumping station to inlet of the reservoir (outside of the reservoir)
Camera traps have been extensively used for population estimates and behavior of other species
(Leuchtenberger et al., 2014; Prakash et al., 2012) but authors have no information about their use for estimating
population of smooth-coated otters. Fishing cat has been studied through camera trap by Karki (2011) and Lynam et
al., (2013). During initial part of the present study, four camera traps (numbered as 1 to 4) that were deployed near
Makhi Forest, Chotiari Reservoir did not take any photographs of the targeted species except few birds including
Acridotheres tristis (Common myna), Ixobrychus cinnamomeus (Cinnamon bittern) and Amaurornis phoenicurus
(White-breasted waterhen). During the third week of the survey camera no. 3 was taken monochrome photographs
of a fishing cat (Fig.3). The camera no. 1 and 2 successfully captured monochrome and colour photographs of a
family of smooth-coated otter having five members in the group visited about three time of the same location at
different timings within 24 hours (Fig. 4). These otters were observed resting and playing within the group (Table
2). Camera no.4 was also success to capture a fishing cat but unfortunately the pictures was out of focus as the cat
was very near the camera but its identification is confirmed because of shape of animal and markings thereupon.
Fig. 3. Camera trap # 3 & 4 showing fishing cat.
Fig. 4. Camera traps # 1 & 2 showing smooth-coated otter).
Table 2. Details of captured photos of smooth-coated otter and fishing cat at Chotiari Reservoir.
The percentage of captured photographs is given which reveals that fishing cat was observed 33 % of the
captured times of camera whereas smooth coated otters occupied 30 % of the time where birds were observed at 27
% of the captured time and at 10 % time there photograph capture was empty.
Fishing cat food consists of fish and other small animals including crabs, invertebrates and birds which are
hunted by the cat (Haque and Vijayan, 1993). During the survey, fishing cat was observed in the same area where
smooth-coated otter were noticed especially on those places where the otter usually eat their prey. The fishing cat
Number of
08:32:03-8:33:47 AM
10:30:44-10:31:12 AM
05:38:27-05:38:29 AM
08:26:46-08:33:44 AM
10:30:06-10:30:09 AM
Fishing cat
07:58:51-07:58:54 PM
Fishing cat
06:43:39-06:43:50 PM
Fishing Cat
05:41:58-05:43:10 AM
visits this area to consume the remains of the fish eaten by otters. This association between two carnivorous
mammal species observed during the present study where fishing cat which is a predator hunting for aquatic animals
also scavenge on the food remains of smooth-coated otters. While working on camera trapping it was noticed that
the foraging success generally increases within the mixed mammalian associations (Venkataraman, 2015). The
association between two carnivorous mammal species observed during the present study required further studies for
detail inter-species behavior and association type.
Fishing cat is an endangered animal according to the IUCN Red List whereas, smooth-coated otter is considered
vulnerable with decreasing population trend. There is a need to study the detailed ecology of these important
animals by using camera trap technology as well as collection of information about of the biology the two species in
the area.
The study proved that camera trapping is a cost and time efficient method for rapid assessment and to determine
status, abundance and occurrence of wildlife in a particular area, it is generally used for the confirmation of the
presence of particular species. Several researchers published paper on the otter presence at Chotiari Reservoir but
not directly observed them however, the camera trapping survey has confirmed the presence of healthy population of
this precious species in the Chotiari wetland habitat.
The authors are indebted to the fishermen of the Chotiari Reservoir especially Mr. Manthar Ali Leghari, Mr.
Shakoor Ahmed Leghari and Mr. Ghulam Hussain Leghari who have helped in site selection and installation of the
camera traps. They offer their thanks to WWF-Pakistan’s staff posted at Chotiari Reservoir for their support and
assistance. The authors are thankful to Dr. Ejaz Ahmad, Dr. Ghulam Akbar and Mr. Umair Shahid of WWF-
Pakistan for their encouragement and support for the study.
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(Accepted for publication October 2015)
... Pakistan: this population was thought to be close to extinction in the early 1970s (Roberts 1977), but Islam et al. (2015) camera-trapped individuals in the Chotiari Reservoir area in the Sanghar District of Sindh Province. There are also reports of individuals being sold and seized in a wildlife market in Karachi (Bhatti 2015, Faraz Ubairi in litt. ...
... In South Asia, the Fishing Cat is currently widespread in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The Pakistan population of Fishing Cat was feared to be close to extinction (Roberts 1977), but there are camera-trap records of Fishing Cat from the Chotiari Reservoir in the Sindh Province of Pakistan (Islam et al. 2015) and recent reports of individuals being sold in local markets in Karachi (Faraz Zubairi in litt. 2015). ...
... It has a variety of Flora and Fauna diversity along the Nara river course and embankment especially rich in the mammal population. 37 The average maximum temperature in summer is about 40°c with an average evaporation rate of 11mm. Chotiari is facing the depletion of its irrigation, forest, and fish resources over the last 5 years. ...
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In this study, the Land Use/Land Cover (LULC) change has been observed in wetlands comprises of Manchar Lake, Keenjhar Lake, and Chotiari Reservoir in Pakistan over the last four decades from 1972 to 2020. Each wetland has been categorized into four LULC classes; water, natural vegetation, agriculture land, and dry land. Multitemporal Landsat satellite data including; Multi-Spectral Scanner (MSS), Thematic Mapper (TM), and Operational Land Imager (OLI) images were used for LULC changes evaluation. The Supervised Maximum-likelihood classifier method is used to acquire satellite imagery for detecting the LULC changes during the whole study period. Soil adjusted vegetation index technique (SAVI) was also used to reduce the effects of soil brightness values for estimating the actual vegetation cover of each study site. Results have shown the significant impact of human activities on freshwater resources by changing the natural ecosystem of wetlands. Change detection analysis showed that the impacts on the land cover affect the landscape of the study area by about 40% from 1972 to 2020. The vegetation cover of Manchar Lake and Keenjhar Lake has been decreased by 6,337.17 and 558.18 ha, respectively. SAVI analysis showed that soil profile is continuously degrading which vigorously affects vegetation cover within the study area. The overall classification accuracy and Kappa statistics showed an accuracy of >90% for all LULC mapping studies. This work demonstrates the LULC changes as a critical monitoring basis for ongoing analyses of changes in land management to enable decision-makers to establish strategies for effectively using land resources.
... Camera traps are also widely being used in the surveys of fishing cats (e.g. Lynam et al. 2013;Sadhu and Reddy 2013;Islam et al. 2015;Thaung et al. 2018;Kolipaka et al. 2019;Poudel et al. 2019;Chakraborty et al. 2020). Keeping these in view, surveys are being carried out across the state of West Bengal, India in the wetland habitats situated outside protected areas. ...
Prionailurus viverrinus, a wetland-dependent lesser cat with globally declining population, is suffering from increasing destruction/conversion of wetlands for various anthropogenic use, poaching, retaliatory killing etc. In India, they prefer to thrive in dense emergent vegetation adjoining different wetlands along the east coast and Gangetic plains. However, surveys determining their distribution range were carried out long ago and, due to various threats they have been decimated from many areas where they used to thrive earlier. This demands for a reassessment of their present status across its reported distribution range. Here we report the presence of fishing cats (through camera trap evidence) for the first time from a human-dominated wetland habitat of Murshidabad district, West Bengal, India. Out of all camera-trap images in the present study (N = 39), majority are of fishing cats Prionailurus viverrinus (25 pictures, 64.10%) followed by golden jackal Canis aureus (12 pictures, 30.76%), and jungle cat Felis chaus (two pictures, 5.12%). None of these wild fauna were recorded during day time. Fishing cats and golden jackals were mostly recorded between 21:01–3:00 h and 18:00–21:00 h respectively. Two images of jungle cats were also captured, one each during 21:01–00:00 h and 00:01–3:00 h. Similar studies in other wetlands within the distributional range of fishing cats will collectively validate their present distribution, which might be useful for in-situ conservation of this elusive vulnerable species. The article is available as 'Online First':
... Camera traps are widely being used for fishing cat surveys (e.g., Lynam et al. 2013;Islam et al. 2015;Thaung et al. 2018;Kolipaka et al. 2019;Poudel et al. 2019). We placed camera traps (Cuddeback Attack Model-1149 and Spypoint IR-5) in three of the four potential trails, but not in the fourth trail where the risk of vandalism was higher. ...
The fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is a medium-sized felid, which uses various habitats including areas adjoining wetlands. This species is listed as ‘vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List 2016, Appendix 2 of CITES and under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act. In spite of being mired with several threats, studies on fishing cats outside protected areas are scarce in West Bengal, and their confirmed presence has so far been reported only from the Howrah and Hooghly districts. This is the first published account of the presence of fishing cats in human-dominated landscapes of East Medinipur (West Bengal, India) through camera-trap evidence. We have observed that habitat alterations and disturbances associated with the construction of a brick kiln have possibly led to the displacement of fishing cats and other associated wildlife species from the study area. Similar surveys in yet unexplored areas of fishing cat distribution range are needed to identify remaining populations, threats to their survival and to initiate appropriate conservation initiatives. Our findings indicate that current anthropocentric land-use policies need to be reviewed to reduce anthropogenic disturbances and destruction of habitats sustaining fishing cats and other wildlife in human-dominated landscapes.
... For about half a decade since the last assessment of the fishing cat by the IUCN Red List it has been announced that the species may have been extirpated from Pakistan (Mukherjee et al. 2010, Jutzeler et al. 2010). The last published records of wild fishing cats in Pakistan were in the 1960s and 1970s from the rivers of the Indus river valley, lakes and swamps (Roberts 1977), and then again in 2012 from Chotiari Reservoir in Sindh (Islam et al. 2015). A few years prior to these records, an 'escaped' fishing cat was reported from a residential area of coastal Karachi (Mirza & Omar 2008). ...
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In the present study, species richness of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians was studied from June, 2006 to June, 2009 at Chotiari Reservoir, Sanghar, Sindh Province. Data were collected through standard direct as well as indirect methods. A total of 203 species including 32 mammals, 136 birds, 32 reptiles and three amphibians belonging to 29 orders and 78 families were recorded during the study. Significant wildlife species included Red fox, Bengal fox, Indian desert cat, Caracal, Fishing cat, Smooth-coated Otter, Indian Civet, Pallas's fishing eagle, Houbara bustard, Cinereous Vulture, Great White-fronted Goose, Marsh Crocodile and Rock Python. Comparison with previous studies revealed that wildlife species composition in the study area had changed. It was found that Indian wolf, striped hyena and Hog deer have been disappeared from the area. Existence of Caracal and Sindh babbler was not ascertained despite of best efforts. Marbled teal was not found during the present study period. Changes in land use practices, habitat modification, hunting, unregulated fishing, overexploitation, community-wildlife conflict and trapping of wildlife species were major issues affecting wildlife composition and population of various species of the area.
Rapid faunal assessments can use different methods depending on environmental conditions and costs. To compare the efficiency of three methods in detecting species richness and abundance, we tested them in the grasslands of Emas National Park, central Brazil. Track census was the most effective method for detecting richness, followed by camera-trapping and direct faunal counts. Track census reached an asymptote for number of species after only 12 days, but all methods converged on similar estimates of species richness after around 30 days. There was no significant spatial correlation for species richness or total abundance, between camera trap and tracks, across the 29 samples distributed in the park. However, for some species, abundance showed significant spatial correlation between methods. Also, these rates were significantly correlated across species and the spatial correlation between methods was significantly associated with log-transformed body mass across species. We conclude that, despite the high initial costs for camera-trapping, this method is the most appropriate for mammal inventory in all environmental conditions, allowing a rapid assessment of wildlife conservation status.
The tiger (Panthera tigris) is an endangered, large felid whose demographic status is poorly known across its distributional range in Asia. Previously applied methods for estimating tiger abundance, using total counts based on tracks, have proved unreliable. Lack of reliable data on tiger densities not only has constrained our ability to understand the ecological factors shaping communities of large, solitary felids, but also has undermined the effective conservation of these animals In this paper, we describe the use of a field method proposed by Karanth (1995), which combines camera-trap photography, to identify individual tigers, with theoretically well-founded capture-recapture models. We developed a sampling design for camera-trapping and used the approach to estimate tiger population size and density in four representative tiger habitats in different parts of India. The field method worked well and provided data suitable for analysis using closed capture-recapture models. The results suggest the potential for applying this methodology to rigorously estimate abundances, survival rates, and other population parameters for tigers and other low-density, secretive animal species in which individuals can be identified based on natural markings. Estimated probabilities of photo-capturing tigers present in the study sites ranged from 0.75 to 1.00. Estimated densities of tigers >1 yr old ranged from 4.1 ± 1.31 to 16.8 ± 2.96 tigers/100 km2 (mean ± 1 SE). Simultaneously, we used line-transect sampling to determine that mean densities of principal tiger prey at these sites ranged from 56.1 to 63.8 ungulates/km2. Tiger densities appear to be positively associated with prey densities, except at one site influenced by tiger poaching. Our results generally support the prediction that relative abundances of large felid species may be governed primarily by the abundance and structure of their prey communities.