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THATTA, Dec 31: An indigenous male otter (Lutrogale perspicillata sindica), an endangered species called Ludhro in local parlance, passes his days wailing from dawn to dusk in a narrow cage, probably because of loss of habitat and isolation.

The cage that can barely fit this 34-60 inch animal has been placed near Haleji Lake for a year in violation of the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1972.

The otter's plight came to light during the annual planning and networking meeting of the WWF-Indus for All Programme convened in Hyderabad on Thursday.

Nawaz Kumbhar, an environmentalist, informed the meeting that the otter, a semi aquatic mammal, had been put in a narrow cage away from his natural habitat and away from his female, which was perhaps the major reason for his desperation and restlessness.

Mr Kumbhar said the smooth-coated otter was captured by then conservator of wildlife Saeed Baloch near Chotiyarioon Dam about 6km from Sanghar near Bakhoro Mori. He dumped it in his jeep and threw it into a cage placed near Haleji, he said.

Many participants of the meeting told this correspondent that they had witnessed the encaged otter who continued to wail and groan non stop.

They were critical of the Sindh Wild Life Department official who displaced the water animal instead of taking strict measures for its breeding.

They underlined the need for establishment of sanctuaries for otters and called for preparing a plan for otters breeding to save the indigenous species.

Former conservator of wildlife Hussain Bux Bhagat confirmed the Ludhro was brought by the then conservator Saeed Baloch to Haleji from a peasant who had kept the animal as his pet.

The main objective to keep the Ludhro near Haleji was to provide an opportunity to urban visitors to study the world of indigenous animals, Bhagat said.

Haleji is a paradise of bird watchers animal lovers, who visit the site in hundreds on every weekend and spend the day picnicking and watching nature from up close.

Mr Bhagat said the animal was initially kept in a 100x150 feet enclosure and was shifted to a makeshift cage after its iron net was damaged. The new cage was no doubt not suitable for the animal, he said.

He admitted that despite lapse of a year the department had failed to arrange a female to give company to the lonely otter, which was almost mandatory for the male's survival.

According to a recent study carried out by the Sindh Wildlife Department and sponsored by the Indus for All Program-funded otter conservation project, the animal's existence has been confirmed in Kashmore-Kandhkot, Ghotki, Sukkur, Qambar-Shahdadkot, Khairpur, Nawabshah, Sanghar, Jamshoro, Badin, Thatta and Mirpurkhas.

The animal has been declared 'protected' under the Sindh Wildlife Protection Act, which strictly prohibits its capture and hunting.

In lower Sindh, particularly in Thatta and Badin districts owners of fish farms frequently kill otters for eating fish.

Total population of smooth-coated otters in more than 25 sites in Sindh has been estimated at around 178.

Hunting for fur, habitat degradation, increasing water pollution and weak enforcement of wildlife laws have significantly reduced its population.