The pair of Smooth-coated Otters (Lutrogale perspicillata) reported last May of this year at Taganak Island in Tawi-Tawi surprised island residents last week when they emerged from their den accompanied by 3 pups.
This was announced by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region IX Executive Director Crisanta Marlene P. Rodriguez as she points out that this is the first time that these Otters, locally known as “HanjingLaut”, were seen outside their normal area of distribution.
“Studies indicate that Smooth-coated Otters are originally from Malaysia and Indonesia and it is just surprising to know that they have now reached Taganak Island”, Director Rodriguez said.
Director Rodriguez said that she received a report from Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary (TIWS) Protected Area Superintendent MindaBairula stating that residents spotted the Otters with their pups frolicking in the sand.
The report narrated that it was on July 31 that a resident living near the shoreline reported to their office that she heard sounds of newly-born animals coming from the den of the Otters. On August 17 a Protected Area Management Office (PAMO) staff spotted the baby Otters coming out from the den. With the help of personnel from the Philippine National Police Taganak Municipal Station, they were able to video-document the parent Otters and the pups playing along the shoreline.
“I have also instructed PASu Bairula, who is on site, to record the biology, habits and behavior of the Otters and continue coordinating with our office as we are also consulting with experts from the Biodiversity Management Bureau and the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Otter Specialist Group” she said.
The lady director also mentioned that her office is constrained from sending technical experts to Taganak Island to conduct further studies on the Otters because of the limited trips, transportation and quarantine protocols due to COVID 19.
Taganak residents first reported the sighting of 2 Smooth-coated Otters playing in their shoreline last May 14 and has stirred their curiosity as this is the first time that they have seen these animals in their island.
DENR, through PAMO, regularly conducts information campaigns among the residents to help take care of the Otters and avoid close contact during this maternity period as the parent Otters get very protective of their pups.
Taganak Island is part of the Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary which is Southeast Asia’s largest marine turtle sanctuary and a declared protected area under Republic Act 11038 (Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Law). Photos and video courtesy of Personnel from the Taganak Municipal Police Station