In the past few months we’ve heard of otters eating alligators and terrorizing customers at a fast food restaurant, tarnishing the furry mammal’s cute and cuddly reputation. But not all otters are vicious creatures out for blood. Some, like the endangered short-haired otters, have been helping fishermen in Bangladesh catch fish for centuries.
Otter fishing is a centuries-old tradition in Bangladesh; a rare technique that is passed on from father to son.
“We use them because they catch more fish that we can alone,” Shashudhar Biswas, a fisherman in his 50s whose family has trained otters for generations, told Time.
Biswas said the otters do not catch the fish themselves, but they chase them toward fishing nets. His son Vipul said this technique makes it easier to make ends meet.
“The otters manage to spot fish among the plants, then the fish swim away and we stay close with our nets. If we did it without them, we wouldn’t be able to catch as many fish,” said Vipul.
But this specialized type of fishing is seeing a rapid decline thanks to water pollution and decreasing fish stocks. And the conservation efforts of the short-haired otter might be affected by it.
“The captive population here is very healthy because of the fishing,” Mohammed Mostafa Feeroz, a zoology professor at Dhaka’s Jahangirnagar University, told the Daily Mail.
Sometimes fishermen release otters into the wild which strengthens that population, research shows.
“But as the practice gradually decreases, the wild population will face increased pressure,” Feeroz said.