Elegant Water Shrew found for the first time in western Himalaya, Uttarakhand, India:WII

Jan 06, 2018 21:08 | Feature & Viewpoint

Dharamshala (Arvind Sharma) 06/01/18

 A team of researchers of Wildlife Institute of India, WII , Dehradun, Uttarakhand has found the New distribution records of elegant Water Shrew Nectogale elegans, for the first time in  the western Himalaya, Uttarakhand, India. This was revealed here by  the team of researchers  from WII namely Aashna Sharma , Vandana Rajput , Vineet K. Dubey , Aavika Dhanda and Shagun Thakur. This team was lead by the scientists of WII viz. K. Sivakumar, J.A. Johnson and S. Sathyakumar.  They  said that In South Asia, its presence  has been recorded earlier  in India  from North Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh and also in  eastern Nepal, but its presence was registered  for the first time in the western Himalayas by this team. Aashna said,”A reasearch paper revealing this interesting finding has also been published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa on  26 December 2017.” The present study is the first distribution record off this species in the western Himalayan region, prior to this, the species in India has been reported only from Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, ( with no individual records elsewhere in the country}

Team added, “Rarely caught in the fishing nets, whenever reported, these elusive shrews are even tougher to be captured on cameras or visually encountered due to their tendency to hide underwater or river bank vegetation and debris while foraging . Although there have been many surveys conducted by various ichthyologists and naturalists in the western Himalaya, there have been no scientific reports of this species till date, which might be due to lesser interest in its distribution and rare sightings of the same.”

Team described that during their investigations on the streams for fish and other aquatic fauna, the Elegant Water Shrews were recorded at three different locations in the Uttarakhand State of the western Himalayan region of India for three consecutive years. The first observation was made in September 2014, at Jari Stream near Jarajibli Village of Askot  at an altitude of 1,627m . Another individual, in November 2015, was recorded in Jamak Stream, near Maneri Village, Uttarkashi District, Uttarakhand  at an altitude of 1,345m. The third record was made  June 2016, aft a stream near Bewara Chatti, Uftarakhand  at an altitude of 2,220m. It is known to swim upstream, against the current, and often forages under sticks, rocks and stream bank vegetation before swimming downstream with the current.


The smallest of amphibious mammals, the water shrew has currently 13 known species in the world. This shrew has been less studied, and to understand its role in the ecosystem better, more in-depth studies need to be done. Due to lesser information, the IUCN has listed it under the least concerned species (in view of its records from protected areas), but greater data on the Elegant Water Shrew might help in raising its category of higher concern


Wikipedia say that the elegant water shrew (Nectogale elegans) is a species of mammal in the subfamily Soricinae of the family Soricidae. It is monotypic within the genus Nectogale.


Few teams of researchers of  Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, Uttarakhand are these days working on different projects in The Great Himalayan National Park, situated in Himachal Pradesh, which  has four valleys named Sainj Valley, Tirthan Valley, Jiwa Nal Valley and Parvati Valley. WII also recorded the presence of snow leopard at a low altitude in the area recently. Researchers say that the Dhauladhar Ranges of Kangra  Districts of Himachal could also be explored in this regards.