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Otter News 1997

The otter who thinks he's a duck (Telegraph Dec 27, 1996)
McKenna fights Queen's cousin to save an otter (Telegraph Oct 27, 1996)
Newbury's bypass hits otter trouble (Telegraph Sep 27, 1996)
Otters take to designer bolt-holes (Telegraph Mar 29, 1996)
Pure delight as otters come off danger list (Telegraph Aug 17, 1995)

News Index

The otter who thinks he's a duck

(Telegraph Dec 27, 1996)

A YOUNG orphaned otter - who has been named Jarvis - was rescued by wildlife trust workers after he was found trying to become part of a family of ducks.

The three-month-old cub is now being cared for by a mid-Wales otter group that found him chasing the reluctant foster parent. The group spent two days searching for cubs after the mother was found run over on the A40 next to the River Usk near Brecon, Powys.

Diane Russell, of Brecknock Wildlife Trust, said: "We could tell that the mother had had a litter very recently and so the balloon went up. We knew there must be some cubs and that we would have to be pretty quick to find them alive.

"By a stroke of luck, a member of the public saw Jarvis chasing after a duck waddling down a country lane. After four days on his own he was tired, hungry and confused - and he probably thought the duck was his mother."

In a few weeks, Jarvis will be taken to an otter sanctuary in Scotland. It is hoped that he can be returned to the wild later next year

Original story

McKenna fights Queen's cousin to save an otter

(Telegraph Oct 27, 1996)

AN ESTATE owned by a cousin of the Queen is in dispute with Virginia McKenna, the actress and animal rights activist, over the fate of a lone otter.

The otter has been accused of killing 60 hens, ducks and geese on farmland owned by the Earl of Granville on the Hebridean Isle of North Uist. The estate has applied for permission to cull the creature, while the actress is leading the fight to save it.

Miss McKenna, in an echo of her screen role in the tear-jerking fable Ring of Bright Water, has adopted the animal's cause and is pleading for mercy.

In the 1969 film, a civil servant buys a pet otter and moves to a cottage in the Western Isles. Mij, the animal, escapes being shot after wandering near a hen coop but is later slain. Crofters on the Earl's estate have applied for the animal, a protected species, to be humanely killed to protect their birds.

But Miss McKenna, 65, whose late husband Bill Travers also starred in the film, is "horrified" at the move. She believes destroying the otter could set a dangerous precedent and is appealing to the Scottish Office to save the creature.

"It is an extreme reaction and has not been thought through," she said. "Making this otter pay the penalty with its life is absolutely out of order. It should be left where it is and the birds properly protected."

Miss McKenna, who also starred in Born Free, is well known for her conservation work. In 1993, she and Mr Travers launched the Brightwater Appeal to fund the rehabilitation of injured otters. The appeal also supports an otter hospital and research centre for the species on the nearby Isle of Skye.

Miss McKenna previously took on the Scottish Office over the sale of the island Eilean Ban

Otters have long thrived on the Earl's 60,000-acre estate, causing few problems. But trouble began after free-range poultry were found dead around Loch Eport. Eyewitnesses said they had seen the otter at work and the estate applied successfully to the Scottish Office for a licence to trap the animal.

This has now lapsed without the otter being caught. A new application has been submitted, asking for culling to be considered.

The Earl, best known for being found by the Queen washing his socks on some rocks, is currently in England. His son, Lord Fergus Leveson, who helps manage the estate, said urgent action was needed. "We are very conservation minded, but it seems this otter has got a taste for easy prey."

George Macdonald, the estate manager, said trapping the otter would only transfer the problem elsewhere. "The easiest solution would be to shoot it," he said. "There might be tears shed elsewhere but not here."

Dr Hans Kruuk, an otter expert from the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, which gives conservation advice to sporting estates including Balmoral, backs Miss McKenna. He said he knew of no successful application to humanely kill an otter and added that trapping the creatures was difficult.

Scottish Natural Heritage, which is advising the Scottish Office on the issue, says there is no history of major otter problems in the area. Its spokesman, Stuart Angus, said the otter was probably responsible for some of the deaths.

The case was being investigated, but trapping and relocating the animal could upset another creature's habitat. He added: "Otters are cherished here and are also an attraction to tourists. An incredible reason has to be found to grant an application to kill an otter."

Miss McKenna, who also heads the Born Free Foundation, previously took on the Scottish Office over the sale of the island Eilean Ban, home to the author of Ring of Bright Water, Gavin Maxwell, and now part of the base of the Skye Bridge. Her action, launched to protect wildlife including otters, was successful in halting the sale.

Original story

Newbury's bypass hits otter trouble

(Telegraph Sep 27, 1996)

A NEW obstacle has emerged in the path of the A34 Newbury bypass: the otter.

The Highways Agency has just finished relocating a population of rare 2mm-long Desmoulin whorl snails, but now otters have appeared at Rack Marsh nature reserve, after an absence of 20 years.

It follows years of work by conservationists to improve their habitat along the rivers Lambourn and Kennet. The otters are as yet only visiting, rather than re-established.

Work is expected to begin within weeks on the bypass, which will cross the reserve on high embankments. The Wildlife Trusts are calling for underpasses and fencing to be installed to prevent otters being run over. The trusts and English Nature, had originally asked for the road to be placed on stilts over the rivers.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said: "The discovery does not put the road into question, but it does mean that we will probably have to build some culverts."

Original story

Otters take to designer bolt-holes

(Telegraph Mar 29, 1996)

SECRET designer homes and cleaner rivers are enticing otters back to waterways in the Thames region for the first time in 20 years.

Volunteers have been digging otter holts at cleverly concealed locations along the Kennet and its tributaries.

The underground chambers, measuring 6ft by 6ft, with three doors in the shape of plastic pipes, give otters easy access to land and river.

The joint project by the Wildlife Trusts of Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire and the National Rivers Authority Thames Region, follows a similar initiative on the upper Thames last year.

A £550 million investment programme at Thames Water's sewage treatment works has also made life easier for otters in Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.

The sites for the new holts were selected by Mark Satinet of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. He said: "Pollution and habitat loss have caused the number of otters to decline rapidly since the 1950s. These new apartments are ideal."

Original story

Pure delight as otters come off danger list

(Telegraph Aug 17, 1995)

THE OTTER, one of Europe's most elusive and endangered animals, has been officially declared saved in the English and Welsh countryside.

The Government-appointed Joint Nature Conservation Committee said yesterday that otters were re-established and that breeding programmes to release them into the wild were no longer needed.

Almost non-existent in rivers by the 1970s, its comeback is due to survival programmes across some 20 counties where it has been bred for release into the wild.

Traces and sightings over the past two years raised hopes that otters were making a return. They had all but vanished from British rivers because insecticides used on fields had polluted waterways and consequently the eels and fish on which the otter depends.

Tom Tew, mammal expert with the JNCC, said yesterday: "This return has now been confirmed. It is wonderful to be able to say the otter can now survive by itself in our rivers."

"The otter can now survive by itself in our rivers."

Dr Tew said the release programme was based on the a breeding scheme started 12 years ago by the Nature Conservancy Council, now English Nature, and the Otter Trust. A release programme was also launched by the Vincent Trust, a privately funded initiative.

The Royal Society for Nature Conservation, through its 47 wildlife trusts, has been taking part in the release programmes by ensuring suitable release sites and protecting them.

Philip Wayre, chairman and founder of the Otter Trust in Earsham, near Bungay, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, said yesterday that the 90 otters his organisation had released had helped to re-establish the species in eastern and south-eastern parts of England.

There had also been releases in the north-east and the west. "Sightings and traces show that east is now meeting west," he said. Mr Wayre said the trust still had 20 pairs. It would keep some and continue breeding "just in case"

In Scotland, the Kylerhea Otter Haven has been officially listed as a tourist attraction on the Isle of Skye. With 15,000 visitors expected this season, it has become the most visited site in Europe to see wild otters.

The otter stays a protected species under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Original story