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Otter News 2001

Otter 'tamed' by love (BBC Aug 14, 2001)
Otters find key to trapping keeper (Telegraph Jun 30, 2001)
Wet, Wild and Wonderful? - The Future of the UK's Otter Population (Wildlife Trusts Jun 27, 2001)
New threats to UK otters' survival (BBC Jun 26, 2001)
Rain puts Britain's otters in jeopardy (Telegraph Jun 04, 2001)

News Index


Otter 'tamed' by love

(BBC Aug 14, 2001)

The anti-social antics of an otter which was thrown out of two wildlife parks, have been tamed thanks to a touch of romance.

Chipz, a four-year-old Asian short clawed otter, was "terrorising" the residents of his last home until he was taken to the Sea Life and Marine Sanctuary at Hunstanton in Norfolk.

Attraction manager Nigel Croasdale described Chipz as "an aggressive little terror" who had been isolated for two years until he was rescued.

He said: "He was in with a group of male otters and one day decided he wanted to be top dog. He wasn't going to take no for an answer."

Sea Life experts transformed a seal enclosure to house Chipz and a young female called Fliss who has just reached sexual maturity.

Their pool has a waterfall, a stream and a swimming area and the pair were recently seen playing together and rolling around under the water.

"He has definitely calmed down. We were worried at first and there was a slight argument when she accidentally stepped on his tail," said Mr Croasdale.

Mr Croasdale said: "We are all waiting with a lot of hope that Chipz will one day smell the scent of a female in season and start a family."

Original story


Otters find key to trapping keeper

(Telegraph Jun 30, 2001)

A ZOO keeper was held captive inside an enclosure for half an hour after a pair of otters made off with his keys.

Warren Crutchley, 38, had to call for help when Filly and Smudge disappeared into their pool with the makeshift toy. He had left the bunch of keys behind him in the door of the compound at the Aquarium of the Lakes, in Windermere, Cumbria, when the animals struck.

The two female otters have recently been given a variety of items to stimulate their interest and considered the keys to be another plaything. Mr Crutchley enters their enclosure, which included a miniature lake, twice a day to feed them and leaves the keys dangling after locking the door on the inside.

He said: "It was just like every other day until I turned around and realised the keys had gone. At first I thought I must have dropped them or something. Then I heard a jangling noise and spotted Smudge playing with something in the corner.

"I can only guess that after watching me lock the door every day she couldn't resist investigating more closely."

As soon as he realised what was happening he tried to lure Smudge into dropping them by offering her food but she started jumping in and out of the water away from his reach. Mr Crutchley added: "I stopped trying to catch her and ended up yelling for help. My colleagues eventually let me out with a spare set of keys. I felt a proper fool."

Both the otters were highly intelligent and inquisitive, he said. "We are always trying to introduce them to new things to keep them stimulated. They particularly enjoy playing with pebbles and sticks, which they tap from paw to paw. Smudge has even perfected a way of juggling objects in her claws."

He has now provided the otters with their own sets of keys to play with, and keeps his own firmly attached to his belt.

Original story


Wet, Wild and Wonderful? - The Future of the UK's Otter Population

(Wildlife Trusts Jun 27, 2001)

A report published today (June 26) and presented at the Otters and Rivers Forum by The Wildlife Trusts highlights mixed success for the UK's otter population and future challenges for otter conservation.

Recent successful recolonisation of specific waterways and wetlands by otters is under threat due to increased road deaths, flooding, and habitat decline. The report summarises the significant achievements of the Water UK and The Wildlife Trusts Otters and Rivers Project whilst highlighting the need for new conservation effort to ensure the otter's continued survival in our waterways.

A new five-year conservation initiative to tackle the problems of declining otters and the UK's threatened, valuable wetlands will be launched at the Otters and Rivers Forum and presented to Michael Meacher, Minister of State - Environment, David Bellamy, President of The Wildlife Trusts and conservationists from across the UK.

The new project, Water for Wildlife, will build upon and enhance the work undertaken by the Otters and Rivers Project. Launched in June 1998 the Otters and Rivers project aims to restore otters by natural re-colonisation to every UK waterway and coastal area where they have been recorded since 1960.

The project has been a great success in delivering results for otters and other wetland wildlife. For example, over the past three years it has surveyed almost 4000km of river habitat for otters, achieved 400 significant habitat enhancement schemes and built over 300 otter holts. It has built up a work force of 23 regional project officers and harnessed the imagination and enthusiasm of more than 1200 volunteers throughout the UK. This project has been supported by Water UK and by a £750,000 grant from Biffaward through the landfill tax credit scheme.

Otters have returned to areas where they have been previously absent for almost three decades. The southwest of England has been particularly successful and a number of unusual areas have also registered the presence of otters including waterways in the centre of Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle and Doncaster. However the report reveals new and increasing dangers, in the form of roads, severe flooding and habitat loss, that could undermine their recovery. Northumberland has been particularly hard hit by road deaths and accounts for almost 50 per cent of the England and Wales road casualties.

The future challenges of otter conservation will be met through broadening the scope of otter conservation activities to include whole river basin conservation and wetland restoration under the umbrella of the new project Water For Wildlife. Funded by Water UK, the project will focus upon wider wetland restoration efforts to help otters, water voles, reed warblers, southern damselfly, reedbeds, lowland raised bogs, and other key wetland species and natural places of both national and local importance.

Commenting on the project Professor David Bellamy, said: "The return of the otter to our rivers and wetlands gives us great hope for the future. But now isn't the time for complacency and the fantastic benefits for otters and wetlands that this project has brought need to be built on. Wildlife Trust staff and an army of volunteers have built up a wealth of knowledge and experience in otter and wetland conservation and are ready and willing to meet the challenge ahead."

Original story


New threats to UK otters' survival

(BBC Jun 26, 2001)

Conservationists are launching a UK scheme to help otters and the wetlands on which they depend.

They expect it to benefit other species, and hope many more people will volunteer to work to protect wildlife.

Otters in the UK face several new dangers, despite their success in recolonising some of their old haunts. Threats to their recovery include habitat loss, severe flooding, and road traffic.

Otters were common and widespread in the 1950s but then began a drastic decline, caused largely by habitat loss and pollution from farm pesticides, some of which accumulated in eels, the animals' staple prey.

By the late 1970s, they were almost extinct across most of England and in some parts of Wales and Scotland.

Reaching the cities

Now, the Wildlife Trusts say, the otters' distribution is "wide but sporadic throughout the British Isles and Ireland".

The population is internationally important, especially as otters have declined across much of their western European range.

The species' strongholds are in south west England, Wales and much of Scotland, with significant numbers in Northern Ireland.

Otters have also been recorded in the centre of major towns and cities, including Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Doncaster.

But now they are confronted by unfamiliar dangers, with road vehicles a particular hazard. Since July 1988 at least 300 otters have been run over in England and Wales.

The floods of last autumn and winter have compounded the problem.

The sheer quantity of water gushing under bridges meant the otters could not swim against the rapid current, so they tried to cross the road instead and often got hit by cars.

Otter specialists work with the Highways Agency and planning authorities to try to ensure there is a safe route for the animals where possible, perhaps an underpass beneath a road or a ledge to enable them to walk clear of floodwater.

Sometimes the answer is fencing, a remedy which is also used to keep otters out of fisheries.

Wider approach

The Trusts are already working to restore otters by natural recolonisation to every UK waterway and coastal area where they have been recorded since 1960.

In the last three years, the project has surveyed over 4,000 kilometres of river habitat for otters, undertaken 400 significant habitat improvement schemes, and built more than 300 holts (the otters' dens).

The Water for Wildlife project the Trusts are launching is meant to build on what has been done so far.

It will seek to increase the rivers and wetlands managed for wildlife across the UK, working on the basis of whole river basins.

And its work to restore wetlands should help not just the otters but also water voles, reed warblers, and the southern damselfly.

Lowland raised bogs, fens, reedbeds and other habitats will also benefit.

Professor David Bellamy, the Trusts' president, said: "The return of the otter to our rivers and wetlands gives us great hope for the future.

"But now isn't the time for complacency. The fantastic benefits for otters and wetlands that this project has brought need to be built on."

Original story


Rain puts Britain's otters in jeopardy

(Telegraph Jun 04, 2001)

A THIRD more otters have died on the roads over the past year as a result of the wettest 12 months since records began in 1766, the Wildlife Trusts said yesterday.

Just one such death is enough to jeopardise the survival of the species, warned conservationists. Although otters are strong swimmers, they find it difficult to navigate in fast-flowing water under bridges. In times of flood they will often attempt to cross busy roads, where they can be killed or injured by traffic.

It is feared that the death toll may have undermined the otters' success in re-colonising many rivers in England and Wales since they were nearly wiped out by pollution in the 1960s.

Over the past year, 83 otter casualties across England and Wales were reported to the Otters and Rivers Project, run by Water UK and the Wildlife Trusts, an increase of 30 per cent on the previous year. The majority took place in November, December, March and April, and correspond to times of high rainfall.

Andy Graham, director of the project, said: "The survival of the otter is in such a precarious state that one otter death through a road accident is extremely alarming. We would encourage drivers to slow down near bridges, particularly if water levels are high, and for anyone finding a dead otter on the road to take note of the location and report it immediately to the local wildlife trust or Environment Agency office."

He also called for signs warning drivers of the presence of the animals and for ledges and underpasses for otters to be incorporated into road schemes.

Original story