In the United Kingdom, the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) is considered Near Threatened and therefore the focus of many research and conservation efforts. Otters disappeared from parts of Europe throughout the 1900’s and were declared locally extinct in certain parts of the UK and Netherlands by 1988. After extensive research, studies showed that the decline in otter populations could be attributed to poor water quality and the accumulation of dangerous toxins in the tissues of these top predators. Subsequent river clean ups, bans on certain toxic substances and re-introduction programs have had the desired impact and otters are once again starting to be found in European rivers. Through this process, much has been learnt about the biology, conservation and management of otters.
Hoping to learn from these experienced researchers, I spent most of March in the chilly UK – attending a conference on Mustelid Conservation (otters are of the family Mustelidae, along with badgers, weasels and stoats), and visiting the Cardiff University Otter Project. The trip was a success and I was lucky enough to meet and learn from top scientists in the field, and find out more on the various techniques available internationally to study the spatial ecology and health of our urban otters. Some additions to my methods (inspired by the Irish) include a Peninsula wide census to be run in Summer and in Winter. That is a lot of ground to cover, and many hands will be needed! For those interested in getting involved, keep a look out on the blog and I will post details on when, where and what closer to Winter.
In the meantime, I have posted a variety of photos taken while ottering in Oxford, Wales and London: