30 years of Otter Conservation

30 years of Otter Conservation



2023 marks the 30th year of caring for otters worldwide by the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF).

During this time IOSF has supported projects in 91 countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Philippines, Belarus, Chile, Lithuania, Nepal, Benin, Guyana and Costa Rica.

In the charity’s own otter hospital over 250 otters have been treated and help has been given to people caring for animals in 47 countries.

Just last week IOSF released two otters back to the wild in north-west Scotland, where they belong, after they had been cared for at the Skye sanctuary.

Education is a major focus of IOSF, particularly through its Team Otter children’s programme which has clubs worldwide including Nepal, Guyana, Tanzania, Laos and of course UK.

The aim of the programme is to reconnect children with nature, wildlife and the environment and ignite a passion that will last their whole life.

Two otter cubs in care at IOSF
Two otter cubs in care at IOSF
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Team Otter
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William Mgomo talking to schoolchildren in Tanzania
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Team Otter Broadford litter pick

IOSF also initiated “World Otter Day” which has now become a major event worldwide to raise awareness of otters and their importance to the environment. It is held on the last Wednesday in May each year, and in 2023 there was an amazing response, with people in at least 40 countries taking part – that is 20% of the world’s countries!

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World Otter Day

Education is vital. 12 of the 13 species of otter are declining worldwide, including the Eurasian otter, native to the UK. Otters are at the forefront of the illegal wildlife trade together with tigers and leopards, and in parts of Asia they are now only resident in protected areas and are locally extinct. In just one incident 778 otter skins were confiscated in Tibet (picture below).

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778 otters skins confiscated from a Tibetan market

In parts of Asia many otters have become popular as pets, as people may have seen on social media and YouTube; however what people do not realise, is that the process of taking the young from the wild includes the killing of the mother. This is clearly having a negative effect on populations in the wild.

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Otter for sale as a pet in an Indonesian market (C) Scorpion

In celebration of this special year IOSF has launched their “Do 30 for our 30th” challenge, which encourages people to do 30 of anything such as 30 walks, bake 30 cakes, climb 30 mountains or draw 30 pictures, all in an effort to raise funds for otter conservation.

Dr Paul Yoxon said “The conservation of otters is not a sentimental luxury. They are at the top of the food chain and use both the water and land and so both habitats have to be in pristine condition. This is essential for all species, including man. Caring for the individual otter and holding it in your hands focusses your mind on the bigger picture of the threats to otters from pollution, loss of habitat and hunting. Today more than ever otters need our help and we will never let them down.”

IOSF has never been in better shape, and feel they are in a great position to make the next 30 years even more positive for otters. With the small passionate team at the headquarters on Skye connecting with hardworking otter conservationists worldwide, and new networks forming regularly, IOSF are positive of a bright future for all species, but on all fronts, there is a long way to go!

Find out more at www.otter.org

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Grace Yoxon

Head of Operations at the International Otter Survival Fund

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Grace Yoxon

Head of Operations at the International Otter Survival Fund

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