World otter day

Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra). Photograph: IOSF.JPG

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Wednesday May 25 is IOSF World Otter Day, a day to celebrate otters all over the world and to tell people how important they are to our environment.

World Otter Day takes place each year on the last Wednesday in May and the aim is to draw attention to the 13 species of otter – all of them are listed in the IUCN Red List and populations of 12 of them are still declining. This includes the Eurasian otter which is the only species found in the UK and Europe, and is also in Asia and North Africa.  It is often assumed that this species is doing well because it is beginning to recover in parts of Europe but we know almost nothing about it in the rest of its vast range – the whole of Asia and Russia.

International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF), which is based on Skye, started World Otter Day in 2009 as Otterly Mad Week with a week of events and education. In 2014 it became Otter Awareness Day and in 2016 the IOSF World Otter Day.

Over the last two years social events could not take place due to Covid, but the organisation says it is vital to make people aware of otters, the risks they are facing, and the importance of their conservation.

Social media played a big part and it continues to do so.  IOSF is therefore asking people to post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all about otters, both in the lead up to the day and on the day itself, and also share the regular IOSF posts.

Eurasian otter cub (Lutra lutra). Photograph: IOSF

Dr Paul Yoxon CBiol MRSB, head of operations at the IOSF, said: ‘We need to draw attention to the threats to otters – habitat loss, hunting, illegal trade for furs and pets.  There has long been an illegal trade in otters for fur but now trade for pets is rapidly increasing, particularly in Asia, and especially for Asian small-clawed otters.’

This year IOSF will hold its second World Otter Day webinar with speakers from Nepal, Germany, Albania, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and USA, including a fascinating look at how to identify different otter species from footprints.

Events for IOSF’s World Otter Day are taking place all over the world, including Costa Rica, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Japan, India, USA and all over the UK. IOSF has again been able to offer four World Otter Day grants for projects in Nigeria, Togo, Mexico and Bangladesh.

Ben Yoxon, education officer at IOSF, said: ‘In the past there have been some amazing events all over the world, and we are really impressed by plans for this year’s otter celebrations. Zoos, schools, universities, nature and conservation groups and otter-loving individuals are all joining in. Otters still need our help – from the giant otter of the Amazon to the tiny Asian small-clawed.  It is important to remember that on our own we can do so little, together, we can do so much.’

More information can be found at www.otter.org