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26 September 2022 - Neotropical Otter - Week 13

Submitted by: Callum

It’s time for our last instalment of the “13 Weeks of Otters” series! So, who is left to highlight? Our 13th and final otter is… the Neotropical Otter!

Neotropical Otter - Week 13


The Neotropical Otter (Lontra longicaudis) can reach up to 1.2m in length and can weigh up to 12 kg as an adult. Its long and almost cylindrical tail, and small feet, are two of its more distinguishing features. One of the most widespread otter species in South America, the Neotropical Otter can be found from Mexico in Central America, all the way down to Argentina, however they are not found in Chile.

The Neotropical Otter lives in a variety of habitats, and can be found as high as 3000m in altitude! From small forest streams and lakes, marshes and coastal savannah swamps, there are many different places these otters will call home, and they have also been reported to live in irrigation ditches among rice and sugar cane in Guyana. Neotropical Otters prefer to build their holts on rocky shores, or in areas of deep vegetation along small rivers. Breeding for this species usually takes place in the spring, however in some countries, such as Brazil, it can be all year round. A mother will give birth to between one and six cubs, but the mortality rate is high so sadly, not many will reach adulthood.

This species will feed mainly on fish and crabs. This diet can however, be quite variable, as Neotropical Otters are opportunistic carnivores that will also take amphibians, reptiles, small birds or mammals. Their diet can also depend on where they are found, with certain populations favouring prey species such as shrimp in the Biological Reserve of Tirimbina, Costa Rica, and aquatic birds in Rio Yaqui, Mexico. With the range of this otter species being so large, the favoured activity times vary, depending on how close they are to areas of human disturbance. If they do happen to inhabit an area closer to humans, they tend to be more nocturnal, in an effort to avoid contact.

With regards to the Neotropical Otter and its relationship with humans, this otter species is yet another which has suffered from severe hunting throughout its range and is verging on extinction in many areas. Currently classed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, the Neotropical Otter’s widespread distribution in South America does not tell the whole story, as they are far from common. The findings for their range and population are based on sparse data, and in some areas the populations are extremely vulnerable. Habitat destruction and water pollution are other issues that the Neotropical Otter currently faces.

This week’s photo, and the last of the series, is a lovely shot from Philip Perry!

To all those who have followed the series, thank you very much for reading, and we hope you've enjoyed it!

22 September 2022 - Sea Otter Awareness Week

Submitted by: Callum

SOAW logo


* Sea Otter Awareness Week 2022 *

SO Mother and Cub


A Sea Otter mother and cub having a rest - @seaottersavvy

It's the 20th anniversary of Sea Otter Awareness Week, running from the 18th to the 24th of September! Through this week, many events will take place, such as:-

*A talk from Bob Bailey, president of the Elakha Alliance, on the reintroduction of Sea Otters to Oregon.

*A virtual "float down the coast", taking you on a tour of places from Alaska southwards, with talks about Sea Otter behaviour, habitat and significance.

*A webinar from Dr Erin Foster on how recovering Sea Otter populations can increase Eel grass' genetic diversity, helping to protect it from environmental change.

*And much, much more! For Instagram users here is a list of pages you can find fantastic posts from - @seaottersavvy @defendersofwildlife @Morrobaystateparks @ElakhaAlliance @MontereyBayAquarium @pointreyes_prnsa @savingoceans @themarinemammalcenter @tolowadeeni

Groups such as Sea Otter Savvy and Defenders of Wildlife come together along with many other great organisations to put on a great week full of fun ideas and jam packed with important information. This week long event is designed with the aim of improving education and awareness of the Sea Otter, and the struggles the species faces. Bringing the Sea Otter away from it's current status of "Endangered", towards a much brighter and more positive future is the end goal, which in turn would benefit the surrounding natural environment in a major way.

If you would like to find out more about how the Sea Otter is such a pivotal part of a successful eco system in the area they inhabit, be sure to follow the Sea Otter Savvy posts this week on social media, attend the events throughout the week, or head to the Sea Otter Savvy website here!


* IOSF Sea Otter Quiz! *

SO raft


A Sea Otter raft! - @seaottersavvy

Fancy yourself as a Sea Otter "Know-it-all"?

Test your knowledge now with our " IOSF Sea Otter Quiz ", created by our Education Officer, Ben, for participants of all ages!

Good luck!

19 September 2022 - Southern River Otter - Week 12

Submitted by: Callum

Southern River Otter

Southern River Otter - Week 12


It’s the penultimate post of the “13 Weeks of Otters” Series, and the next in line to be highlighted is the Southern River Otter!

The Southern River Otter (Lontra provocax) or “Huillin” as they are known in Chile, can grow up to 1.2 m and can reach 9kg in weight. They sport a dark brown fur on top, with lighter shades underneath, and can be seen with grey markings around the throat area. They are another otter that has well developed webbing and claws on their paws.

With the smallest geographical range of all the otters, the Southern River Otter is found only in the southern parts of Chile and western Argentina and in particular the humid forests of Patagonia. There is also an isolated population on Staten Island, an island situated off the south-western tip of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago.

Found mainly in freshwater rivers, lakes and lagoons, often within dense forests, the Southern River Otter’s dependence on crustaceans, such as crabs and crayfish is very limiting on their distribution. However, this is not the only food source they will take, as they have been seen to also eat such things as fish, small birds and amphibians. The home range of the freshwater based animals is around 11km, with good bankside vegetation needed to provide shelter for holts. These holts are usually no further than 50m from the water and are often in rock crevices or the root systems of trees. Despite the name, there are also small populations that can be found along certain sections of marine coastlines.
The Southern River Otter is a mostly nocturnal animal and in the main will lead a solitary life. Mating season for these otters takes place between July-August, resulting in usually two cubs, although it can be up to four. After entering the world, the new born cubs will stay with their mother for around a year, before venturing off on a journey to find their own home range.

Currently, the IUCN Red List status for the Southern River Otter is Endangered and decreasing. This rare animal has suffered a large decline over many years, which up to the 1970’s was largely due to hunting for pelts, as one pelt could fetch the price of up to three months wages for the seller. The Southern River Otter is also very vulnerable to habitat destruction. For the freshwater population, wetlands are being drained in order to provide pasture for cattle, and tree felling. In 1986 an Irrigation Law was passed in Chile, designed to encourage more land drainage, with a grant aid of up to 75% of the costs for farmers, resulting in the removal of vegetation and rivers being canalised. For the coastal populations, increased pressures from fisheries are the main threat to the survival of this species. With the threats to both the freshwater and coastal populations combined, the future is very uncertain for the Southern River Otter.

The incredible photo is by Matias Pavez!

16 September 2022 - August e-Update Link!

Submitted by: Callum

August e-Update goes live!

Storm pipe


Storm on watch!

This months e-Update includes :-

Hairy-nosed otter mother and cub filmed in the wild in Cambodia!
A review on the effects of this years Summer weather on watercourses and wildlife.
News from the Sanctuary - an update on the progress of our otters in rehabilitation.
Grace takes part in a podcast!
Team Otter Broadford returns for another year, and youngsters in England take time on their holiday to raise funds for the IOSF!
Otters the size Lions? - Fossils found in Africa!
Product of the Month from our Otter Shop.
News in Brief - Have a look to see what otter stories have been making the news!
Find it all by following the link here!

12 September 2022 - Spotted-Necked Otter - Week 11

Submitted by: Callum

Spotted-Necked Otter

Spotted-necked Otter - Week 11


Just three otters left to go in the “13 weeks of Otters” series, and to kick off the countdown we have the Spotted-Necked Otter, which is our final African otter species!
The Spotted-Necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis), or “Water Hyena” as you may hear them called in Africa, is the smallest of the three African otters, and can grow up to 1.1 m in length, and usually to around about 6kg in weight. However, males can reach up to 9kg, as found on Rubondo Island in Lake Victoria, Tanzania, and females can weigh as little as 3kg. They are sleek in appearance with their dark brown fur only broken by prominent light spots on neck, chest and lips. These markings can be used to identify individual otters within groups. Very adapted to the aquatic way of life, the Spotted-Necked Otter has well developed webbing and claws, and because of this they appear clumsy on land, often not venturing further than 10 metres from the shore.
Although widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa, the Spotted-Necked Otter’s detailed distribution is not fully understood. They are found in large lakes and rivers up to altitudes of 2500m, yet for some unknown reason they do not appear in the lakes and rivers of East Africa, such as the Zambezi River below Lake Victoria. Until 2003 the Spotted-Necked Otter had not been found any further west than Guinea, but a chance recording from a fisherman finding a live animal in his nets in Guinea-Bissau changed this. The fisherman contacted the IOSF as he was unsure of the species, and following DNA analysis of a single hair it was determined that he had found a Spotted-Necked Otter. After further field research, a small population of the species was discovered in this area. Also, in 2010, a sighting was recorded on the lower Orange River of South Africa, which is a mere 1200 kilometres from the next nearest known population of this species.
Spotted-Necked Otters tend to live in large single sex groups for most of the year, co-operating in the chasing of fish shoals for their meals. This hunting generally takes place in the day, as the Spotted-Necked Otters are diurnal animals. Fish such as cichlids and catfish make up the bulk of the menu, but amphibians, crustaceans, molluscs and even large insects may be taken if the opportunity arises and the hunger is great enough! The Spotted-Necked Otter is another intelligent species and can often be found using tools such as rocks to break into shelled prey. Male groups often have home ranges which will cover that of several female otters, with each female group usually made up of mothers and cubs. The adult females will give birth in an underground holt, with one to three cubs at a time being the normal litter size. These cubs will then stay with the mother for around a year. The Spotted-Necked Otter has many different grunts, calls and whistles in its vocabulary, allowing the large groups to communicate effectively with one another.
Classed as Near Threatened and decreasing on the IUCN Red List, the future is very unclear for this species of otter. Nylon fishing nets are an issue for the otters, as they often become entangled, which in turn leads to drowning. Although this is generally unintentional by the fishermen, the Spotted-Necked Otters are also hunted, as they are involved in ancient traditions. In some places, eating a piece of otter meat, and wearing a piece of skin, is said to increase male virility and make them more attractive to women. They were also hunted for their furs, although this has been regulated since the mid 1970’s. Degradation of habitat is another problem for this species, and this is a common issue with many other species.
However, Spotted-Necked Otters have helped to create a positive change in attitudes towards otters. In Kenya, with IOSF funding, locals were able to set up fish farms for tilapia fish, in order to provide food for local people and otters. This has been a perfect resolution where both man and otter can live in harmony.

Photo - Derek Keats

08 September 2022 - News in September No. 1

Submitted by: Callum

* Team Otter - Back in Full Flow *

Team Otter Team Seas Final


Team Otter - Team Seas

After a long break for the school summer holidays, we were delighted to get back together for our first Team Otter Broadford meetings of the new term, with our primary and high school groups raring to get started!

Upon the older groups return, the final count for “Team Seas” has been discovered, and all we can say is…. Wow! Many of you will remember how they created an awareness campaign for the organisation and worked with the local supermarket and social media to raise money to help remove plastic from the ocean. As seen in the photo above, the high school group were very keen to count the collections they gained during their “Team Seas” campaign.

After all their hard work, the kids have managed to raise £754.10 and help remove around 340kg of plastic from the ocean – that’s roughly the weight of the average Polar Bear! We would like to give a huge THANK YOU to everyone that donated and helped make a difference! And thanks to the Co-op Broadford for supporting our fundraiser!

The hard work doesn’t stop there though, as the group are now continuing to work towards their awards with Skye Youth Development, and we thank Roddy for his time spent helping the kids reach their goals in this.

Team Otter Brd


Our primary group have been getting very hands-on following their return to Team Otter also. Making the most of some rare Isle of Skye sunshine, they have already completed their first litter pick of the new term. Youngster Innes was voted “Best litter picker” for the day, and we ended up with a haul of two bags of litter, a bike, a sleeping bag and a wheelbarrow, among other things! The kids really love helping out their local community, and it is fantastic to see the positive attitude they have towards keeping our green spaces clean and safe for everyone.

What better way to round off a bit of litter picking than Ice Creams all round! All-in-all, it has been a tremendous start to the school year for our Team Otter Broadford groups, and we are looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year has in store for us.

Thank you once again to Nick for volunteering, and all those who help to make the running of these groups possible!

If you have any ideas which you think would be a good fit for Team Otter, please get in touch with our Education Officer Ben by emailing ben@otter.org

* News from the Sanctuary! *

Mist


* Mist settling in to life at the IOSF Sanctuary *

When our new Sanctuary otters arrived, Mist was initially unimpressed with food we were offering. Now, it seems a change in taste has occurred, and as you can see from the above photo, Mist can't get enough of her daily meal times! This in turn provided Grace with the perfect chance to get some awesome photos of our new resident!

Next door, Baird and new friend Marina continue to develop their bond, and seem to be very happy being in each others company. They love their pool although we have yet to catch them in it! Most mornings there is water everywhere and the pool needs topping up every couple of days! Bealltainn remains to be an elusive figure in her enclosure, and Wally is also continuing to develop well, whilst keeping in the shadows! Storm is now reaching a real maturity in size and attitude, and all being well, it won't be long until he finds his way back to the Highland coast from which he first arrived!

If you would like to help care for our Sanctuary otters, you can do so by Adopting an otter here, or you can also donate to us here.

05 September 2022 - Congo Clawless Otter - Week 10

Submitted by: Callum

Congo Clawless Otter

Congo Clawless Otter - Week 10


Just four weeks remain of the “13 weeks of Otters” series, and for week ten we are heading back to Africa, as it is the turn of the Congo Clawless Otter!

The Congo Clawless Otters (Aonyx congicus), also known as swamp otters, are very large, growing up to 1.5m in length and 20kg in weight. Closely related to African Clawless Otter, the Congo Clawless Otter is mainly dark brown above and pale on the chest, with silver tips to the end of hairs on the neck and head, as well as dark patches of fur between the eyes and nostrils. This species is the least adapted of all otters to an aquatic way of life, and has short fur providing less insulation. The back feet are only partly webbed and the front have no webbing at all, giving them great dexterity.

Little is known about the ecology and biology of the Congo Clawless Otter, but a lot has been learnt about their behaviour through the care and rearing of orphaned cubs in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These cubs have also acted as ambassadors encouraging otter conservation. In the wild they are thought to be mostly nocturnal and largely solitary, although mothers and cubs have been seen in the daytime in the swamps and rivers of the Congo Basin. It would appear that they reach sexual maturity at about two years old and usually the female will have only one or two cubs, although there is very little research on this. It lives exclusively in marshes and shallow margins of lakes and is the most terrestrial species of otter.

The distribution of Congo Clawless Otters is very patchy, but they are found in the Congo River basin (Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea) as well as Burundi, southwest Uganda and Rwanda. They have also been reported in Angola, southeast Nigeria and Zambia but information is scarce. They particularly like lowland swamp forests but are also found in rivers and streams in rainforests.

It has been found that these otters eat a lot of worms, some as long as spaghetti, which they catch by digging in the mud with their clawless feet and pulling them out. They also eat crabs, frogs, mud-dwelling fish, tadpoles and even snails, using their “fingers” to reach into the snail shell to get the food.
As mentioned, the Congo Clawless Otter is one of the least known otter species, and is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. The main threats that we know of to the survival of this species are being hunted for bush meat and skins, habitat loss and degradation, and reduced fish stocks due to overfishing and pollution. As they are more terrestrial, they are also very vulnerable to snares set on land.

Thanks to Rita Chapman for the wonderful photo... check those paws out!

01 September 2022 - IOSF Weekly Otter News Update

Submitted by: Helen

Working in Partnership
Mist-Marina


So, we have a little secret here at the IOSF, and it is probably about time we shared it with you!

Recently, we were contacted by the SSPCA with regard to their otter rehabilitation facility and some renovation/construction works that will be taking place in their enclosures. In order for this work to be carried out, a couple of our furry friends needed a new place to stay on their journey to a return to the wild, and this is where we come in! The SSPCA chose the IOSF Sanctuary as the ideal place to develop the young otters, Marina and Mist, until they are ready to move out of rehabilitation and back to where they belong, in the wild. However, there is still a long road ahead in that sense.

The smaller of the two young otters, Marina, has been paired up with our little guy Baird, and the two have already been seen enjoying the company of one another in their enclosure, which is fantastic! The other new addition, Mist, is slightly larger than Marina, and is residing in the enclosure next to them which was left vacant by Cass after her successful release.

When Marina arrived at SSPCA they found that her spraints contained plastic and polystyrene. We don't know if she was eating these out of desperation or if she ingested them with her food, either way, it shows the risks these materials pose to our wildlife. Fortunately she was quickly cleared of these and by the time she came to us from SSPCA, all was fine.

We look forward to sharing their progress with you as they grow with us and 'Thank you' to the SSPCA for enabling us to be part of their rehabilitation journey.

If you wish to support their care with us you can adopt them by clicking through to the Otter Shop


Radio Otter!
William Mgomo - radio broadcast


Salvation FM is one of the most popular online radio stations in Tanzania and William Mgomo, our African Community Education Officer, recently made a broadcast to the listeners about otters. This is what he told us:

“I managed to talk to people about the importance of conserving otter, their habitats, and challenges they face. Also people had opportunity to ask questions through messages and direct phone calls. The session went on air at 18:30 on Sunday 28 August to capture many people at the weekend. Many people asked to be kept in touch with our programme. Thanks International Otter Survival Fund for supporting the session.”


Many of you will be aware of the amount of work that William has done over recent years, with great enthusiasm, to raise awareness among communities and taking education to schools about the positives of having otters in Tanzania.

If you would like to help IOSF to continue supporting William, why not donate at the Otter Shop HERE

You can find out more about our work and current projects at www.otter.org

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