Otter populations are in sharp decline in Asia, due to loss of their food sources and wetland habitats, the pet trade and hunting for their fur. But Fishing villages in Bangladesh – which have a long tradition of using smooth-coated otters to help catch fish – are helping to conserve wild otter populations.

Tame otters are vital for the economy of local communities. The otters are looked after well, able to catch their own fish whilst working, and they breed easily in this environment.
Last month Colchester Zoo’s Action for the Wild charity donated £4,900 towards the International Otter Foundation’s work to protect wild smooth coated otters. This will help fund a five-day workshop in November in Bangladesh, where there are very few scientists working with otters.

One of the aims is to work with fishing village communities and to develop protocols to breed captive smooth-coated otters to release and restore wild populations. With the community acting as stewards in otter conservation, the relationship could reduce any otter/fisherman conflict and provide a potential source of added income through financial support for the programme.By training the next generation of otter researchers, scientists can gather reliable data and develop efficient and practical conservation programmes.

Action for the Wild has previously donated £8,974 in support of the International Otter Foundation’s work to improve the facilities at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia. Our funds have helped to fund the development of new rehabilitation enclosures for smooth coated and hairy nosed otters at the centre. Chea and Kong Kea, Colchester Zoo’s adult otters, spent time at the centre a few years ago after they were rescued from the trafficking trade, and since arriving in their new home on Otter Creek, have given birth to several litters.

Article kindly written by Sarah Jones-Beer

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