otter educationPopulations of all three species of otter in China are declining. Eurasian otters are classified ‘near threatened’, and smooth-coated and Asian small-clawed otters are listed as ‘vulnerable’, due to wetland degradation, depletion of food resources, and illegal hunting for their high quality fur.

Colchester Zoo’s Action for the Wild charity has been supporting the International Otter Survival Fund with an annual donation of between £4,000 and 5,000 since 2012. Our 2016 donation enabled participants from eight countries to attend a five day Asian Otters and Wetlands training workshop in China in September, to update their knowledge, discuss future plans and develop skills to preserve otters in the wild.

A major part of the workshop was education and public awareness, particularly in schools and zoos, and a group of local school children went along for participants to practice their teaching on.

leaflets ottersThreats to otters were discussed such as conflict with fishermen and roads, as well as the illegal wildlife trade. By the end of the training programme there was enthusiasm for setting up a new initiative; a Chinese Otter Conservation Network, where local people would work together to take otter conservation forward. Participants identified two priorities for the new network: to carry out otter surveys to get a better understanding of the current situation; and education and public awareness.

By training the next generation of otter researchers, reliable data can be obtained on which to base efficient and practical conservation and education programmes. 

Article kindly written by ©Sarah Jones Beer

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