IUCN Otter Specialist Group . . . leading global otter conservation Last Update: Tuesday January 5, 2016
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European Section

Review of 2015

Dear all,

What a year we have had! As for Lutra lutra in Europe, the population is still increasing in many countries, and now we face discussions on whether or not allow hunting in some places. For the first time since 1969 an otter was legally shot in Sweden in connection to a fish farm this year. (It turned out to be a starved poor old male, by the way). I do not approve of it at all. But like all signs that the population is increasing. I welcome otters back to their former habitats.

Also, we know that new and old threats are still there - in Sweden we have measured extremely high concentrations of PFOS in otters, and it is a problem of concern (also for humans). The concentrations of PFOS probably have stopped increasing, but still it is unacceptable high concentrations of a man made chemical in otters that should not be there. PFOS is an extremely persistent endocrine disrupting chemical that just should not be found in nature at all. Also more than 70% of otter males (from Sweden) have cysts on their spermatic ducts, something that is believed to be a sign of endocrine disrupting chemicals. That is also alarming.

In many places otters are killed in traffic. It is very tragic, but at some places there is hope, things can be done to prevent it. The Swedish Traffic Agency - and others in many more countries - are building fauna passages to prevent otters, and other wildlife, to be killed in traffic. Traffic accidents can never be avoided at all places, but there are hot spots that need to be identified, and here fauna passages can really help.

Also, we see in Sweden as in many countries with increasing otter populations that more otters are drowned in fishing gear and that is also something we need to work more on. Hans-Heinrich Krüger in Germany and Aksel Bo Madsen in Denmark - and others - have been engaged in this important question and I really appreciate their work.

George Gorgadze, Bouro? George and others are working hard to highlight otter awareness and perform research in their countries, and that so important. Also, I am very happy to include Alexey Oleynikov to OSG as a new country representative for Russia - well needed!

Mia Bisther from Sweden have noted many illegal traps when performing otter surveys. The traps are aimed for beavers, martins, or minks, but are too large so they also can take otters. They should not be used in otter habitats. This is not a threat for the otter population at large but really a unnecessary threat for individuals. This issue also need to be addressed by us, otter friends. Here I think that, at least in Sweden where the otter is a "popular" species, it is easy to start a campaign to inform people how to use traps (or rather not to use them!).

And what about illegal hunting? In Denmark, Morten Elmeros et al noted that many otters, killed in traffic and of other reasons, had lead bullets from former shootings. Maybe a campaign of some sort is needed here as well? I think the otters I have received with bullets have been shot by mistake for being minks, so alarming hunters might be a start.

I welcome Lesley Wright's initiative the Otter Welfare Advisory Group, with all my heart. It is so important that we all are aware of otter welfare - weather we are working in Zoos, trapping otter for research or other type of research of otters, or like me working with (mostly) traffic killed otters. We must never forget otter welfare before our scientific studies!

I enjoyed very much the European Otter Workshop we held in Stockholm, Sweden in June 2015. It was great to see so many otter enthusiasts at one place! And to see Sam Erlinge with us was just fantastic.

With this all I hope all the best for all of you, otter friends - we can make the world a bit better, so let's do it! Don't give up, work harder, but also don´t forget to have a good time with friends and family as well. And do not hesitate to contact me if you have ideas, questions or whatever. We are all here for the otters!

Also, I hope to see you in Singapore in July!

Happy New Year!

Anna Roos

Eurasian Coordinator

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