Sunday, 8 August 2010


I'm writing this post because the plight of Otters is something that is recently starting to weigh heavily on my mind. They are my favourite animal so I think that people should understand how they are suffering. Im going to write it as a 3-parter as it is an extensive subject.

Who doesn't love Otters? They are so important to us and iconic of our wildlife so..why are they starting to become endangered? Otters are very important to the ecosystem. They tend to catch sick, slow or injured fish and help to keep over-population of fish down. Not only that but they are very iconic and EXTREMELY cute so why would we want to hurt them? They face many problems in the wild such as hunting, lack of food, destruction of habitats and oil spills.

There are 13 species of Otters;

Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra)
Cape Clawless otter (Aonyx capensis)
Asian small clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea)
Sea otter (Enhydra lutris)
Marine otter (Lontra felina)
Neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis)
Spotted necked otter (Lutra maculicollis)
Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)
Southern river otter(Lontra provocax)
American river otter (Lontra canadensis)
Smooth coated otter (Lutragale perspicillata)
Hairy nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana)
Congo otter (Aonyx congicus)

and all are now finding thier names creeping onto the threatened and endangered lists - 85% of all otters in serious danger. There are many contributing factors and Im going to concentrate on what I think are the most important.

It is important to remember that Otters do not reproduce very often. They tend to partner for life, living in family units with a female and male partnership in charge, however the breeding female is the ultimate boss. Otters will tend to produce one or two litters a year, of up to about 6 pups at most. Their life span in usually between 10 and 15 years, although there are some older otters on record. This means their population is at a steady growth rate when it has no interference, however it also means that when threatened, population numbers will severely drop.

The first main reason why otters are suffering is hunting. Hunting is generally frowned upon for most animals, however Otters are still regularly hunted all over the world. The reason for this is their fur. Otters have very special fur - it is made up of 2 layers a short under layer for insulation and a longer layer on top which is dense and waterproof. This durable fur is highly sought after to make coats, scarfs, hats and other fur pieces. It is incredible warm and long-lasting.
This hunting has been going on for hundreds of years, and when it first came about, there were many reports on the subject which told of how easy otter hunting was as they were friendly and had no fear of humans. Otters have a naturally curious and playful nature, and many reports recorded tales of otters coming onto shore to actually meet their killers to investigate who they were. The killing was easy as the otters didn’t understand the danger they were walking into, and some of the reports are extremely chilling. One famous report by a traveller in Russia described the gruesome meeting of hunters and Sea Otters as such; "They covered the shore in droves; they would come up to our fires and would not be driven away. They rubbed their noses against the legs of sailors, who immediately bludgeoned them to death". One hunter said "When it receives a vigorous blow upon the head, it falls upon the ground, covers its eyes with its paws, and keeps them so, no matter how many times it is struck."

In the years that have passed, Otters have grown to be more fearful of humans, and thankfully their very sharp teeth and strong jaws, which they use to chomp through bone and shells, they can be a fearsome creature. There are several reports of Otters (Sea) actually killing humans when in packs due to fear and protection, however this is incredibly rare.

Since Otter hunting started in the 1800s, many places have banned hunting and groups have formed to protect them, however it is still continuing, the main problem being that laws aren’t always enforced. Due to our awareness and a drop in the fur trade, hunting has dropped. However, many fashion labels and "gurus" do keep trying to reintroduce fur onto our catwalks and into our shops. Please always be aware of what you are buying and go for faux-fur if you really have to have a piece (fur is expensive and nightmare to care for anyway).

What can you do?

Please, NEVER buy otter fur in any form, as every purchase of it is a reason to go out and kill another otter. If there is no call for the fur, there is no reason for them to be hunted.

You can also help to sponsor otters, donate, keep up to date with information, support any work and sign any petitions in various places in the UK who work for Otters:

Like anything, if you come across otters in the wild please do not disturb them, watch them from a distance. This will help keep both them, and you, safe.

MCS pocket guide

I know I already produced a list of what marine species are okay to eat/not eat, but the MCS have produced many web pages to help people to buy more environmentally smart.
- this page is a purchasing guide which instructs what is best to buy and when.
- this page is a basic search engine where you can look up your marine species of choice and find out all the facts you need to know about it, before trotting off to the supermarket.
- this is a page of FAQ's all fully answered with links.
- this is the pocket guide for simple information, fast.