Otterly brilliant: Shropshire wildlife project celebrates year of success
A local conservation project that works to ensure the survival of otters living in the River Severn is celebrating a year of success since its launch last summer.
The Shropshire Wildlife Trust was awarded £5,000 through Tesco’s Bags of Help initiative in May last year and has used the funding to raise awareness and undertake important habitat management, resulting in a significant growth in otter population levels.
The funding allowed the Shropshire Otter Project to carry out vital research, meaning conservation officers now have a better understanding of otter behaviour, including feeding patterns and the relationship between water condition and otter success.
Three holts (otter homes) have now been built along the river with permission from landowners and officers are carrying out demonstrations on habitat and management works to locals.
This helps landowners better understand otter requirements for survival, which include clean rivers with an abundant, varied supply of food and plenty of bank-side vegetation offering seclusion. Riversides often lack the appropriate cover for otters to lie upon during the day.
Shropshire Otter Project River Projects Manager Pete Lambert is thrilled with the success of the project: “The funding from Tesco has helped us revive otter populations in the area and we’re asking the local community to help in any way they can.”
Although the project has already achieved a huge amount for local conservation work, Pete stressed that these efforts must continue.
He added: “This recovering population is under pressure from development, water pollution and disturbance. By recording where otters occur we can influence local planning, encourage people to create and respect refuge areas for the breeding population and manage their rivers and watercourse sensitively to ensure the retuning otters are made welcome.
“There are a number of initiatives that the general public can get involved with which help to keep the rivers clean from household waste, pesticides and chemicals.
“Recently we’ve had great success with ‘Love Your Magnificent Severn’ and ‘World Otter Day,’ and we’re beginning to see a real difference as the public learns more about the importance of clean rivers.”
The late 1950s to early 60s saw a catastrophic decline in otter populations in the UK due to water pollution, habitat loss and persecution for their fur. Thanks to conservation efforts, a reduction in hunting and cleaning of rivers and water bodies populations are now steadily increasing.
Keith Jackson, Bags of Help Manager, says: “This is a fantastic campaign for the local communities to be involved with and we are excited to see how the initiative progresses.”
“We are looking for groups or charities, who will make the most of the funding and actively wanting to improve the day to day lives of their local communities.”