From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published August 18, 2011 03:36 PM

River Otters Bounce Back in England

The otter population in the England was dealt a serious blow in the 20th century. Around mid-century, environmentalists noticed the otter was disappearing from its natural river habitats. A study in the 1970s found that they could only be found in five percent of the sites where they once lived. The banning of certain pesticides and river cleanup programs turned around the otter's decline. A recent survey now shows the otter is back, inhabiting 60 percent of the roughly 3,000 locations they were once found.


This is certainly a wildlife success story for the sceptered isle, to have a species on the brink of extinction to return to a healthy population in matter of decades. The UK Environment Agency has announced that the otter, one of the country's best-loved animals, has returned to every English county. Their gradual recolonisation of lost territory culminated with their appearance in Kent, the last county to have been without them.

The otter's struggle began in the 1950s with the introduction of powerful pesticides such as aldrin and dieldrin. The chemical run-off from the farm fields found their way into the rivers, poisoning the otters. At the time, it was difficult to spot their disappearance because they are relatively elusive creatures. By the time people took notice, the otters were gone from much of lowland England.

Their population decline continued after the ban on organochlorine pesticides to a low point in the late 1970s. Their comeback was greatly aided by vigorous river cleanup efforts. The cleanups brought fish back to many once-polluted rivers, leading to the otter's reappearance. The most recent survey, conducted in 2009-2010 showed that the otter had returned to sixty percent of its habitat.

"The recovery of otters from near-extinction shows how far we've come in controlling pollution and improving water quality," said Alastair Driver, the Environment Agency's National Conservation Manager. "Rivers in England are the healthiest for over 20 years, and otters, salmon and other wildlife are returning to many rivers for the first time since the industrial revolution. The fact that otters are now returning to Kent is the final piece in the jigsaw for otter recovery in England and is a symbol of great success for everybody involved in otter conservation."

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