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IUCN/SCC Otter Specialist Group Bulletin
IUCN/SCC Otter Specialist Group

Volume 18 Issue 2 Pages 54 - 101 (October 2001)

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From the Chairman's Desk

Looking back at the results of the OSG's work in the year 2001, I have to state that there was remarkable progress. However, some of the targets declared for this year could not be reached. If I count the numerous queries and project proposals I was confronted with, it seems that otter work - in research as well as in conservation - is continuously increasing. This is also true for the distribution range of the Eurasian otter in many parts of Central Europe. Current data, which I received from Denmark, Germany, Austria, and the UK, confirm that this otter species has begun a remarkable recovery story. I am sure, as increasing numbers of surveys are carried out using the recommended OSG Standard Method, more and more reliable evidence will back up this trend. Recently, Michaela Bodner and I joined a meeting of the Italian otter people, and we were happy to hear that the Standard Method will be used in this country more intensively in the future. Early reports indicate that, though the otter is now probably extinct in northern Italy, the southern population seems to be doing fine.

The Italian meeting also highlighted an aspect that is becoming more and more important for otter research and conservation, genetics. Ettore Randi of the Italian Wildlife Institute presented new data showing genetic differences in the European otter population. It also seems that we now have evidence for genetic variation within the captive population of the Eurasian otter, which is not related to the genetics of Lutra lutra of European origin. The Italian authority has therefore decided to stop all efforts to re-introduce otters until there are more data on this aspect.

The recent improvements in genetic analysis methodology will also hopefully support our efforts in increasing our knowledge about the Congo clawless otter, one of the remaining mysteries in otter conservation. Some steps towards this target were made during the last year. Hélène Jacques started data collection from the French speaking side of Africa, and Jan Nel and I did the same from the English speaking side of the continent. When we meet in the middle we will hopefully be able to lift the fog related to this species.

As was planned for the year 2001, Africa was in the focus of OSG's work. The workshop on African otters, moderated by Jan Nel and I as part of the 8th International Theriological Congress in South Africa in August this year, was very successful. Many new contacts were made and some very interesting ideas were raised as to how otter conservation in Africa could be improved.

In addition, the Asian section of the OSG again developed some remarkable activities. Hiroshi Sasaki has prepared a workshop on conservation of otters in Vietnam, which will take place in February 2002. And probably in the same month, Motokazu Ando and Syed Hussain will organise a workshop in India on how to use otters as wetland ambassadors. It is more and more clear that communication, education, public awareness, etc., are all aspects that are proving to be highly efficient tools in (otter) conservation. A very good example is the website for the Giant otter (www.giantotters.com) and the newsletter 'Friends of the Giant Otter' (contact: fzsgop@terra.com.pe), created in Latin America by Jessica Groenendijk and Frank Hajek.

These are only some of the topics reflecting the priorities for next years activities of the OSG. In the foreground I see the finishing of the revision process for the Otter Action Plan. This will require great efforts from all members of the OSG. I really hope that I can count on the support that is indispensable if this ambitious project is to succeed. If the enthusiasm and the cooperation, which marked our teamwork in 2001, can be transferred to 2002, I am sure that we will be able to make it. Let me use this opportunity to thank all members and friends of the OSG who contributed to the work of the group in 2001, and through this founded the basis for our contribution to global biodiversity.

Claus Reuther,
Chairman IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group
Aktion Fischotterschutz e.V.,
OTTER-ZENTRUM, D-29386 Hankensbüttel,
Phone: +49/5832/98080
Fax: +49/5832/980851
e-mail: c.reuther@otterzentrum.de

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