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Volume 6 Pages 1 - 35 (February 1991)

Citation: Röchert, R. (1991) Aktion Fischotterschutz e.V. (German Campaign for Otter Protection) Activities 90/91. IUCN Otter Spec. Group Bull. 6: 14-16

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Aktion Fischotterschutz e.V. (German Campaign for Otter Protection) Activities 90/91

Ralf Röchert

Aktion Fischotterschutz E.V, Sudendorfallee 1, Postfach 1216. W-3122 Hankensbüttel, Federal Republic of Germany.

With the political changes in Germany, much of our work has recently been redirected towards East Germany. Different from the old territory of the Federal Republic, where otters are at the brink of extinction, Lutra lutra did survive in many parts of East Germany. Especially in the new states of "Mecklenburg-Vorpommern", "Brandenburg", and "Sachsen" the otter is still fairly common. However, realising the enormous political pressure for a quick economic development in the five East German states, the otter's future in the former GDR is anything else but safe.

In the long run, therefore, we are determined to develop a successful conservation and management scheme for the otter's remaining habitats in East Germany. Oddly enough the "long run" has to be covered in rather short time if we are to cope with the current speed of investors and political decision makers. On the other hand conservationists in the GDR have done a good job between the fall of the wall and the unification, and many of the finest areas are under full or preliminary protection. New national parks, and biosphere or nature reserves of reasonable size have been created. Thus the general prerequisites, under which we have to operate, are not rosy, but could be worse.

So far four projects are in progress or in preparation and thus due to be started in 1991, i.e.:

The distribution of stop-grids to East German fishermen and related publication of an information booklet

According to the records of Stubbe (1989) the drowning of otters in fyke nets has been one of the two major, identifiable death causes in the GDR. Especially fatal is the situation in the states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and the northern districts of Brandenburg, where fyke nets accounted for more than 50 % of the toll.

With financial support of the German Environmental Minister we ordered 1 000 stop-grids from Denmark and will distribute them to fishermen in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Brandenburg during the next months. An information booklet is just about to be published. As many commercial fishermen in East Germany go for pike and cyprinids as much as for eel we furthermore plan to test a fyke net with an escape funnel that has been developed by two East German fishermen.

A long term, telemetric study on otters

In spring we will start a telemetric study on otters in an area called the "Spreewald", which recently got the status of an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The study will last for about a decade. For the time being it is started as a Ph.D. study by Morten Behrens but, after having made first experiences, should be extended.

A study on Hg, PCBs and some other chlorinated hydrocarbons

In the GDR otter populations of different status exist: thriving, scattered and endangered ones. Thus we will start a study on Hg and chlorinated hydrocarbons (esp. PCBs) and otters, consisting of two parts. One being the analysis of dead otters, the other one being a monitoring study on about 30 selected otter habitats (including some, where the otter disappeared, as a comparison) using roach as an indicator organism. We try to answer two questions:

  1. Is there any relation between the status of otters and the pollution of the habitats with PCBs or other noxious substances?
  2. Is it possible to establish a risk level for certain substances (based on concentrations in extractable fat of roach) that can be used for habitat assessments and management schemes?

This should be started in spring or summer with the fish samples to be taken in autumn.

A survey of otters in the former GDR using the British Survey Method

Coordinated by Michael Stubbe from the University of Halle, the status and distribution of the otter has been recorded continuously during the past decades. Still there has not yet been the chance to do a survey according to the British Survey Method. Thus we intend to start such a survey as soon as we get the necessary funds.

Other projects

Besides the activities in East Germany some other projects have begun or continued. Two Ph.D. studies are in full progress, one being on the anatomy of otters (done by the veterinarian Anja Zogal), the other one being on the development of vocalisation of otters by Barbel Rogoschik (Rogoschik 1989). With two Ph.D. studies, on marking behaviour and on predatory behaviour, plans exist but have not yet been promoted.

We bred one otter last year, but are reluctant to continue with the breeding programme, as we start to run short of enclosure space. Bearing in mind the inadequate conditions under which otters are frequently kept in captivity, we decided not to sell our animals. Instead we developed a sort of "rent-system". We set up a contract with zoos or wildlife parks, in which the conditions under which the otters have to be kept, are put down in detail. The conditions have to reach the high standard maintained in the OTTER-ZENTRUM, which some of you saw during the last otter colloquium (including size and design of the enclosures, proper veterinarian care, etc.). The animals can always be investigated by us and, should it become necessary, reclaimed. Yet only two small wildlife parks could conform to the contract conditions, although interest in receiving otters has been high. For these reasons we are considering discontinuing the breeding programme

The restoration of the River Ise system (river and tributaries about 110 km long) is amidst the realisation phase. The River Ise and most of its tributaries have been intensively channelised in the past. To revitalise this system we set up a project in 1987. Among others two principal objectives are followed: human activities shall be done with no or minor technical reconstruction. Instead the dynamics of the river system itself shall be strengthened. The project is funded by the German Environmental. Minister as "research and development project". After the planning stage has been finalised by the end of 1989 we could start with the realisation, since the necessary financial support of 16 Mio DM (about 10,5 Mio. US S) was granted last year.

A report on the investigation of the river system has been published in German (Prauser et. al. 1990). And last, but not least, we are glad that again more than 100 000 people visited the OTTER-ZENTRUM last year. Thus the interest in our environmental education programme remained as high as the year before.


Prauser, N., Breier, R., Drepper, J., Fendrich, U., Sander, R., Wesseler, E. 1990. Revitalisierung in der Ise-Niederung Teil A: Grundlagenerhebug zu ökologischen und ökonomischen Aspekten. - Habitat 4, Hankensbüttel, 175 pp.
Reuther, C. 1989. 10 Jahre AKTION FISCHOTTERSCHUTZ e.V. 1979 - 1989. - Habitat 1, 156pp.
Rogoschik, B. 1989. Vokalisation und Lautentwicklung des Europaischen Fischotters. - in Stubbe, M. Populationsökologie mardorartiger Saugetiere Bd. 1, Wissenschaftliche Beitrage der Martin-Luther-Universitat Halle-Willenberg, 1989/37 (P39): 213-222.
Stubbe, M. 1989. Verbreitung und Ökologie des Fischotters Lutra lutra (L., 1758) in der DDR. - in Stubbe, M.: Populationsökologie marderarliger Saugetiere Bd. 1, Wissenschaflliche Beitiage der Martin-Luther-Universitat Hallo-Wittenberg, 1989/37 (P39): 13-34

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