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Volume 6 Pages 1 - 35 (February 1991)

Citation: Jerzy Romanowski (1991) Otters in the Eastern Red Data Books IUCN Otter Spec. Group Bull. 6: 11-13

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Otters in the Eastern Red Data Books

Jerzy Romanowski

Department of Vertebrate Ecology, Institute of Ecology, Dziekanow L. 05-092 Lomianki, Poland

Following the idea of IUCN Red Data Book, similar publications were later prepared in many countries. Most of these national Red Data Books (RDBs) describe otters and thus constitute an interesting source of information on legal status and attitudes towards these animals as well. For the purpose of this article I included RDBs published in so-called East Europe and USSR: I. national RDBs from Bulgaria (1985), USSR (1985) and Poland (in print); 2. republican RDBs from Czech S.R. (1983) and 9 Soviet Republics (1978-1987)(for complete list see references).

The description of status of the otters is summarized in Table 1. As some of the RDBs used non-standard criteria of status description, I converted them to the nearest IUCN RDB criteria The RDBs from Byeloruss, Latvia and Lithuania did not include otter and are not listed in the Table.

Table 1: Otters in Red Data Books
E = Endangered; V = Vulnerable; R = Rare
+ = Protected; ! = Protection of selected subspecies only
Otter Sea Otter
Poland R +  
Czech SR E      
Bulgaria E +   
USSR R + ! R +
RFSFR R + ! R +
Yakutsk ASSR V +   
Latvia V +   
Armenia E +   
Kazakhstan R +   
Turkmenia R +   

The otter Lutra lutra is the most often described species among all mustelids: it is listed in 10 out of 13 RDBs (while e.g. the European mink is listed only 5 times). Most RDBs consider it under the Rare category (5 times), three as Endangered, and two as Vulnerable. Almost all RDBs, that include the otter, also contain information about legal protection of the species. Only the Czech RDB does not mention it. In Latvia and Kazakhstan the otter receives partial protection. The RDQ of USSR protects only two subspecies of otter: L. lutra meridionalis Ognev, 1931 as Rare, and L. Lutra seistanica Birula. 1912 as a Rare and Decreasing subspecies. The former subspecies is also the only one protected by the RDB of RSFSR. Otters of subspecies L. lutra seistanica are protected by republican RDBs from Turkmenia and evidently Kazakhstan, where those animals are described under the incorrect scientific name of Lutra seistanica. All other RDBs mentioned in the Table 1 confirm full protection of the species (since 1960 in Armenia; since 1962 in Bulgaria, where a penalty of 150 leva for killing the otter is also established).

Two subspecies of the sea otter: Enhydra lutris lutris Linnaeus, 1758 and E. lutra gracilis Bechstoin, 1800; are protected by the RGBs of USSR and RSFSR, both under the Rare Category.

The national and republican Red Data Books generally reflect little interest in protection of mustelids and the otter is the only exception. This species is recognised as Rare or Endangered and is commonly protected. Most of RDBs indicate the presence of otters in protected areas and list protection measures to be taken. These measures, however, are of general character (better species protection, protection of habitats) and have little value for promoting specific conservation actions. The fact, that the otter is not listed in RDBs of Byelorussia, Lithuania and Ukraine, as well that only selected subspecies are protected in USSR and RSFSR, seems to reflect the conflict between furbearer and game policies.


Red Data Book of Armenia S.S.R.1987 : Rare and Endangered Species of Animals (Eds Airomoian, K.A. and Movesesian, S.O).  Aiastan, Erevan
Red Data Book of Kazakh S.S.R 1978.: Rare and Endangered Species of Animals and Plants.  Part 1 - Vertebrates.  . Kainar, Alma-Ata.
Red Data Book of the Latvian S.S.R. 1985.: Rare and Endangered Species of Animals and Plants. Zinatne Publishing House, Riga
Red Data Book of the Lithainian S S.R.. 1981 (Ed. Jankiavicus et al.) Mokslas, Vilnus,. 
Red Data Book of Poland (Ed. Z. Glowacinski, in print). 
Red Data Book of R.S F.S.R. Moskva.
Red Data Book of Turkmen SSR 1985. Col.1 - Vertebrates and plants. , Izd. Turkmenistan, Aschabad.
Red Data Book of the Ukrainian S.S.R.. 1979. Naukova, Kiev.
Red Data Book of USSR. 1985 Rare and endangered species of animals and plants. Vol. 1. . Lesnaja Promyslennost, Moskva.
Red Data Book of Yakutsk A.S.S.R.. 1987. (Ed. Solomonov N.G.). Izd. Nauka, Novosibirsk.
Trpak, P. 1989. Red list of endangered species of vertebrates of Czech S.R.. Pamatky a priroda 4: 233 - 239.

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