In honor of World Otter Day, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden invited Ben Yoxon of the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) to write a guest blog about IOSF’s crucial conservation efforts to protect the world’s 13 species of otters. The Zoo is home to two North American river otters, Rocky and Pip, who reside at the Big Rivers habitat located inside Oklahoma Trails. Other otter species include sea otters, giant otters, Eurasian otters, Asian small-clawed otters, smooth-coated otters, Congo clawless otters, Cape clawless otters, marine otters, spotted-necked otters, hairy-nosed otters, Southern river otters and Neotropical otters.
IOSF, based in Scotland, is dedicated to the conservation of otters worldwide. Inspired by watching otters in their natural habitat on the Isle of Skye, IOSF set out on a mission to help all species of otters.
IOSF achieve its goals by the following four main project types:
1) Research: such as populations, threats and other similar factors that can help provide information on otters and their conservation.
2) Rehabilitation and Release: IOSF has cared for over 220 otters in our sanctuary with a goal of releasing them back into the wild. We have also helped with the care of over 160 otters in 45 countries such as Iraq, D.R. Congo and France.
3) Education: ISOF’s education programme is broken into four further sub categories:
- World Otter Day, happening yearly on May 26, raises support and awareness for otters, wetlands and their conservation around the world.
- IOSF has held 7 training workshops to train local communities on methods to monitor, conserve and educate the public about otters.
- IOSF’s children’s environmental education programme, Team Otter, consists of clubs in various countries around the world including UK, Nepal, Laos and Guyana.
- IOSF’s works closely with local communities to help increase awareness, and encourage them to conserve local otter populations, while decreasing any potential human-otter conflicts.
4) Reducing Illegal Trade: Otters are traded as pets, as well as for fur and traditional medicines. It is important to reduce this risk and prevent otters from being forced into these cruel conditions.
There are so many ways you can help wild otters. As mentioned, education is an important factor when it comes to otter conservation. Otters populations are struggling because of a lack of awareness, which has led to reduced efforts in their conservation. IOSF has made strides in “putting otters on the map” and this is partly due to supporters who help provide otters a voice. Social media is a key way to raise awareness. By sharing social media posts about otters from organizations such as IOSF or the OKC Zoo, you are helping otters.
You could perhaps be in a position to begin your own Team Otter club. IOSF’s clubs are available in a variety of countries around the world, helping to reignite children’s passion for the environment that will last a lifetime. IOSF received the Zoo’s financial support for growing its Team Otter programme.
Be an otter spotter! Citizen science is such a great way to help increase understanding of otters within an area. You never know, you might be the first person to spot an otter in your area for a long time. Wherever you are in the globe, enter your otter sightings at https://www.otter.org/Public/AboutOtters_OtterWatch.aspx.
You can also help otters by supporting conservation efforts through organizations such as IOSF. To learn more about IOSF, go to www.otter.org/Public/.
IOSF would like to extend a thank you to the Oklahoma City Zoo for their yearly support through World Otter Day digital outreach efforts, as well as its support of IOSF’s Team Otter Programme.
Together, we will make a difference.
- Ben Yoxon, International Otter Survival Fund