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Monday, November 16, 1998 Published at 11:29 GMT


Otters return to UK rivers

Otters have slowly started returning to their old habitats

Otters are being encouraged to return to British rivers, after decades of being driven away by pollution and the destruction of their habitat.

Bob Walker reports from the banks of the River Trent
This week sees the launch of a series artificial holts - the name given to an otter's nest - to hasten the mammals' return to their old haunts.

The holts are part of the Otters and Rivers Project, a joint initiative by Water UK and the Wildlife Trust.

The first holt, on the River Trent, at Stoke Bardolph, in Nottinghamshire, is due to be officially opened on Monday.

Brian Duckworth, chair of Water UK, says that since 1993 there has been an upsurge in the otter population, thanks to initiatives to clean up the rivers.

"The Otters and Rivers Project will bring otters back into Britain's waterways, where they belong," Mr Duckworth said.

"Otters can only survive in rivers which are free from pollution, and it is the responsibility of everyone in industry, the farming community, landowners and the public, to ensure that our rivers are kept clean so that this magnificent creature can once again inhabit Britain's rivers and wetlands."

The Otters and Rivers Projects aims by 2003 to have otter populations return to all of the river systems where the creatures have been recorded since 1960.

Close to extinction

Up until 1960, otters were plentiful in the United Kingdom's rivers, but by the late 1970s they had come close to extinction in most parts of England and Wales. This has been attributed to pollution, both from urban settlements along the river banks, as well as to chemical pesticides washed into the rivers from farmland.

Urban development has also cut down the number of places where otters can safely nest.

The provision of holts is part of a wider scheme to improve the otters' environment, says Otters and Rivers Project director Guy Corbett-Marshall.

"In the Trent area we have three otter project officers, supported by a group of trained volunteers who monitor the region's otter population," he said.

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