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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 14:03 GMT
Homes built to tempt back otters
Volunteers build a holt at Arlington Reservoir
Otters almost died out because of pollution
Conservationists hope to attract otters back to Sussex by building artificial homes at reservoirs.

Volunteers from the Sussex Downs Conservation Board spent a day at Arlington Reservoir last week putting together an artificial otter holt.

Another holt will be built at Barcombe Reservoir, in East Sussex, on Thursday.

The conservationists' work is part of an ongoing project to attract this endangered and protected animal back to Sussex.

Otter feeding
Otters eat fish, eels, frogs, crabs and birds
Otters were widespread in the county during the 1950s but by the 1970s they were almost extinct because of pollution caused by sheep dip and pesticide.

Today many otters are killed on roads and railways as they try to cross from one fragment of habitat to another.

Mink traps and eel fyke nets are also a threat when they are not fitted with otter guards.

The holt-building project is backed by the Sussex Otters and Rivers Partnership (SORP), made up of South East Water, the Environment Agency, Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University.

Protected species

Members hope to encourage the natural return of otters by improving wetland habitats and ensuring the nocturnal mammal has sufficient shelter.

Arlington Reservoir, in the South Downs, supplies water to Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford and is owned and managed by South East Water.

The company's award-winning sustainable development and conservation team has created diverse habitats around the reservoir, including reedbeds, hedges and woodland.

The site is home to protected species including the barn owl, nightingale and great crested newt.

South East Water, which has also won an environmental award at Barcombe Reservoir, supplies water to 1.5 million people across Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Hampshire and Berkshire.


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See also:

21 Jan 03 | England
07 Dec 02 | Wales
18 Nov 02 | Science/Nature
10 Apr 02 | England
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