The International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) has been honoured with the Wildlife Conservation Award in the ITV’s British Animal Honours 2013. A glittering ceremony in London saw the presentation by Steve Backshall, who is a naturalist, writer and television presenter, but is possibly best known for BBC TV's “Deadly 60”. This is a brand new awards show to celebrate the achievements of the country’s most extraordinary animals and the people who work with them. The show is hosted by Paul O’Grady and will air on ITV on Thursday 18th April from 8pm.
The Wildlife Conservation Award recognises the work of a person or organisation which has made an outstanding contribution to protecting British wildlife and IOSF was selected by a jury made up of animal experts, animal charities and celebrities.
IOSF is in its 20th year and works at home and abroad to conserve the 13 species of otter. The charity has its headquarters on the Isle of Skye, and there is a specialist otter hospital which has cared for over 120 otters. In addition, IOSF provides help and advice for people caring for otters worldwide, and is currently helping with animals in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Belize.
In the UK, IOSF has also worked to reduce otter road deaths and campaigned against the use of snares. Otters have been seriously injured in snares, and these are just those which are found.
There has been much publicity in the British media recently about otters being everywhere, but the reality is that there are only about 10,000 in the whole of the UK. The IOSF appreciates the concern expressed by the fishing communities, and has established a working group with anglers and fish farmers to work on a solution to problems of otter predation.
Amongst the charity’s international work there is a lot of concern about the impact of the illegal wildlife trade on otters. Dr Paul Yoxon, Head of Operations, said “No-one ever appreciates the scale of the illegal trade in otters for fur and pets. For every tiger skin found there are at least 10 otters but they are always overlooked. In some parts of Asia it is so bad that otters have disappeared completely. In March we held a workshop in Indonesia to train more scientists to do otter research work and education and public awareness. The big problem there is that otters are being taken from the wild in their hundreds for pets and we now have an Indonesian Otter Network who will work together and tackle this problem.”
A special Otter Awareness Day is being held by IOSF on Wednesday 29th May and it is hoped that this will draw attention to the plight of otters worldwide.