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Being part of the weasel family, the different species of otters are grouped under the Lutrinae family. Their long, slim bodies measure about 80 centimetres to 1.20 metres and weigh about 5 to 12 kilograms, according to their sex and species. Their life span is from 10 to 12 years when they live in the wild.
The otter is gifted with a magnificent coat which is its only protection against the cold; it does not have a coat of fat under its skin like other species which live in harsh climates.
This carnivorous mammal has 4 short web-footed legs, equipped with claws, and a long tail which measures more than 30 centimetres. The otte hollows out a hole by the river, what the specialists call a ‘dam’. The majority of these species live in fresh water, except for those known as ‘sea otters’.
What do otters eat?
Mainly fish, as well as frogs, crustaceans and other things available in its hunting area (Birds, rodents, etc.). Like the walrus (See the case file on this subject), it has vibrissas (Moustaches which act like a sensory organ) which informs it about its environment during dives which can last for more than 5 minutes. The otter is principally a nocturnal animal.
Where do otters live?
Being excellent swimmers, all the species live in direct contact with the water (Rivers, ponds, lakes, canals, marshes, estuaries, etc.) even though they are just as capable of moving on land. Significant otter populations could originally be found in different regions of Europe, Asia and Africa, but today their numbers are declining sharply.
How does the otter reproduce?
Otters can have young ones in every season, but only one set of babies a year. After a gestation period of about 2 months, the female gives birth to 1 to 3 baby otters that are blind. They will become adults within 1 year and will be able to reproduce when they are 2 to 3 years old.
Is the otter in danger?
No, it is in grave danger! Added to its very great misfortune, a magnificent coat of fur (subject to intensive hunting and trapping) and major exposure to human environmental extortion (See below), practically all species of otters have had alarming reductions in numbers.
After having been massacred for their fur up until the second half of the 20th century, otters are currently faced with the destruction of their habitat, notably:
Drying out of wet zones
Pollution of water courses and fields
Noise and urban sprawl of territory
Modification of banks
Poisoning by pesticides
Not forgetting traffic which is one of the major causes of the mortality of otters.
Is the otter protected?
Annex II of the Berne Convention (Convention on the conservation of wildlife and the natural environment), promulgated on 1 June 1982, grants the otter indispensable protection.
What does the disappearance of otters teach us?
The otter is at the top of the food pyramid, it is particularly sensitive to the phenomenon known as ‘bio-accumulation’ (which is the capacity of a body to concentrate pollutants at levels which are much higher than the origin of the substance), thus its disappearance is a symbol of the tragedy faced by numerous animal and plant species.
To protect the otter and its habitat, helping to rebuild its population is a major challenge because the wellbeing of the species depends on the success of the specific case. Or, in other words, if man is not capable of respecting such a charming animal, biodiversity is more than endangered, some would say that it is even doomed...
To see the cartoon on the Otter, click here
To see the game on the Otter, click here
To do the quiz, click here
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