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Conservation of endangered otters and their habitats in Laos

in Action for the Wild & UmPhafa
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Action for the Wild has been supporting the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) since 2012, having donated £23,744 to date. Our donation of £4,970 in 2017 was put towards an otter workshop in Laos in early April 2018.

The workshop in Laos marks IOSF’s fifth in Asia, having already held successful workshops in Cambodia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and China.

Otters are one of Asia’s most overlooked medium-sized mammals and yet they are at the forefront of the illegal wildlife trade, together with tigers and leopards – for every tiger skin found there are at least 10 otter skins and one haul in Lhasa found 778 otter skins!

Laos, Myanmar, and China are a major hub for this illegal trade. In some parts of Asia, otters (particularly Asian small-clawed otters) are taken from the wild for the pet trade. This trade for both fur and pets is seriously threatening the survival of otters and in some areas, they have become locally extinct.

In Asia there are very few scientists working on otters and their habitats. IOSF is therefore working to provide this series of training workshops to train more people in otter field techniques. 36 people attended the Laos workshop and most came from Laos, with six trainers from Sumatra (Indonesia), Taiwan, Sri Lanka, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

There are two IUCN-listed vulnerable species, Asian small-clawed and smooth-coated otters, in Laos, and, during the second day of the workshop, participants went into the field  and to their surprise also found Eurasian otter spraint and tracks. IOSF believes this is the first time it has been recorded here and it confirms the presence of the species in Laos.

As part of the workshop, a Laos Otter Network was set up, which will be linked to the IOSF Asian Otter Conservation Network. Priorities for future work were identified as:

  • Field surveys to obtain more data on distribution and species;
  • Social surveys to assess human/otter conflict and gather more information on distribution of otters;
  • Illegal trade to look further at the scale of the problem in terms of furs, body parts and pets;
  • Education and public awareness.

Results from the workshop highlighted how fundamentally important it is to do base line surveys in this country; to prepare and implement a practical conservation plan for the future.


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