A SCOTTISH charity is leading the way in otter conservation in Africa.
The Skye-based International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) is rolling out its otter training workshops to the continent - after a successful similar project over the last seven years in Asia.
Later this month delegates from 10 African countries will meet at the College for Wildlife Management at Mweka, Tanzania, to be trained in otter conservation and ecology.
Dr Paul Yoxon, who set up the charity in 1993, said urgent global action must be taken to save the world’s otters before some species are lost for ever.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List which has just been updated with the most threatened animals around the world, 12 of the 13 otter species are declining, some critically, and many countries have already reported local extinctions.
On the African continent there are four species of otter and all are threatened by pollution, habitat loss and disturbance.
In Africa only eight people at present work on otters. But after the workshop more people will be trained into taking otter conservation further.
The founders of the IOSF, claim that worldwide conservation efforts must recognise the plight of smaller, less iconic, animals alongside the bigger and better-known tigers, pandas, elephants and rhinos.
Dr Yoxon said: “This is the first of many workshops in Africa as we need to instill the importance of otter conservation to rangers and wildlife managers on this continent.
“As otters are at the top of the food chain and use both land and water it is essential that both habitats are in pristine condition.
“This is vital for all species including our own.”
The workshop in Tanzania will bring together park rangers, scientists, conservationists, teachers and three people from the Democratic Republic of Congo who set up the Kikongo Otter Sanctuary.
Dr Yoxon added that the role of the IOSF was to work with local communities throughout the world to educate, inform and encourage the protection and conservation of otters.
He added: “Through a programme of research, the IOSF will become the world’s foremost authority on otter behaviour, habitat, persecution and conservation.
“We want people throughout the world to be as appalled by otter persecution and hunting as we are towards tiger and rhino hunting.
“We would like to educate people to the benefits of otters, what healthy populations mean for the environment and dispel myths that are causing otters to be intentionally disturbed, persecuted and hunted.”
The IOSF was Wildlife Conservation Award Winner at the 2013 British Animal Honours.
Dr Yoxon has worked on my TV and radio programmes including Wildlife on One, The One Show, Animal Hospital and Blue Peter.