Otters are very special. I dare you to look at a group of otters for more than ten minutes and not be captivated, usually for life. What is it about them? They are actually fierce predators and fighters when need be, nothing cuddly about them. Yet a short-clawed otter will play with a pebble for hours, tossing it from hand to hand without a glance. North American otters gallop and slide in the snow, chasing one another – they don’t look like predators then. As a professional biologist, I was told that I must not attribute human emotions to the animals I observe, but after 40 years I am still tempted, because otters are so expressive, so vocal, and so clear about their intentions and feelings.
Nothing had prepared me for the surprise when I realised that I didn’t need to go to to the other side of the world to come across a fascinating and understudied animal. That is the beauty of the otter – anyone and everyone can find an association that works with otters, an animal that is so important for every wetland and so many coastal habitats, in their own country. And otters, everywhere, need our help – by spreading the word we can create more awareness and therefore more interest and protection. Just walk out to the nearest river and start looking. Except for those that live in Australia.They have platypuses, and that’s more than enough.