Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Save the Otter is the battle cry of Furget-Me-Not and Cambodia is its target country. I've loved otters since I was a kid and so this campaign that has just kicked-off is close to my heart. The International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) spokesman, Dr Paul Yoxon explains; "The campaign is called 'Furget-me-not' as the otter is the forgotten animal of the fur trade. Everyone always thinks about tigers and leopards or elephant ivory but the trade in otter furs is huge. Recently, there was a massive haul of 778 otter skins in Tibet and we are regularly receiving reports of more and more skins found. Two days ago, we had an email from Cambodia saying a research team at the Tonle Sap Lake had just found 10 skins of smooth-coated otters and six skins of hairy-nosed otters at four different village houses. And this is just the tip of the iceberg - just one small area and one find. It is even more worrying that many of the skins being traded are from the hairy-nosed otter, which was believed to be extinct in 1998 - but small populations have been found in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. At this rate of hunting, the hairy nosed otter will soon be really extinct and, this time round, there will be no great discovery of remnant populations." The main market for the furs is Tibet, where otter fur forms part of the national dress, the chupa: one chupa may contain skins from as many as six otters. These highly decorated costumes are worn at festivals and official state functions and are seen seen as a means of demonstrating the wealth and status of Tibetan culture.

The 'Furget-me-not' campaign will raise funds to start immediate work in Cambodia using a team of already present researchers. The team will train local rangers and government staff to ensure the legal protection of otters is enforced, and will also encourage the local communities to take part in the otter conservation programme. Dr Yoxon said: "Combating the illegal otter fur trade is a matter of urgency because, without doubt, it is threatening the otters’ future existence. Most otters are captured by fishermen who are very poor and simply seek to earn additional money. By engaging these fishermen in the research and conservation of the otters instead of shunning them as hunters and problematic villagers, we can give these people an otter-friendly alternative to their destructive activities and provide real protection for the species."

I appreciate that otters aren't high on Cambodia's agenda, but they're high on mine. Find out a lot more about the campaign and its work in Cambodia here.

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