by International Otter Survival Fund

About the project


Tipping Point £3,000
China workshop £12,000
Getting there £20,000
Final Goal £30,000
tipping point
In-kind donations range from drinks to office supplies. We even accept homemade cakes. See what else we need!
tipping point
25 hrs
In-kind donations range from drinks to office supplies. We even accept homemade cakes. See what else we need!

More about the project



What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?

Otters are such great ambassadors to a healthy environment – they are at the top of the food chain and use both the land and water, so both habitats have to be in pristine condition – this is important for all species, including our own.

Many pollutants have now been banned but chemicals like PCBs are still being found in the environment 30 years later.  There are also new chemicals and we do not know the cocktail effect from the combination of different chemicals in the environment.

As the human population increases it squeezes the habitat available for wildlife.  Many otters in Britain die on the road.  Otter cubs stay with their mum for over a year and so if she is killed they will simply not survive unless taken into care.

And hunting is a particularly serious problem in Asia, as otter fur is regarded as the “diamond” because of its superb quality.  This is largely driven by poverty as poor fishermen seek to earn a bit more for their family and at the same time remove a competitor for the fish.

In Africa they are hunted for bushmeat and traditional medicines but many conservationists don’t even know they exist!


Otter fur and body parts for sale in Morocco © Vincent Nijman


Can you give us some statistics on this problem?

Post mortems on otters monitor the health of the population and show pollution levels and other potential threats not only to otters but to the environment as a whole.  This research has shown that few otters in England and Wales are living beyond 4 years of age and the oldest was 8.  In Germany and the Czech Republic they are living to 15 – WHY?

The illegal trade in otters is huge but people always focus on high profile species such as tiger and elephant.  And yet for every tiger skin found there are at least 10 otter skins and one haul in Tibet had 778 otter skins.  They are also taken from the wild as pets, particularly in countries like Indonesia and Thailand.  They usually kill the mother to get the cubs which often die as they aren't cared for properly, so they go for another one.  This is clearly having a drastic effect on otter populations.  In the Changbaishan Mountain Nature Reserve in China, otters have declined by 99%.  Even the little Asian small-clawed otter is disappearing rapidly.  We have to do something and quickly.


778 otter skins in Tibet © Conservation International


What is your solution?

For otters in the UK we have to make people aware that they are not “everywhere” as we are led to believe in the media.  There are about only 10,000 otters in Britain and yet many fishermen claim there are “lots” and that they are eating all the fish.  One problem is the 95% decline in eels, which are a popular food for otters. So we are supporting an eel-restocking programme.

It is important to involve communities in any conservation work as it will only work with the support of the people.  In areas where there is conflict between otters and fishermen it is vital to meet personally in order to understand the extent of the problem.  By working with the community it is possible to find solutions to problems together. 

But we need trained people to do this.  So IOSF has been holding a series of training workshops in Asia and now has an Asian Otter Conservation Network linking people together to share experience and education materials.  Local government personnel are also invited to attend the workshops to encourage better law enforcement and otter protection. The first African workshop was held in Tanzania in July 2015 and there is now also an African Otters Network. 

In Africa we need more community education and research to see exactly what the situation is with otter populations.


 Education work in Tanzania            Education work in Tanzania ​


A new otter-lover in Bangladesh​


How will you deliver this?

We have a specialist otter hospital caring for orphaned and injured otters and provide help and advice worldwide for other people doing the same.  We have to keep the cubs until they are the same age as they would naturally leave their mother.  But we also have to keep them wild as otherwise they cannot be released.

The Year of the Otter will draw more attention to the problems faced by otters in the UK and worldwide and we will raise more funds for projects such as eel-restocking and keeping otters off the road.

Our next training workshop will be held in China in September 2016 - this will be a real challenge as many of the otter furs end up in Tibet.

In Africa we have people on the ground now who are ready to do education work and carry out research but we just need the funds to do it.


Otters in care at the IOSF hospital


Training new otter workers in Indonesia

Get involved

Here are some great ways to get involved with the project and help out. If you have...
  • 2 minutes
    Follow us on Twitter (@IOSF) and Facebook (International Otter Survival Fund) - share our tweets and posts
  • 5 minutes
    Tell someone about otters and direct them to our website
  • 15 minutes
    Check our wish list and see if there is anything you can donate
  • 30 minutes
    Read about the 13 species of otter in the world We can send you a collection box to put in your local shop or pub
  • A few hours
    Get together with friends and organise a fundraising event. There are plenty of ideas on
  • Regular time commitment
    Join IOSF, receive monthly e-updates and follow our news on the Blog ( Pass it on to your friends and family.

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About the organisation

Vision and mission

The International Otter Survival Fund was inspired by observing otters in their true natural environment in the Hebrides. Because the otter lives on land and in the water and is at the peak of the food chain it is an ambassador species to a first class environment. IOSF was set up in 1993 to protect and help the 13 species of otter worldwide, through a combination of compassion and science. It supports projects to protect otters, which will also ensure that we have a healthy environment for all species, including our own.

Geographical coverage


Our track record

The first training workshop was held in Cambodia in 2009, which was extremely successful and its impact is ongoing in the community. Following the workshop, a local fisherman found a hairy-nosed otter in fishing hooks and contacted one of the community workers, instead of selling the pelt for up to US$200 - this clearly demonstrates the start of a change in attitude. This led to the demand for workshops in other parts of Asia. Participants at the African workshop came from ten sub-Saharan countries. Until this point many people were unaware that otters even existed in Africa, and this included some biology lecturers at the College! Now we have people working in The Gambia, Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Tanzania, so the effects of the workshop are far-reaching and ongoing. Over the years we have cared for about 170 otters and provided help to people in 32 countries including Ecuador, Costa Rica, The Philippines, Bulgaria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congo cub was especially exciting – her mother had been killed by a hunter who then took pity on the youngster and took her to local missionaries. She was only about a week old and no-one expected her to survive. But she thrived and became a local ambassador for otters. The otter, named Mazu, was quickly taken to the hearts of the Kikongo village people and became a local celebrity. Even government ministers came from Kinshasa to see this wonderful animal and she became a true otter ambassador. People began to care about otters and conservation in general – a major step forward. Now there is the Kikongo Otter Sanctuary who care for orphaned otters and carry out a lot of community education work.

Who do we help?

The conservation of the otter is NOT a sentimental luxury. Your help will save the lives of individual animals through our otter hospital. But it will also help to relieve the poverty in Asia and Africa as we work to provide alternative livelihoods in exchange for a ban on hunting otters. It will also help communities by showing that having otters means they have clean water.

How do we deliver this?

You can help in so many ways: • Help us raise funds for our various projects. • Adopt one of the otters in our care • Help us create awareness of otters and their importance in the environment • Look after your own environment – keep our waterways clean, remove litter, etc

Awards And Recognitions

IFAW Animal Action Award 2012 Wildlife Conservation Award, British Animal Honours 2013