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Cardiff University marks World Otter Day

30 May 2018

Two Eurasian otters in wood
Image by David Bailey

You can tune into an ‘as live’ otter dissection on World Otter Day, giving you an inside look at  Cardiff University’s Otter Project’s research, which aims to protect and conserve otters across the UK.

The Otter Project is a national scheme collecting otters found dead in England, Scotland and Wales for post-mortem examination, to investigate contaminants, disease, and population biology. To mark the International Otter Survival Fund's World Otter Day, the Otter Project team have filmed one of their routine otter dissections, investigating an otter’s death and explaining how this information can be used to protect the species.

Dr Elizabeth Chadwick, Head of Cardiff University’s Otter Project, said: “We dissect found dead otters from across the UK to investigate their death to help protect this beloved British animal.

“We are alerted when a dead otter has been found, and this allows us to collect the carcass so that it can be used in our work. Most of the otters that we receive have died in road traffic accidents, and our research is being used to help the conservation of otters, including helping to reduce the number of future road traffic casualties.

“For World Otter Day we wanted to open the doors to our lab through a video, showing how examining found dead otters plays an important role in this field of biological research. By examining dead otters, we can gather information about their cause of death and how we can prevent this in the future.

“We can look at the levels of pollutants in their tissues, which is a useful indicator of levels of pollution they are in contact with in their environment.

“By dissecting found dead otters from across the UK, we can gather data about parasites, diet, age and breeding.

“We can also use the information to inform research about how otters communicate through smell.

“Our film gives you the chance to get an understanding of our research, as well as providing a learning opportunity for our students to help them to develop into the scientists of the future.”

Dr Rhys Jones, TV presenter and lecturer at Cardiff University School of Biosciences, presented the video.

Rhys said: “The video of the dissection may be graphic for viewers, but it is a unique opportunity to see what goes on in Cardiff University’s Otter Project, which is working to protect this charismatic animal.

“Through otter dissection we can get information about how these animals are dying, and prevent future deaths.

“There are a number of ways that people can help the Otter Project.

If you find a dead otter, you can get in touch with the project so that it can be used in their research.

“As a charity, we rely on support to continue our work, and any donation can be used to help conserve British otters. A donation of just £30 will fund the delivery of one otter carcass to the Otter Project.

“Or undergraduate students with an interest in otter biology are welcome to get in touch with us to discuss completing a Masters or PhD with the Otter Project, to become the next generation of otter scientists.”

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