Facebook fans to report otter habitats

ANGLIAN Water is using the power of Facebook to carry out a regionwide otter survey.

The company funds a network of almost 50 voluntary RiverCare groups, including groups in Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Fakenham. Each is given support to adopt and look after a local stretch of river.

Run by the charity Keep Britain Tidy, the RiverCare scheme has created a small army of volunteers, which Anglian Water hopes can help it record where otters can be found in its region.

The 'Otterly Fabulous Survey' is being run through RiverCare's new Facebook page, allowing volunteers – and anyone else who wants to take part - to post their findings online.

All the information gathered will be shared with the region's Wildlife Trusts and used to guide future conservation efforts. Otters suffered huge declines in the 1950s and 60s due to pollution, habitat loss and poisoning owing to the widespread use of organochlorine pesticides such as the now banned DDT. Many were also killed on the roads.

Now though, they are starting to make a comeback, something Anglian Water is keen to encourage where it can.

Lisa Taylor, Environmental Performance Scientist at Anglian Water said: 'We are all very excited at the thought of what this survey might show up.

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'RiverCare has been running for more than 10 years now, but the Facebook page is a new development. We think it has the potential to bring all the RiverCare groups together, sharing their experiences.

'It will also be a central point where they can get information on waterside mammals, including otters, and what to look out for, as well as an easy way to share what they find.

'We are interested in their descriptions, photos or video of footprints, droppings, and feeding signs from otters, water voles and mink. We can't wait to see what comes back.'

She added: 'Anglian Water has its own Biodiversity Action Plan to help species found on our sites. Otters and water voles are among the animals we want to help and surveys like this are a great starting point; we need to know where they are and where they are absent.

'If this goes well then we plan to do similar surveys for other species. They have the potential to make an important contribution to our knowledge of the most vulnerable plants and animals.'

Andrew Walters from Keep Britain Tidy, said: 'This kind of survey is a new departure for us but, knowing our volunteers, I'm sure they will be just as excited by this as we are.

'This is a natural extension of our work and also let's us highlight the new Facebook pages, which can help us forge a real sense of community among the different RiverCare groups.'

RiverCare's Facebook pages can be found at www.facebook.com/RiverCare. More information about RiverCare can also be found at www.rivercare.org.uk