Wildlife saviour hailed a hero as otters return

The founder of an East Anglian nature trust which helped bring the British otter back from near extinction has been hailed a 'hero' by a farming and conservation charity.

Philip Wayre has been made an honorary life member of the Countryside Restoration Trust (CRT) in recognition of his work to reintroduce the creatures to the waterways.

It comes following the news that otters have returned to every county in England after efforts to save them from extinction, a result which the CRT says is attributable to Mr Wayre.

Mr Wayre founded the Otter Trust at Earsham, near Bungay, with his wife Jeanne in 1971, and the trust's work to breed captive otters and reintroduce them back into the wild is credited with helping to create a healthy population today.

Mr Wayre closed the Otter Trust in 2008. 'We had achieved what we set out to do,' he said. 'There was no further reason for us to keep captive otters so we decided to close the trust down'.

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Mr Wayre, who is 90, said he was 'delighted' at the news that otters have returned to every county in England.

Otters all but disappeared in England after the second world war because of toxic pesticides which were washed off farmland into rivers and streams, killing them and the fish they live on.

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A ban on harmful pesticides and legal protection has helped their recovery. But CRT chairman Robin Page said the 'real hero' behind the otter resurgence is Mr Wayre.

'Without his dedication, linked to captive breeding, when otters were at their most vulnerable, and re-introduction once habitat had improved, the otter would still be restricted to a few remote corners of Britain,' Mr Page said.

'Because of this we are making him an honorary life member of the CRT. In my view he deserves a much larger national reward.'

CRT trustee Chris Knights said: 'Without any doubt Philip Wayre and his re-introductions are the main reason that the otter has returned so quickly and spectacularly.'

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