Eurasian Otter Research and Conservation in
Donor: BP Exploration (Caspian Sea) Ltd-Georgia
Project Implementation Period: 2006 - 2007
Once the population of Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) currently found in the
Red Data List was spread on the whole territory of Georgia. At present it is
considered to be critically endangered…
The otter is a "flagship" species of aquatic ecosystems. They can highlight
environmental restoration and its attractive appearance and behaviour can be
used to educate and increase public awareness and support for environmental
As the top predator in aquatic ecosystems the otter is considered an
important biological indicator of the health of rivers and wetlands. Monitoring
the status and distribution of the otter population therefore gives us a good
measure of the state of aquatic ecosystems, and will help us to preserve their
We face serious conflict between man and otter these days. This conflict
chiefly deals with the lack of environmental education and the low rate of
environmental awareness. Owners of the fish-farms strongly feel hostility
towards an otter. The results of the NACRES survey are as follows: 22 from 28
fish-farm owners heatedly argue that an otter is the main threat to their
business and thus they are keen to kill the animal.
Our project concentrates on the conservation of the critically endangered
Eurasian otter. We chose the target territory along the river Alazani for
several reasons: nearly 300 fish-farms are located on the territory. One can
find both small ponds and very huge artificial lakes (150 hectares) there.
Nearly 30 otters can be found on the above-mentioned area. Otters that can
hardly find their feed in their natural environment appear to be frequent
visitors of the fish-farms. There are sufficient reasons to be concerned. To our
opinion, forestry and building shelters for domestic animals on the target
territory cause a seasonal movement of an otter. Thus, otters usually find a
shelter on the marshy area of the forest or on the so-called islands of the
Alazani River. Moreover, the main food for an otter is a crucian carp spread in
the small canals. The results of the NACRES research show that the recent
(especially during the year 2006) processes such as drying of canals caused by
irrigational system destruction and illegal fishing (i.e. uses of electricity,
dynamite, poison) sufficiently reduced fish supply and consequently the food for
an otter. NACRES research reveals the critical essence of the problem we face.
Otter is an indicator of water ecosystem. The fact that otters leave their
natural dwellings and visit the artificial fish-farms, gives us a sign of water
NACRES has been studying otter population for several years. One of the
methods we use for our research during the implementation of the above-mentioned
project is a method of radio-tracking well approbated throughout the world.
The preparation period of the project lasted for a long time. We practiced
our skills with the help of our Dutch partners. Within the frames of the
project, Dutch experts made a 20-day visit to Georgia.
The project began in February. Basic ecological studies were carried out
using modern techniques (e.g. radio telemetry) to investigate feeding habits,
seasonal and daily movement patterns of otter in the target area.
In order to increase the understanding of the impact of pollution on Alazani
River and neighbouring fish farms, field studies were undertaken to determine
level and sources of heavy metals and other pollutants in prey species and
habitat. Our studies revealed that usually otters cause slight damage to the
fish-farms that is not even worth mentioning. That’s just several fish animals
steal from the fish-farms.
Chiefly, otter is considered to be a victim of public unawareness. Traps are
set all along the river side (these traps are aimed to catch an otter and
raccoon) resemble mined roads.
Time after time the project team holds meetings and consultations for the
fish-farm employees to increase their environmental awareness. In the end of the
project, the fish-farm employees and local authorities will be given a package
of recommendations and prevention measures to reduce the Human-wildlife
The project will be finished in January 2007. The results of the NACRES
studies will promote the environmental assessment of the Alazani territory and
the survival of the critically endangered species.
For detailed information please contact Giorgi Gorgadze, the project