Thursday, 10 April 2008 12:00 AM
RSPCA helps orphaned baby whose siblings are believed to have starved to death.
An orphaned otter cub is being reared in a specialist sanctuary after its mother was killed by a vehicle on a country lane in Wales.
Three days after the accident, the dehydrated and starving cub was picked up by a member of the public who spotted it wandering out of a hedgerow and into a field - just yards from where its mother was found dead on the road.
At least one other cub, probably from the same litter, was spotted nearby by the member of public, but he was unable to catch it. Experts believe any they are likely to have starved to death because they would not be able to catch food for themselves.
Robert Scrivens, a supervisor at RSPCA Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre near Nantwich in Cheshire, said: "The cub had lost about a third of her bodyweight when we took her in. She was quite weak but is now making a good recovery.
"The otter cub now has a good chance of survival and she will be looked after for between nine months and a year, until she is ready to be released back into the wild, hopefully near to where she was found."
The female otter cub, believed to be between nine and 12 weeks old, was found by a member of the public (who wishes to remain anonymous) on Thursday 20 March near the village of Four Crosses, near Oswestry, Powys, Wales. He took her to the Four Crosses Veterinary Surgery which rehydrated the cub and called the RSPCA.
An RSPCA Animal Collection Officer then took the cub to the Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre where a vet gave her a clean bill of health. She was fed a milk supplement and a special fish soup to help her gain weight.
A week later, she was well enough to be transferred to the New Forest Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park near Marchwood, Hampshire, where has been paired up with another otter orphan. This will help prepare her to be released back into the wild. When she is ready to be released the RSPCA will select a location with good habitat for the otter, to give her the best chance of survival.
The Society's wildlife centres receive an average of about 12 otters a year. They are still rare, despite making a gradual recovery in many areas.
Advice to the public:
· Slow down on the roads, look out for wildlife and be prepared to brake.
· If you find an otter cub, make sure that the mother is not around, before trying to catch and contain the animal. This may mean observing the cub for at least 24 hours.
· Call the RSPCA's 24-hour cruelty and advice line on 0300 1234 999.
The RSPCA's wildlife centres aim to give injured or sick animals the best possible chance of survival when they are released back into their natural habitat.
When otter cubs are taken into care they are examined by a vet who checks they are healthy and don't need any medical attention.
Very young cubs are initially fed milk replacement fluid and are gradually moved onto a special fish soup and eventually whole fish (normally trout).
They are kept indoors for the first few days so they can be closely observed and, if they have no health problems and are eating well, they are moved to outdoor enclosures with a pool to enable them to swim. They are often kept with other otters to allow them to socialise and prepare for life in the wild.
Cubs in the wild stay with their mothers for about a year until they are fully independent and able to find food independently. Rehabilitating orphaned otters takes about the same amount of time.
They are released back into the wild at a location which is the most suitable to enable their survival - usually an unpolluted stretch of river which is not already part of another otter's territory.
The European otter is protected by law throughout the UK. It is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Sections 9.1 and 9.4, Schedule Five) to kill, injure or take an otter from the wild without a licence; to damage or obstruct a holt; or disturb an otter in its resting place. Licences are required for checking holts or for carrying out work that may disturb otters, such as the management of trees that are known to be used as resting sites.
The otter is listed in the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (Cites).
The number of otters in the UK is unknown but is thought to have increased since some harmful insecticides were banned in the 1980s. In 2006 an otter was spotted on the River Thames in Central London.
Length: Average 1.2m (dogs), 1m (bitches)
Weight: Average 10.3kg (dogs), 7.4kg (bitches)
Colour: Medium to dark brown above and lighter underneath.
Diet: Mainly fish, but also birds, small mammals, amphibians, crustaceans and molluscs.
Breeding: Only once every two years as the cubs remain dependent on their mother for a year.
Offspring: Between one and four cubs a year.
Lifespan: Average four years due to so many threats, although they can live for up to 12 years.
Habitat: Mainly rivers, but also canals, marshes, small streams, ditches, ponds and lakes. They also inhabit estuaries and coastal areas.
Otters can swim at speeds of 12 km per hour underwater and can travel for up to 400 metres before surfacing for air. An otter closes its nostrils and ears when it dives.
Notes to editors:
For photos contact the RSPCA's Press Office on 0300 123 0244 or PA.
RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288 Fax: 0303 123 0099 Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 0870 0555500 and ask for pager number 828825
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.rspca.org.uk