Otters return to Thames in London

A A A

In the 1930s, the Thames and its tributaries were home to the 4ft-long creatures. Now there are thought to be no more than 13 otters in the South-east.

But after a massive clean-up of the Thames and its tributaries, a project to return the otter is being launched. Wildlife experts hope the mammals driven away by pollutants will resettle in Stratford, east London, when it is cleaned up for the Olympics.

First, they would take up residence in the lower Lea Valley, then establish themselves in the Thames, repopulating the riverbanks.

Armed with an acute sense of sight, smell and hearing, the fast-swimming otter, with a wide-ranging taste for fish, frogs and small birds, could soon be popping its snout above the waters as far as 20 miles upriver.

The plan, by the London Development Agency (LDA) and the London Wildlife Trust (LWT), is to clean up the industrial wasteland, rebuild the banks of the River Lea and ensure there are enough fish and eels for otters to sustain themselves. The otter is still found in the clean upper reaches of the Lea beyond Waltham Abbey in Hertfordshire and in Essex.

The lower Lea Valley, where otters once lived in abundance, will be at the centre of the Olympic park, but it has become a dump for wrecked cars, shopping trolleys and other detritus. The riverbanks are carpeted with crisp packets and plastic bags and the water is an unwholesome cocktail of pesticides and chemicals.

The Olympic authorities want to encourage the otters first to set up home near Stratford, before expanding their territory. There have been fleeting sightings of otters in outer London in recent years, in Redbridge in the east and Richmond in the west, but they are not in central London.

Otters were brought to the brink of extinction in the decades after the Second World War by the widespread use of organo-chlorine pesticides in agriculture, which contaminated the fish they eat. By 1978, they had become such a rare sight that they were made a protected species. But now they have made a comeback across many parts of Britain.

Gareth Blacker, of the LDA, said: "The Olympics are not just about sport. They are a unique opportunity to regenerate a historic part of London, from the Thames, up the River Lea through Stratford to Hackney. The return of the much-loved otter to London would be symbolic."

After the Games, a "wildlife corridor" of trees, reed-beds and vegetation will be created to provide a permanent home for the mammals.

Carlo Laurenzi, the LWT chief executive, welcomed the planned habitat improvements and said the otters' return would also help the nationally endangered water vole, immortalised as Ratty in Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows. The voles' ranks are being ravaged by mink, the tiny creatures' main predator. Otters "bodyguard" voles and out-compete mink for territory.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?