National Trust rangers and volunteers have recently placed secret cameras to capture the activity of a group of otters at Penrose on the Lizard. The conservation charity is now hoping that the camera footage will prove that the otter population is starting to make a return to the area.
Otters have been in decline in Cornwall since the 1960s and 70s when their habitats became threatened by poorly kept and polluted waterways. Loe Pool on the Lizard was no exception, historically suffering from eutrophication and algal blooms during the summer months. Surveys carried out in 1977 and in 1986 showed no signs of otters and they were thought to have died out in the area.
Over the last 20 years the team at Penrose have seen a dramatic improvement in water quality largely thanks to the work of the Loe Pool Forum, a partnership of organisations founded in 1996 and headed up by the National Trust. Today there are no longer toxic algal blooms in the summer months; resulting in healthier fish stocks and amphibian populations which provide an ample food source for otters.
The large expanse of open freshwater with adjoining river, wetlands, reed-beds, bank-side scrub and trees make Penrose an ideal location for otters. However, the Trust wanted to give the otters that extra helping hand, so in autumn 2016 with the help of the local volunteer team, they built a man-made otter holt out of logs and brash for breeding.
Volunteers are continuing to help manage the wet woodland habitat, through coppicing and installing leaky dams, which will have a beneficial effect on the ecology of the whole area. By managing the area and the land for the benefit of nature, the team hope the otters continue to thrive.
To see the footage the team caught of the otter go to: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/penrose