Experience and expertise honed on Skye is go behind the Bamboo Curtain to help the world’s mostly highly populated country protect its own wildlife.

Despite the incredible difference in population – Skye with just over 10,000 compared to the 1,322,000,000 that China has – still lessons learnt in the North West of Scotland are to be used to establish a whole new conservation network and programme there.

Next month, from September 5-10, Dr Paul Yoxan and his wife, Grace, who are responsible for the International Otter Survival Fund’s (IOSF) Broadford sanctuary on Skye, will travel to Zhuhai in China to stage a five day workshop, the first of its kind to be held there.

There are three species of otter in China, all of which are seriously declining in number.  This is largely due to overharvesting, habitat destruction, water pollution, and lack of prey availability. 

Dr Yoxon, Head of Operations at IOSF said: “2016 is the Year of the Otter and the aim is to draw attention to the plight of the world’s otters and to raise funds for their conservation. 

Dr Paul Yoxon

“The training workshop in China is a great opportunity to draw the attention of the public in that country to the drastic situation of otters there.  In the last 50 years China has lost half of its wetlands and 80% of the mangroves have been destroyed in the last 40 years. 

“By showing the people of China the importance of otters to these ecosystems we can encourage them to be concerned for their conservation which will then have an impact on the illegal wildlife trade.”

IOSF is at the frontier of otter conservation and was set up to protect and help the 13 species of otter worldwide, through a combination of compassion and science. 

They have already organised similar training workshops in Cambodia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Africa.

In China training will be provided for 30 participants and funding has been raised to make this a regional event.  Topics covered will include identification, ecology, distribution, field signs, threats (especially from the illegal wildlife trade), and there will be special emphasis on education programmes.  Instructors all have several years’ experience in otter work, and have been involved in previous workshops. 

The aim is to establish a Chinese Otter Network which will link with the Asian Otter Conservation network to create a launchpad of collaboration and enable realistic and practical conservation programmes.

(Pictures-International Otter Survival Fund)