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Otters to be reintroduced to River Roding near Wanstead Park as part of improvement scheme

PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:22 06 April 2017

An otter at Whipsnade Zoo. Experts are trying to reintroduce otters to the River Roding. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA

An otter at Whipsnade Zoo. Experts are trying to reintroduce otters to the River Roding. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA

PA Archive/PA Images

An ambitious scheme to revitalise the River Roding is hoping to bring wild otters back to the area for the first time in 15 years.

Last week, volunteers gave up their time to help clear part of the river near Wanstead Park, in preparation for the creation of an otter holt on the riverbank next month.

“We’re hopeful we can bring some otters back into the area,” said Redbridge conservation ranger Julia Coulson, who helped organise the works in conjunction with the Wild Trout Trust and the City of London.

“People would love going for walks in the park and trying to spot them as they’re in the river, and we’re hopeful that once the area is cleared and we’ve built a holt for them one or two might settle down here. We’ve had a couple of potential sightings recently so we know they can visit the area – it would be great for local wildlife if they stayed.”

The most recent confirmed sighting in Wanstead, according to the London Wildlife Trust, was back in August 2002, but a number of residents have reported seeing one or two small mammals – which may have been otters but were more likely minks – since then.

Juila has been a Redbridge Nature Conservation Ranger for eight years, and told the Recorder that work on the river has long been in the group’s plans. She said: “We’ve been working on the river with the Wild Trout Trust for a few of years now, on a number of other things and when we were offered funding by the City of London we decided to give it a go.”

The branches cleared from the riverside last week have since been used to create a berm – a raised part of the riverbed – that will help create new habitats for small fish and amphibious invertebrates.

And reclaimed logs will be used from May to build an otter holt in the area that will hopefully encourage families of the small mammals to once again settle.

The City of London offered the Nature Conservation Team £750 of funding to clean the Roding around Wanstead Park, and the group knew what they wanted to do with the money.

Julia said: “We know there have been some recent sightings of otters, so we know they’re about, and we decided we would try to make the river a more inviting place for them.”

Alan Howe, of environmental group Barkingside 21, praised the work the Nature Conservation Team have done to improve the area’s biodiversity.

He said: “It seems like every week they’re doing something different to try and help.”

“I was surprised when I found that out because I didn’t know we could get otters down here,” said Alan.

“But it will be nice to see a bit more wildlife other than the rats!”

The next volunteer day will be held on Tuesday from 10am-2.30pm, with a final otter holt bulding session being held on May 2.

For more information call 020 8559 2316 or email nature.conservation@visionrcl.org.uk

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