Otters of Uganda
This project aims to understand three species of otter present in Uganda, where & how they live and the threats they face.
Freshwater ecosystems are vital to the survival of most species, including our own. Unfortunately, these ecosystems are also among the most threatened habitats globally, and are experiencing the highest rates of species loss. As the human population continues to grow, so does the demand for land and water, further increasing pressure on wetlands which are prime otter habitats.
This is particularly true in Uganda, where about fifteen percent of its land cover consists of wetlands that include five major lakes (Victoria, Albert, Kyoga, Edward and George), about 160 minor lakes, an extensive riverine system, as well as small dams and ponds. These wetlands exhibit an abundance of biodiversity and provide a wide range of ecosystem services for the local human communities who depend on them for their livelihoods and survival, particularly for fishing and agriculture. In recent decades, habitat loss, pollution and an increase in the effects of climate change are all taking a severe toll on Ugandan lakes and wetlands, impacting the flora, fauna and human communities that depend on them.
As an umbrella species, otters depend on healthy wetlands for their survival, but they also play an important role in regulating and maintaining the function of these very same ecosystems. Essentially a give and take relationship, one that needs to be understood in order to be managed and conserved.
An initial review of the published literature suggests that historically, three species of otter have ranges in Uganda: the African-clawless otter (Aonyx capensis), the spotted-necked otter (Hydrictis maculicollis) and the Congo-clawless otter (Aonyx congicus). However there has been limited formal study, resulting in data deficits and knowledge gaps. This study will be instrumental in establishing a baseline of otter distributions as well as expand existing knowledge on the habitat preferences, ecology and threats to these three otter species, thereby facilitating future research and conservation management.
Our study will begin by identifying areas of otter presence in and around a few lakes and swamps in southern Uganda (map below), locations that were chosen based on historical literature and some anecdotal reports of otter sightings in the area. We will also document the ecology, habitat, behaviour and threats to otters in those locations.
A major component of this study will be our interaction with local communities, to understand and gather current and historical information about otters. This might include conflict issues and threats but is also meant to spread awareness about these species, create stewardship and foster positivity towards otters and their habitats.
As charismatic indicators of wetland health, otters could draw attention to larger issues affecting the ecosystems they inhabit, including water quality, habitat degradation, chemical pollution from pesticide runoff, mining and tourism exploitation, high fishing pressure, and other anthropogenic activities that will have an impact on the river ecosystem.
What has been achieved so far?
1. Feasible study design with a timeline for execution.
2. Project permits from the Uganda Wildlife Authority already granted.
3. Small equipment grant from Idea Wild which includes camera traps, binoculars and a GPS.
In progress is
1. Our application to the Ugandan department of Science and technology
2. Securing ethical clearance from the ethics committee at Clarke International University, Uganda.
3. Exploring various funding opportunities and grants.
How can you help?
Any financial assistance goes a long way to our required budget. You can follow our work and spread the word by joining our social media handles (Instagram, Facebook) and sharing the information with your friends and followers. This creates awareness about the species and the ecosystems they inhabit as well as the work we do.
You can contribute to our project via the GoFundMe page (GBP) or the Wild Otters page (in currencies like INR, USD and other currencies). (If making a bank transfer, please mention in remarks "For research - Otters of Uganda").
Please follow these hashtags on instagram #ottersuganda #otterspotter #otters
What do you get for contributing to the project?(Please fill up this short form so we can contact you as we are not collecting your contact information in any other manner.)
There are three tiers we have created towards monetary contributions. For other kinds, you can reach out to us directly :
1. Acknowledgement on the fundraising page
2. Receive project updates every 3 months and the end result report.
3. Opportunity to join in select public project update meetings during the duration of the project.
Everything in point 1 plus :
1. Logo/Name on Green Mountain Initiative, Uganda website as a supporting partner
2. Acknowledgement with thanks in the final report
3. License to 5 high resolution photographs for commercial and personal use (note that 20% of your contribution will go towards the artist contributing these)
Everything in point 1&2 plus :
1. Personal 30-60 minute online meeting with the core team running the project
2. Shout out on the African Otter Network facebook page and website for supporting the project (with your logo/name)
3. Otter/Wildlife calendar with creations from artists across the globe (soft copy)
4. License to additional 5 high resolution wildlife photographs / artwork from among those listed below for commercial and personal use (note that 20% of your contribution will go towards the artist creating these).