‘Habitat Heroes’ hand otters a lifeline with artificial holt at Fenland farm

ENDANGERED otters have been handed a lifeline at a Fenland farm which has set up a team of “Habitat Heroes” to help protect the species.

An artificial otter holt has been installed at Coldham Farm, in Cambridgeshire, after evidence was found that the animals had been around the riverbank.

The Habitat Heroes project aims to make adaptations to six Co-operative-owned farms across the country in order to safeguard endangered species such as water voles, bats and red squirrels.

The otter holt at Coldham is the first piece of work completed as a result of the initiative. The holt was fitted with an “otter-cam” which has already captured rare footage of an otter sheltering from the elements.

Cliff Carson, Environmental Officer for the Middle Level Commissioners, said that the otter had returned on a number of occasions, which could mean the holt could provide a more permanent home.

He said: “The site at the Coldham farm is perfect for an otter holt as it is so secluded and it is now a key site in the network of holts we have created.

“The fact that The Co-operative has already gained rare footage of an otter in the holt is a great sign as it suggests they will be keen to make regular use of the site as they move around the river.

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“I am really looking forward to seeing where we can take this project in the future, as there is so much enthusiasm for protecting this species, both on the Coldham farm and across The Co-operative farming business in general.”

Russell Armstrong, Coldham Farm Manager, said: “As Britain’s largest farmer we feel we have a responsibility to lead the way environmentally and I’m delighted that our farm is taking part in this important national initiative.

“The Habitat Heroes project taking place at Coldham and five other sites across the country gives us the chance to go that bit further and look at ways we can really make our land work for local wildlife.”

Otter numbers began to decline in the UK in the 1950s due to pesticide use, hunting and destruction of habitats.

Ideally, otters build holts under bank-side tree roots, or in dense undergrowth adjacent to healthy rivers and particularly under mature ash and oak tree roots.

In recent years, many old bank-side trees have been cleared and natural holt sites have become rare. Artificial holts, like the new one at the Coldham, now provide a refuge for otters whilst their habitats recover.