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Workshop on Conservation and Public Awareness of Otters   

An international workshop on the conservation and public awareness of otters was held from December 9-10, 1999 at the National Museum of Natural Sciences, Taichung, Taiwan. The workshop was cosponsored by the ROC Council of Agriculture, the Taipei Zoological Society, the Japan Environment Corporation, IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group (OSG) Asian Section, the Otter Research Group Japan, the National Museum of Natural Sciences, Yushan National Park, and SWAN International. Researchers, educators and media workers from more than a dozen nations attended the workshop.

   In addition to introducing the status of otter populations around the world, the workshop also gave examples of successful education programs to increase public conservation awareness. The roles of zoos and the media in conservation and education programs were also discussed. Other major topics included:

-- Difference in the conservation and public awareness strategies of Europe and Asia.

-- The effectiveness of promoting otter conservation work through eco-tourism.

-- Planning conservation education methods for particular target groups.

-- The use of advertising and marketing methods to undertake conservation education.

    After hearing about the current state of otter conservation and conservation education work in Asia, participants concluded that information regarding otter populations in Asia was still relatively scarce. Research into finding suitable methods and strategies for Asian otter conservation and education is also needed. Participants recommended the following:

  1. Conservation education should be planned according to specific cultural groups due to the wide diversity of Asian culture;
  2. Areas like North Korea, Kampuchea, Bhutan, Burma, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia that have relatively little otter research and survey information should begin otter research and survey programs;
  3. Contact should be made with mainland Chinese scientists and government officials to understand the status of otters in China;
  4. Members of the OSG should increase their efforts to confirm the status of hairy-nosed otters (Lutra sumatrana) in Thailand following the success of the Royal Forest Department of Thailand at re-discovering the species.

    The workshop generated lively discussion and ended with a call for further implementation and diligence in the work of wildlife conservation education.