Little Shannon has known both blessings and curses in her short life. Born in otter paradise in Irish waters, she had a bounty of food and a lush habitat that would serve her well all the days of her life. But something went wrong one day, and though we don’t know exactly what took her, Shannon’s mother was suddenly gone.
Not yet old enough to fend for herself, Shannon was fortunate enough to be spotted by people who were concerned about the cub and wildlife activist Killian McLochlainn took her to the SSPCA wildlife unit at Middlebank to stay for a few days until she was stable enough for the next part of her journey.
As there are no otter rehabilitation facilities in all of Ireland, little Shannon made the long journey to the Isle of Skye on the west coast of Scotland. Here the International Otter Survival Fund, run by Paul and Grace Yoxon, acts as a nursery for many orphaned babies just like Shannon each year.
Two Parts Science & One Part Love
Acting on the best scientific and biological understanding of the species, the babies are raised in a healthy, natural setting in preparation for their return to the wild as adults. The process takes many months, and once the otters are past the bottle feeding stage, they have less and less human contact and move about on the windy hillside, which includes a natural water source and manmade dens. (See more here)
Otters like Shannon have been around for 30 million years, yet many species are now listed as endangered due to habitat loss, pollution and the fur trade. The IOSF is working internationally to protect these incredible animals who are a keystone species at the top of the food chain. On a daily basis, Paul and Grace are helping otters not only in Europe but also in Asia and Africa. In fact, they recently began the remote training of a pair of missionaries in the Republic of Congo after receiving an email from a woman named Rebecca who was worried about the young orphan she was trying to save.
How Do I Feed My Baby?
“We are a missionary family living in Impfondo, in the Likouala Region. We have a baby Congo Clawless Otter that a hunter brought to our door after killing the mother in the forest. She’s already big (about 3 kg and 40 cm long nose to rump) with eyes open and teeth. But she’s still floppy acting, and has trouble keeping her head up when walking. She tried sucking on a fish that she was offered, but nurses from a baby bottle happily. We’ve had her about a week and have been giving her powdered milk. We tried thin baby cereal without much success. We wanted to see if you can give us any advice or other help in knowing how to care for this otter.”
Within hours, Grace had sent Rebecca recipes appropriate to foods readily available in the Republic of Congo and with the help of the FreeMe wildlife rehabilitation center in South Africa, an emergency pack of supplies was delivered right to Rebecca’s door.
Your Connection to the Otters
The health of the otters says a lot about the health of our planet and about our consciousness as animal lovers. While working on major education and conservation projects throughout the world, IOSF’s nursery reminds us most about the value of each individual life, each soul trying to live and thrive, but in need of help from those who care.