(photo credit: )
The otter is an endangered mammal in much of the world. In Israel, it is on the edge of extinction with a surviving population probably numbering no more than 100 individuals, mainly in the Jordan basin.
During the past year, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and the Nature and Parks Authority began a project to reestablish an otter community in the Jezre'el valley, where they used to flourish. Individual animals caught in the Hula Valley are being released in the Jezre'el valley in an attempt to reestablish a steady community.
This otter, named Carmit, was captured last week in the Hula valley. Following a health check, Dr. Yossi Ben Ari of Tel Aviv University attached a tiny radio-transmitter to the otter who was released close to Kfar Yehoshua.
Otters are members of the Mustelid family, which also includes badgers, polecats, martens, weasels, stoats and mink. A group of otters is called a romp.
Otters live both on land and in water, and stand at the peak of the food chain. All 13 species of otters have long, slim, streamlined bodies of extraordinary grace and flexibility, and short limbs; in most cases their paws are webbed. They have a dense layer of very soft underfur which, protected by their outer layer of long guard hairs, keeps them dry under water and traps a layer of air to keep them warm.
Otter-like carnivores have inhabited the earth for 30 million years and undergone subtle changes to exploit rich aquatic environments.
See the SPNI's website www.teva.org.il for details about the campaign to reestablish the Jezre'el valley community. To read about the otter's worldwide struggle against extinction, see the International Otter Survival Fund's website www.otter.com