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IUCN/SCC Otter Specialist Group Bulletin
© IUCN/SCC Otter Specialist Group

Volume 15 Issue 1 Pages 1 - 67 (April 1998)

Minutes of the Meeting of the IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group, 14 March 1998, 14:00, Trebon/Czech Republic

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Meeting IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group
14 March 1998, 14:00, Trebon/Czech Republic

The Chair, Prof. Padma de Silva, opened the meeting by welcoming the participants, including Mr. Mariano Gimenez-Dixon of the IUCN Secretariat. The main issue to be discussed was the revision of the Otter Action Plan. After this the members present introduced themselves.
Mr. Mariano Gimenez-Dixon spoke about the role of the IUCN, the Species Survival Commission (SSC) and its Specialist Groups (SGs). The IUCN is now 50 years old, consisting of (i) a central Secretariat in Gland, Switzerland, (ii) the member organizations, which may be NGOs or Government organizations, and (iii) the commissions, which constitute a worldwide network of volunteers. One of these commissions is the Species Survival Commission, with the aim of conserving biological diversity through study and restoration and management of species and habitats. The speaker outlined the SSC activities in some detail. Questions were asked about maximum membership of any one SG (answer: as many as possible), how does IUCN finance SGs (answer: IUCN can only help with printing, otherwise the SGs have to find funds themselves. IUCN does not interfere with SG activities, only appoints the chairman after consultation with the SG concerned). How does the Red Data Book work, which criteria are used? (in answer a discussion of ‘scale’ of vulnerabilities in the Red Data Book, and the geographical scales as applied).

Claus Reuther talked about the structure of the Otter Specialist Group (OSG) and its regions. He announced that Padma de Silva will retire as Chairperson, whilst from now on she will continue as coordinator of the Asian Region and run the Asian Secretariat. Dr. Hussain will focus on the construction and maintenance of an otter data base for Asia. Padma has suggested that Claus Reuther should be the next chairman of the OSG. Claus asks for a vote, and there is no dissent from the meeting, so the IUCN will be asked to appoint Claus.

As to further regional coordinators, Prof. Jan Nel will be responsible for Africa, Gonzalo Medina for Latin America, Dr. Paul Polechla for North America, Dr. Jim Estes for sea otters, Claus Reuther for Europe. The question is asked about how to get information from the Middle East, should it be a special region? Claus will attempt to find a special representative there. It is decided that for our regions the border between Asia and Europe will be the Ural Mountains, e.g. Siberia will report to the Asian Secretariat.
Claus introduces the outline for a new action plan. The reason for the update is that the old AP is now 10 years old, we have more information, the otter situation has changed, politcal boundaries have changed. Also the previous AP was rather vague and did not reach the appropriate management circles. The update was discussed with the IUCN representative, and various recommendations were made on practical issues. Then Claus presented a provisional outline for a revision. There were various comments from the floor:

  1. there should be clear definitions of the objectives: what do we want from otter conservation, what is the purpose?
  2. the AP should expose in which fields and areas there is ignorance about status of otters, management needs, ecological questions, etc.
  3. some people wanted a section dedicated to field techniques, others argued against this.
  4. it should be clear exactly who the targets were for the AP; in this context managers are more important than scientists and SG members.
  5. it should not be too large and complicated.
  6. problems of habitat management shold be included, the AP should not just be about otters alone.
  7. there is a need for peer review by section.
  8. the controversy of re-introduction should be aired and discussed.
  9. where the Red Data Book does not meet the need of individual countries (because of its global approach), the AP should comment on this and make clear national recommendations.

Claus suggests that a board of editors be appointed, consisting of the regional coordinators plus one additional person for each continent, who will be responsible for getting the contributions from different countries and who will revise these and get feedbacks. The lay-out of the AP should be ready by mid-1998, all contributions should be in before the end of 1998, revisions and feedback through 1999, and the finakl draft ready by early 2000. He invites further comments on the AP to be made at a meeting on the last day of the colloquium.

After a coffee break Claus reconvenes the meeting, discussing communication. Arno Gutleb will continue to edit the Bulletin, and Claus comments on its excellent success. He questions whether the Asian Newsletter should continue to be published separately, as everyone would want to know what is going on. He stresses the need for financial support for the Bulletin, and there is a suggestion from the floor to send a hat round for a collection.
Claus suggests that a home-page is started on the WWW, and asks for volunteers. The IUCN representative offers moral support and advice, contacts, etc. In the months after this meeting Claus will produce a leaflet on the role of the IUCN/SSG/OSG. He also suggests that a ‘Manifesto’ of the OSG should be reviewed every so often, and one should reconsider the fundamental positions of the OSG. Do we still consider the otter as an ‘indicator species’, or as a ‘flag-ship’?

Claus explained that the organization of the present (7th) Otter Colloquium was beset by set-backs, with the orginal organizer (Chile) withdrawing at a late stage, and the second option (Poland) proving far too expensive. Nevertheless, despite the short preparation time the organziation of the collquium had been a success. For the organization of the following (8th) colloquium there was again an offer from Chile, and this was (again) accepted. There was a discussion about the timing, and it was agreed that this should be planned for 2001. Claus suggested that the various meetings needed to discuss progress of the Action Plan should be independent of the next colloquium.

There was no other business, and at 17:10 Claus closed the meeting, thanking all present.

Hans Kruuk

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