Although the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) is recovering in several European countries, it is still categorized as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. This is mainly because of the lack of information on population trends in emerging and developing countries, where biodiversity governance may be hindered by ongoing institutional change and economic development.

A newly published article in Oryx—The International Journal of Conservation, Eurasian otter Lutra lutra in developing countries: a resurvey of Albania 22 years after the fall of communism, provides an update on otter distribution in Albania and concludes that changes in socio-economic policies during 1986–2013 may have had a negative impact on this mustelid.

Data were collected in summer 2013 and compared to those recorded by a team of researchers of the University of Pavia, led by Prof. Claudio Prigioni, in 1985, soon after the death of socialist leader Enver Hoxha. Although overall there has been no change in the otter’s range, marking intensity (i.e. the number of otter spraints per length of watercourse) has decreased, suggesting a decline in otter numbers. This decline is attributed to the environmental problems that began during the communist era and were exacerbated by the lack of control and effective management policies during the early transitional period from communism to democracy.

“The findings of this study emphasize the importance of trans-frontier cooperation for the conservation of endangered species” said Prof. Mauro Fasola, senior author of the report, and the project’s animal ecology expert.

The research was part of the IUCN project “Institutional Support to the Albanian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Water Administration (MoE) for Sustainable Biodiversity Conservation and Use in Protected Areas”, funded by the Government of Italy through the Decree for Development Cooperation of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This project aims to enhance biodiversity conservation by improving the MoE’s capacity to plan and manage protected areas.

The Oryx article was co-authored by a team of university-based researchers: Alessandro Balestrieri and Nicola Saino (University of Milan), Simone Messina (University “La Sapienza”, Rome), Francesca Pella and Claudio Prigioni (University of Pavia).

Read the full paper here until 12th March

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