The UK Wild Otter Trust believes it has created the world’s first ambulance for otters.
The charity, based in Umberleigh, North Devon, raised money for the all-terrain custom-built vehicle, which has been fitted with life-saving equipment.
The UK Wild Otter Trust founder, Dave Webb, said the ambulance would cut response times in half. The charity rescues about thirty orphaned otters a year, which are then released back into the wild after a year of rehabilitation.
One of the most recent patients was orphaned otter pup Pip, who needed urgent life-saving treatment when she was found under an apple tree in Exeter recently at just two months old. She was collected and treated in the new otter ambulance and staff said she was thriving at the trust’s rehabilitation centre.
Webb said the first 24 hours were critical for the very small cubs his team rescued and his staff added that the otter ambulance was being deployed regularly across Devon, but they would travel to any location when the charity got a report of an otter in distress. The new emergency otter transport cost the charity £7,000 to buy and equip.
The back of the vehicle is equipped with equipment to catch otter cubs, heated cages to transport them, antibiotics and pain-relief medication, and Webb believes that survival rates of the otters will increase because of the ambulance and the facilities it can offer the orphans and cubs.
The charity, based in the area that inspired Henry Williamson’s novel Tarka the Otter, was founded by Webb almost 20 years ago and started with one just hut in his back garden. However, it has now expanded into a specialist rehabilitation centre, which is set on two acres, and boasts nineteen enclosures, two cub rooms, a cub hospital, and a treatment room.
It is the largest specialist centre in the UK with a capacity to care for up to forty-two animals when full. The charity is also dedicated to promoting a positive understanding of the Eurasian otter and its conservation through education, involvement, and engagement.
Since January 2023, the charity has rescued twenty-five otters and rehabilitated nineteen more, and released them back into their natural habitat. The charity said the rehabilitation process took a year to complete for each animal and cost over £3,000 per cub. For further information on the work the charity does, visit the UK Wild Otter Trust website.