The otter, one of the rarest mammals in Italy, is slowly returning to our country. The population is between 800 and 1,000 individuals, a number still well below the minimum viable limit, but thanks to monitoring promoted by WWF in Italy in collaboration with the University of Molise, it has been possible to update the distribution map, particularly in those geographical areas where the species was absent. It is mainly concentrated in the South (Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, Calabria and increasing in Abruzzo and Molise), but it has returned to some northern regions, from where it had not been reported for decades. This is the case in Friuli Venezia Giulia, South Tyrol, Lombardy, Liguria, and as for the Center, Latium.
Among the main actions to safeguard the otter by WWF, there has been the creation of a network of protected areas that are fundamental for the conservation of the species, such as the Persano Oasis, Grotte del Bussento and Lago di Conza in Campania, Pantano di Pignola and Policoro in Basilicata, and Cascate del Verde in Abruzzo, and support for the implementation of larger protection projects such as the Cilento-Vallo di Diano and Monti Alburni national park.
If today, therefore, one can concretely imagine a return to the otter’s past, when it inhabited the entire peninsula, it is due to the many protection and conservation actions implemented over the years. If at one time it was direct destruction that was the cause of decline – for fur in particular – over time it has been the loss or degradation of the habitats frequented, those riverine areas in particular, which in our country have undergone drastic transformations. The challenge today is to foster the connection between the viable population of the South and part of the Center, with the North-Central population. It will not be easy and it will take time, but this is the scenario that is being worked on. With a focus also on solving an increasingly common threat especially where otters move most frequently, that of ending up run over under cars. At least 50 in recent years.