Feb 1

We’ve asked conservation organisations around the world to nominate a species that they believe to be overlooked, underappreciated and unloved, and tell us why they think that they deserve a fair share of the limelight, this Valentine’s Day.

Each nominee’s story is featured on the Arkive blog with information on the species, what makes them so special, the conservation organisation that nominated them and how they are working to save them from extinction.

Click the ‘unloved species’ tag above to see all of the nominations and their blogs.

Once you have perused the blogs you can vote for your favourite to help get them into the top ten unloved species and get them the recognition that they truly deserve! Share your favourite with others using the #LoveSpecies hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and tell them why they should vote for them too. Voting closes on February 14th at 23:59 PST (07:59 GMT).

Join us and our conservation partners in celebrating and raising awareness for some of the world’s most unloved species this Valentine’s Day!

Species: Common otter

Nominated by: Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust

Conservation status: Near Threatened globally. Strictly protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and by the EC Habitats Directive, (transposed into domestic law through the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994 (as amended) (the Habitats Regulations). Under the Habitats Regulations otters are classed as a European Protected Species and therefore given the highest level of protection.

Why do you love it? Otters were pushed to the brink of extinction during the 20th century through a combination of water pollution, pesticide poisoning, persecution and habitat destruction. In our area, Sheffield and Rotherham, we have not been kind to our rivers for the last couple of hundred years. Much of the local steel industry grew up along the Don and Rother river corridors, as well as installations associated with the coal industry, and the two rivers suffered badly from unsympathetic modifications made for the convenience of industry and from the dumping of waste products. It is hardly surprising that otters disappeared from our patch.

But now, following improvements in water quality and strenuous efforts by a number of agencies to restore their habitat, it appears that otters are making a comeback. Surveys we carried out 10 years ago revealed evidence of otters but we would like to re-survey the River Don to see if otter numbers have increased.

What are the threats to the common otter? The otter was once widespread in Europe, but populations declined sharply during the 1960s and 1970s due to pollution, exacerbated by hunting and habitat loss. Historically, otters occurred over most of the UK. However, persecution, habitat loss and, more recently, the impact of toxic organochlorine insecticides caused a marked reduction in the range of the species. The otter is still scarce over much of England. However, recent surveys suggest that the otter population is recovering well and recolonising parts of its former range.

What are you doing to save it? Otterly Amazing is a new project which will support the spread of otters along the Rivers Don and Rother. We plan to carry out further habitat improvements to complement work that has already been done, but first we need to carry out more detailed survey work to build up a full picture of our local otter population, how big it is and where it lives, feeds and breeds.

To give more people the opportunity to learn about this amazing species, we hope to install a number of wildlife cameras to record footage of our remarkable local otters which can then be viewed on our website and as part of a new exhibition at Sheffield’s Weston Park Museum.

Find out more about the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust’s Otterly Amazing Project

Discover more weasel, otter and badger species on Arkive