A group of
science teachers in Kisumu, Kenya, are working to protect an endangered mammal
on the shores of Lake Victoria. Voice
of America English to Africa Service reporter Ajanga Khayesi tells us about their
work to save the otter.
[Fisi Maji in Swahili] were once a
common sight along the shores of Lake Victoria in the morning and late
afternoon. They have webbed feet, a
fine streamlined body for rapid movement through the water, and a strong,
muscular tail to help steer them. Otters often travel up to 50 km in a night in
search of food -- mainly fish and crustaceans like crabs and mollusks. But their numbers are thinning because of
the encroachment of farmers into the wetlands and groups clearing the area in search of reeds and grasses for building houses and cottages along the
beach. Otters are also killed by
pollution, including industrial waste dumped into Lake Victoria – and by
natural predators -- like crocodiles, pythons, and eagles.
is part of the Hippo Focus Group working to save the otter. Its original goal was to save the
hippopotamus – also an endangered species at Lake Victoria.
humans are another predator that endangers otters:
Medicine men in search of the otter believe eating the animal meat boost sexual
potency in men. Solar dried pieces of
otter meat are crushed and powder mixed in the body oils for women to apply as
an ointment charm to attract the lover’s heart.”
is chairman of the Kisumu Science Teachers Otter Conservation Group. It’s
working with the Hippo Focus Group and Kenya’s Department of Fisheries as part
of a program to help protect the mammals.
they’re working to promote conservation awareness, in part by starting conservation
clubs for area youth. They also want to
help develop the region as a tourist site. And they’ll look for ways to restore
food sources for the otter. Its primary
foods – like fish and crabs – are now harvested for commercial use
offers a solution, “Re-planting papyrus and fresh water mangroves and
reinforcing of the government policies on the conservation values of the lake
and wetlands through education would change the area status quo. “
of funds has limited the activities of groups doing research as well as buying
papyrus, hippo grass and freshwater mangrove seedlings to plant. But the otter conservationists persist – they plan to create an
otter clinic in Kisumu town.