Kikongo Otter Sanctuary, Democratic Republic of Congo
In February 2010 ago a young hunter, called Mundweni, killed a female Congo clawless otter and then found a tiny cub. Taking pity he gently picked up the week-old animal and took it back to the home of missionaries Rita and Glen Chapman. They had reared many wild orphans so he knew the cub would be in good hands. The Chapmans contacted the IOSF for advice but almost nothing is known about this species, let alone how to rear one so young. IOSF quickly developed an email network of vets and otter specialists from all around the world who could help to care for this young animal.
The little cub became known all around the world as “Mazu”, which means “noise” in the local tribal Kikongo language. The local people quickly took Mazu to their hearts and she rapidly became a local celebrity. Children would call in to see her on their way home from school and enjoy her playful antics. Her fame spread rapidly and even government ministers came from Kinshasa to see this wonderful animal.
But Mazu has become more than just a celebrity – she has now become a true ambassador to her species and people are starting to care about otters and about conservation in general – a major step forward.
In February 2012, we had a sense of déjà vu when we received an email from the Republic of Congo. Rebecca Harvey, a missionary there, had a young otter cub and could we help. The new otter was also a Congo clawless and her mother too had been killed by a hunter! This time though we had our network of otter specialists who all stepped in to provide help and advice.
But we had a problem. The Harveys were wonderful carers for Kamiya, the new cub, but they were leaving in June to return to America for a year. So what was to become of Kamiya. The answer was obvious – send her to Glen and Rita. But the solution was not as simple: The Harveys lived in the Republic of Congo and somehow we had to get her to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. There is always bureaucracy in these situations but we envisaged all sorts of problems.
However, with the aid of loads of people on the way and a helpful pilot, Kamiya eventually arrived at Kikongo in June 2012. Her arrival was announced in the local church and the whole community turned out to welcome her.
By this time, Mazu had taken herself off into the wild, although she was still living nearby. But now we have the foundations of the Kikongo Otter Sanctuary – the first of its kind in Africa. Glen and Rita have trained local assistants, Delphin and Sico, and they now help with the otter work. They are also doing conservation outreach work and all over the world these otters have become a natural treasure of the Congo and an unparalleled ambassador for African Otter Conservation.
You can follow the progress of the otters at Kikongo on the Blog.
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For more information on the Congo Clawless Otter go to Congo otter page on Otter species
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