Otters have made a return to every county in England following farmer efforts to reduce pesticide use and improve the water quality in the country’s rivers.
According to the Environment Agency, the mammals had come back from the brink of extinction thanks to England’s rivers being the healthiest they had been for two decades.
An EA survey of rivers across the country last year revealed the mammals were residing in every county except Kent.
But conservations have now spotted at least two otters on the Medway and Eden rivers, meaning the animals have returned to their country-wide range.
Otter numbers in England plummeted to near-extinction in the 1970s as pesticides damaged their health and reduced fish stocks.
But a ban on organochlorine chemicals and efforts by farmers to help improve water quality has helped otter populations recover.
The EA’s river survey last year – which looked at 3,327 river sites across England between July 2009 and March 2010 – showed the number of places with evidence of otter life had increased tenfold in 30 years.
But the otter population’s recovery had been particularly slow in the South East, with wildlife experts predicting they would not make a return to Kent for another decade.
EA national conservation manager, Alastair Driver, said the recovery of otter numbers showed the difference efforts to control pollution and improve water quality had made.
“Rivers in England are the healthiest for over 20 years and otters, salmon and other wildlife are returning to many rivers for the first time since the Industrial Revolution,” he said.
“The fact that otters are now returning to Kent is the final piece in the jigsaw for otter recovery in England and is a symbol of great success for everybody involved in otter conservation.”