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Features / Shetland Nature tells story of isles’ otters

The artwork for 'Otters in Shetland - The tale of the draatsi'.

SHETLAND Nature is releasing a brand new hardback book all about otters – the first to be published about the mammal in the islands for over 20 years.

‘Otters in Shetland – The tale of the draatsi’, which will be available to buy from 12 December, has been put together by Richard Shucksmith and Brydon Thomason. It tells the story of the creatures over nearly 36,000 words, 276 pages and more than 220 photographs.

The pair spoke of the “blood, sweat and tears” endured in working on the project, saying the organisation was “immensely pleased and equally proud” of the project.

“With a gap of over 20 years since anything was published on Shetland’s otters, it was really important to us to tell their full story and bridge a gap between a science-based reference book and a photography storytelling book,” they said.

The book covers the islands and geography, the foundations of the food chain, how the otters live on the coast through to family life. It also brings in fascinating interviews with Shetlanders who many years ago hunted the creatures for the fur trade – offering a unique insight into man’s relationship with otters in the isles both past and present.

Shucksmith and Thomason said that in photographing the otters, Shetland Nature had captured and documented most aspects of their lives and created a unique portfolio of images.

Incorporated into the images’ captions is the scientific research of Dr Hans Kruuk, a world-leading authority on otters, and they said the team was “truly privileged” to have Dr Kruuk write the foreword.

 In it, he writes that the others “make a large contribution to conservation, not just of otters but of the entire coastal ecosystem”.

“The reader is made aware of the otters’ hardships in terms of exposure to cold waters, of the need to catch prey quickly as well as keeping their fur clean to keep out of the cold – for which they need the many small sources of fresh water along the Shetland coast,” Dr Kruuk writes.

“The book is a thoughtful object of beauty, of otters, and of the Shetland coasts. The authors should be immensely proud of this great effort.”

Meanwhile, wildlife cameraman Doug Allan describred it as a “lovely book that deserves to be on the shelf of any Shetland visitor, or anyone who loves the wild outdoors”. 

He added: “Shetland should be grateful that there are people with the passion, tenacity and skills of Brydon and Richard [Shucksmith], who’ve truly captured the wonder of Shetland’s best-loved mammal.”

  • You can pre-order ‘Otters in Shetland – The tale of the draatsi’ in hardback, priced £28, from publisher The Shetland Times here. It will be officially launched at the Shetland Times Bookshop between 2-4pm on Saturday 12 December.