Moor otter spotting raises more than £126,000 for national park

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Friday 20th October 2017 3:00 pm
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The Duchy of Cornwall otter.

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More than £100,000 has been raised for the Dartmoor National Park thanks to its creative public arts project.

The Moor Otters arts initiative raised £126,850 for the national park as the collection of life-sized otter statues, painted in a variety of themes and colours, captured the hearts of thousands of visitors from around the world.

Launched in June 2017, the Moor Otters project positioned 101 otter sculptures in various locations across Dartmoor and surrounding towns, creating the ‘otter spotter’ trail.

The public arts initiative aimed to raise £100,000 to support projects to conserve and enhance Dartmoor’s wildlife and landscape, improve accessibility to the moor and develop Dartmoor’s Junior Ranger programme, which supports educational access and engages young people in conservation projects.

A special collection of 31 ‘golden otters’, a selection of themed otter sculptures decorated by a range of internationally-renowned artists, was auctioned by Bearnes Hampton and Littlewood in Exeter on September 30.

The live auction raised £40,610; the online auction raised a further £59,302; Rosie by Mirror Ball Paul and Otis by Laura Fulner were adopted for £5,000 each and the Duchy of Cornwall otter, a unique sculpture commissioned by HRH The Prince of Wales, sold for £3,000.

Tom Stratton, deputy land steward for the Duchy, said: ‘Our Dartmoor estate has been part of the Duchy of Cornwall since the 14th century and we’re delighted to be part of a project that will help preserve the landscape and its wildlife for future generations.

‘The Prince of Wales personally approved the design and it was excellent to have such assistance from Marcus Cornish in the creation of this sculpture, which we hope will be much loved by its new owner.’

The life-sized otter statues will now be going to their new homes, with some even travelling to France, USA, Canada and Australia.

In a heart-warming twist, after realising that the auctions were just £88 short of the £100,000 auction target, otter spotters Olivia, age 7, and Freddie Thomas, age 5, were keen to donate extra funds.

Roo Mackie, Olivia and Freddie’s mother, said: ‘The kids were really keen for us to find the extra money so that the project reached the magic £100,000. The Moor Otters gave three generations of us a huge amount of joy over the summer, although it did become a slight obsession!’

Further to the auctions, several Moor Otters were adopted for a further £26,850, making a grand total of £126,850.

Bill Hitchins, chairman of the Dartmoor National Park Authority, said: ‘We knew that combining art with a protected landscape was an innovative idea, but I don’t think we could have ever imagined how much this project would capture the public’s imagination; how much support we would receive, or how competitive “otter spotting” would become.

‘Special thanks to all the artists who have provided us with the most unique pieces of sculpture, pushing the boundaries of what is possible with a simple blank otter canvas; from the humorous to the most exquisite art, these pieces will look stunning in any home or office.’

The Moor Otters project has encouraged local families and tourists alike to discover what Dartmoor has to offer and has supported local businesses in the process. Thousands of visitors from across Europe took part in the otter trail with the prize draw receiving more than 3,500 entries.

Dave Southern, project manager for the Moor Otters campaign, said: ‘We are all delighted and overwhelmed with the amount of support the Moor Otters have received.’

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