“The Oasis of the Otter”, is the other name by which the WWF Oasis of Persano is known, this being the first WWF Oasis set up in Campania in 1981, aimed specifically at protecting this land mammal, one of the rerest in Italy.
The oasis of Persano, a green island of 110 hectares in Salerno province which emerges from an artificial lake along the course of the Sele river, represents a wet zone of international importance as well as being one of the most significant areas of the WWF system.
Its rich vegetation is of great value, particularly the hydrophilic wood, one of the last of its kind still conserved in Italy and, thanks to the fact that it is a “wetland”, 47 different bird species nest here. However, it is the Otter that symbolizes this area: it is seriously threatened and listed by the IUCN as an endangered species in Italy.
The Otter lives in uncontaminated waters and is an apex predator, at the top of a food chain: for this reason it is seen as a very important biological indicator for the ecosystem. At the start of the last century, the “queen of the rivers” as the Otter is called, had practically disappeared, devastated by pollution and building in river areas. In the 80’s, the WWF was actually the first to raise the alarm regarding the otter’s plight in our country and this led, in 1982, to the formation of the Gruppo Lontra Italia (Italian Otter Group), whose members are naturalists and experts of national standing. After monitoring the situation in each region, the Group confirmed the negative figure which then amounted to about one hundred otters still living in Italy and exclusively to be found in the Central-Southern regions.
This census triggered a series of WWF initiatives, which produced some tangible results in terms of protection, already implemented with the setting up of the Persano Oasis. Today, the queen of the rivers is making a comeback with an estimated population of between 400 and 600.