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Although rarely seen in the wild, the otter today is a much-loved animal; its playful character, and graceful aquatic agility were brought to the public's imagination by popular literature such as Tarka the Otter and Ring of Bright Water. This is, however, just a very small part of their story - its relationship with people has not always been this straightforward. Throughout history the otter has been widely persecuted: pursued for its fur and flesh, and killed for profit, pleasure, fashion, and revenge. Feared by some communities, otters were hunted to near extinction for their valuable pelts in the north Pacific, and chased with hounds and killed for fun in Britain.
By contrast they are highly revered by other groups, Native Americans for example, and they were trained to assist fishermen in parts of Asia. Sadly all 13 species of otter now appear on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, and their survival is by no means certain. Otter reveals how the animal's identity has been shaped by a variety of human interactions, ranging from folklore, traditional practices, commercial enterprise, sport, popular literature, cinema, television and conservation. By unravelling this complicated cultural history, Daniel Allen's lively book offers a new way of regarding this widely admired animal.
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Daniel Allen is a human geographer with expertise in cultural, historical and environmental geography.
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