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"Don’t worry, he’ll curl up and go to sleep on the carpet!’” says Daphne Neville about her otter, Rudi, who will be appearing at the Museum of Carpet on Saturday 9 April.
Daphne, a retired actress who first came to public prominence in the 1960’s film, Swallows and Amazons, has about four otters who live with her home in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, many of which have been hand reared. “They sleep on a towel with me and my husband on either side, so we can feed them every two hours from a bottle. When they open their eyes for the first time, they see us and think we are their parents.”
Daphne started rescuing otters in the 19080’s when because of river pollution, the population of otters in the UK stood at about 7,800. Chemicals used in agriculture lead to a 95% decline in the population and threatened the long term future of the species in the wild. Now, after nearly thirty years of concerted work to improve the quality of the river network, and conservation work to drive up the otter population numbers, the numbers are around 10,000.
Daphne will be talking at the Museum about the work involved in raising otters. It is a labour of love, it require plenty of hard work, not least because to keep an otter, a person needs to be licensed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.
At home, her otters have an enclosure in the garden, another in the kitchen, and are often given the run of the bath, not to mention the bed. They are fed on trout and baby chickens, which Daphne has delivered from local farms and stores in three commercial freezers.
Daphne will be talking about her life with otters which has brought her into contact with Royalty, when after writing a short story for children, she received a call from the royal nanny to visit Highgrove and take her otters to meet Princes William and Harry. “The princes, who were about seven and five at the time, spent the afternoon with the otters, getting soaking wet in the process. Later they even gave one of the otters a bath!”
The Museum is not recommending anyone keeps an otter as they are wild animals and can be extremely aggressive; instead they hope that visitors will come along and meet Daphne with her otter, Rudi. The talk begins at 3.00pm and lasts for approx. 45 minutes during which time visitors will get the chance to see Rudi and hear more about the otter’s life. A family ticket costs £7.50 (1 adult and 3 children) and includes free admission to the Museum from 2.00pm onwards; other tickets cost £5.00.

To book your tickets, pop into the museum or call 01562 69028.