Universum An Otter's Journey
At first there were the plants and wild animals. They spread out, adapted to their surroundings, became specialised and learned to co-exist with each other. A fragile balance was established. Then the era of the humans began. They soon used their skills and technology to achieve dominance over the natural world and became the enemies of much of the planet‘s flora and fauna. Any creature that competed for the resources humans claimed for themselves became a rival.
Among these many rivals was the common or Eurasian otter. These creatures are perfectly adapted to life in the water, thanks to their webbed feet, their eyes that can see under water and their ability to seal their ears and noses. Otters hunt amphibians, crabs, water fowl, small mammals - and fish, far more effectively than humans. As a result, otters were seen as a threat to humans and hunted almost to extinction.
However, it wasn‘t only the rivalry for food that led to the persecution of otters. Humans also laid claim to their habitats for their own interests. People have colonised the lakes and wild rivers, creating dams and establishing built-up areas along the banks. The increasing impact of humans on the world‘s bodies of water has had a perilous effect on the semi-aquatic animals. During the 20th century, otter populations across Europe declined dramatically.
Otters were almost eradicated, but conservation efforts and hunting bans provided a reprieve at the last moment. Otter populations began to recover.
Now, the tide is turning: as the numbers of otters increase, talk has once again turned to the issue of culling them in the interest of preserving resources for humans. Will the otters survive this potential new threat? Will humans learn to “live and let live“ without laying claim to all that surrounds them?
The documentary “An Otter‘s Journey“ follows the life of a young otter, using the animal‘s experiences to examine the interaction between humans and their natural surroundings and the impact that the ever-expanding human demand for resources has on wildlife throughout Europe and the world.
A young male otter attempts to survive in an environment dominated by humans. He has many enemies: fish farmers and their dogs, fishermen, car drivers and power plant operators. The otter experiences a number of adventures before he finally finds a suitable territory and a female companion, surviving an attack by a sea eagle, finding his way across highways and mountains and enduring a powerful flood. Finally safe in his new habitat, the male otter turns his attentions to the female and the young couple are soon expecting their first offspring. The narrative takes a dramatic turn when our protagonist discovers a nearby fish farm.
The story takes place in several spectacular locations and beautiful landscapes throughout Austria: the celebrated Wachau region, the floodplain forests along the Danube, the forests and rivers of the Waldviertel area, along the Kamp and March rivers and in the swamps and streams around the Alps, as well as in the vicinity of lakes and waterfalls in the mountains. Locations also include picturesque villages, swimming holes and moors. The film celebrates the wealth of habitats and bodies of water that can be found at the heart of Europe.
A Production of Interspot Film for ORF Universum.
Writer & Director: Franz Hafner
Producer Interspot Film: Nikolaus & Nils Klingohr, Martin Demmerer
Executive Producer ORF: Andrew Solomon
Commissioning Editor ORF: Birgit Peters