Loutre BeLu 2005-2006 - Restoration of European otter habitats (Be & Lu)

LIFE05 NAT/B/000085

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Christine LECLERCQ
Tel: +32 063 457477
Email: christine@parcnaturel.be

Project description:


Over the past century, populations of otter (Lutra lutra) decreased considerably across Europe. The causes of this have ranged from trapping by humans, the destruction of habitat, poor water quality, invasive species, road deaths and human encroachment into sensitive areas. A particular feature has been that, principally due to land use changes, the western and eastern European subpopulations of the otter were now separated.

As a result of the species becoming protected in 1972 and recent mitigation measures carried out in several European countries, the situation is slowly changing. In France and Germany, the otter populations and their range have been increasing.

In the project area, signs of otter presence had been occasionally observed until 2003, suggesting a very limited population of a few isolated individuals. However, at that time, a very small otter population still existed in the Belgian Ardennes and the neighbouring part of Luxembourg had potential to be reconnected to the increasing German and French populations. This could play a major role in establishing an important connecting gap for the species on a European scale.


The Loutre BeLu project aimed to safeguard the existing otter (Lutra lutra) population and encourage recolonisation in a cross-border area between Belgium and the Grand Duché de Luxembourg. The project sought specifically to restore habitat over an area of 300 000 ha, including the basins of the Rivers Our, Sûre and Ourthe, with the ultimate aim of improving the possibility for contact and genetic exchanges between the currently separated otter populations.

The project foresaw several actions to provide long-term protection and appropriate conservation management for key sites:

  • Land purchase of 57 ha
  • Management agreements signed with landowners for 50 ha
  • Restoration of riverbanks, including planting deciduous species along 28 km and fences along 54 km
  • Installing 96 drinking troughs to provide cattle with an alternative source of water
  • Cutting of 133 ha of spruce plantations along the floodplains
  • Removal of invasive species from 35 ha
  • Establishment of 25 otter havens for reproduction
  • Equipping seven road-bridges with passageways for otters
  • Restoring 20 disconnected channels to increase the natural supply of fish
  • Planting 24 km of hedges along ridges and digging 40 small ponds to provide corridors reconnecting river basin habitats.

The project intended to work with the full range of local stakeholders, and landowners in particular, to plan and carry out these actions. It foresaw regular monitoring of indicators of otter presence, the creation of a data base and a geographical information system. The project planned a wide-ranging communication effort with specific actions toward different target groups.


This ambitious project exceeded most of its objectives for the different technical actions affecting more than 600 km of watercourse, and 21 Natura 2000 sites in Belgium and eleven in Luxembourg. It successfully involved seven partners across this border and should constitute an important step forward in the restoration of the river basin habitats for the benefit of the otter (Lutra lutra) in the two countries and to help recreate links with populations in France and Germany.

The project purchased 105 ha – 84 ha in Wallonia and 21.4 ha in Luxembourg – whilst a further 15.3 ha was purchased outside the scope of the project, in support of it. These areas reinforce the areas that were already have under official protection along the river basins.

Actions were undertaken to successfully protect and restore riverbanks. Fences were constructed along 61 km to prevent access by livestock to riverbanks, 23 footbridges constructed for cattle, 262 drinking troughs established and 23 km of riparian forest planted. Further restoration worked included the removal of 150 ha of spruce plantations from floodplains, with 44 ha of this felling area cleaned up with the restoration of indigenous plants such as broad-leaved alluvial forest and a patchwork of meadows and marshes. The project created 178 ponds and 33 otter havens. Invasive species were directly tackled on 189 ha, with different methods tested and assessed. To restore water quality in the rivers for the otter and fish, the project: reconnected seven backwaters and spawning grounds to the main river channel; removed or modified 21 obstacles to the migration of fish up and down the river; and installed nine passageways for otters under road bridges.

The project sites will enjoy ongoing management. The purchased Walloon territory was made Natural Reserves under the regional authority, whilst a Nature Foundation will manage the Luxembourg area. Work to monitor otter numbers was facilitated by the training of several dozen naturalists in otters tracking. This ongoing monitoring work was supported by the elaboration of an excellent tracking guide and a teaching manual. The project exceeded the initially set outputs despite serious delays to the start of the project due to administrative and capacity issues. Once these were resolved the project was highly successful, including in developing effective synergies with other nature conservation projects in the area, notably the three LIFE projects concerned with: conservation of pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) habitats (LIFE02 NAT/B/008590); the rehabilitation of natural habitats on the Tailles Plateau (LIFE05 NAT/BE/000089); and the restoration of raised bogs (LIFE03 NAT/B/000019). Awareness-raising was an important aspect of this LIFE Nature project, too. For schools, the project provided an educational file and a travelling exhibition, "On the tracks of the otter", which is also aimed at the general public, with a focus on interactivity and audience participation.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Mammals


protected area‚  river‚  restoration measure‚  border

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...

Target species

 Lutra lutra     

Natura 2000 sites

SCI LU0001002 Vallée de l'Our de Ouren a Wallendorf Pont
SCI LU0001003 Vallée de la Tretterbaach
SCI LU0001005 Vallée supérieure de la Wiltz
SCI LU0001006 Vallées de la Sûre, de la Wiltz, de la Clerve et du Lellgerbaach
SCI LU0001007 Vallée supérieure de la Sûre / Lac du barrage
SCI LU0001008 Vallée de la Sûre moyenne de Esch/Sûre à Dirbach
SCI LU0001033 Wilwerdange - Conzefenn
SCI LU0001038 Troisvierges - Cornelysmillen
SCI LU0001042 Hoffelt - Kaleburn
SCI LU0001043 Troine/Hoffelt - Sporbaach
SCI LU0001051 Wark - Niederfeulen-Warken
SCI BE33061C0 Affluents de l'Our entre Setz et Schoenberg (Amel; Sankt Vith)
SCI BE33062C0 Vallée supérieure de l'Our et ses affluents (Amel; Büllingen; Sankt Vith)
SCI BE33063C0 Vallée et affluents du Braunlauf (Burg-Reuland; Gouvy; Sankt Vith)
SCI BE33064C0 Vallée de l'Ulf (Burg-Reuland; Gouvy)
SCI BE34029C0 Haute-Wamme et Masblette (Nassogne; Saint-Hubert; Tellin; Tenneville)
SCI BE34032C0 Bassin inférieur de l'Ourthe occidentale (Bertogne; Houffalize; La Roche-en-Ardenne; Tenneville)
SCI BE34041C0 Sûre frontalière (Fauvillers; Martelange)
SCI BE33059B0 Sources de l'Our et de l'Ensebach (Büllingen)
SCI BE33065B0 Vallée inférieure de l'Our et ses affluents (Burg-Reuland; Sankt Vith)
SCI BE34003B0 Vallée de l'Ourthe entre Hotton et Barvaux-sur-Ourthe (Durbuy; Hotton; Somme-Leuze)
SCI BE34008B0 Camp militaire de Marche-en-Famenne (Hotton; Marche-en-Famenne; Somme-Leuze)
SCI BE34012B0 Vallée de l'Ourthe entre La Roche et Hotton (Erezée; Hotton; La Roche-en-Ardenne; Rendeux)
SCI BE34023B0 Vallée de l'Ourthe entre Nisramont et La Roche (Houffalize; La Roche-en-Ardenne; Rendeux)
SCI BE34024B0 Bassin inférieur de l'Ourthe orientale (Gouvy; Houffalize; La Roche-en-Ardenne)
SCI BE34031B0 Bassin moyen de l'Ourthe occidentale (Libramont-Chevigny; Sainte-Ode)
SCI BE34033B0 Etangs de Longchamps et de Noville (Bastogne; Bertogne)
SCI BE34034B0 Sources du Ruisseau de Tavigny (Gouvy; Houffalize)
SCI BE34035B0 Bassin supérieur de la Wiltz (Bastogne)
SCI BE34039B0 Haute-Sûre (Fauvillers; Léglise; Libramont-Chevigny; Neufchâteau; Vaux-sur-Sûre)
SCI BE34040B0 Vallée de Villers-la-Bonne-Eau (Bastogne)
SCI BE34051B0 Vallées du Ruisseau de Mellier et de la Mandebras (Habay; Léglise; Neufchâteau)



Coordinator Commission de gestion du Parc Naturel de la Haute-Sûre et de la Forêt d'Anlier
Type of organisation Park-Reserve authority
Description The Walloon Government established the Parc Naturel Haute-Sûre Forêt d’Anlier in 2001. The park covers 71 000 hectares and is managed by a steering committee with representatives of regional and local administrations, NGOs, conservationists, hunters, fishers, farmers and other stakeholders. The park management is already in charge of projects concerning, for example, management of water quality in the catchment of the River Sûre, ecotourism and management of the Ramsar zone of the Sûre Valley.
Partners Centre de Recherche Public-Gabriel Lippmann, Luxembourg Parc Naturel des Deux Ourthes, Belgium Parc Naturel Hautes-Fagnes Eifel, Belgium Parc Naturel de l'Our, Luxembourg Parc Naturel de la Haute-Sûre, Luxembourg Fondation Hëllef fir d'Natur, Luxembourg


Project reference LIFE05 NAT/B/000085
Duration 01-MAY-2010 to 31-MAR -2011
Total budget 3,891,664.00 €
EU contribution 1,945,831.00 €
Project location Région Wallonne(België - Belgique) Luxembourg(Luxembourg)


Read more:

Brochure "Auf den Spuren des Fischotters" (1.36MB)
Leaflet Dépliant sur les plantes invasives (5.3 MB)
Leaflet "Auf den Spuren des Fischotters" (1.4 MB)
Leaflet "Sur les traces de la Loutre" (1.4 MB)
Project web site Project's website (FR/DE)
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan
Publication: Article-Paper Title: "Chemical contaminants in fish species from rivers in the North of Luxembourg: Potential impact on the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra)" (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653509014477) Author: Aurore Boscher et al. Year: 2010 Editor: Elsevier No of pages: 8
Publication: Article-Paper "Riverbank assessment and management for the Euras ...
Publication: Layman report "LIFE Otter: Bilanz von 5 Jahren Einsatz für eine ...
Publication: Layman report "Life loutre: bilan de 5 années d’actions en faveu ...
Publication: Layman report "Life Otter : appraisal of 5 years actions in favo ...
Publication: Management plan "Plan loutre 2011-2021 - En Wallonie et au Grand-D ...
Publication: Pedagogical tool "Der Fischotter, ein säugetier unserer Flüsse" (15 ...
Publication: Pedagogical tool "La Loutre[: Fiche enseignant]"(24.2MB)
Publication: Pedagogical tool "La loutre, un mammifère de nos rivières[: Fiche é ...
Publication: Pedagogical tool "Der Fischotter: Hinweise für die Lehrkräfte" (20. ...
Slides Presentation "Mise en place d'un réseau d'observateur dans le c ...
Slides Presentation "La gestion des plantes invasives : Bilan de quatr ...
Slides Presentation "Projet LIFE Nature "Restauration des habitats de ...
Slides Presentation "Restauration des habitats de la Loutre d'Europe ( ...
Video link "Quelques réalisations du Life Loutre - Einige Massnahmen des Life Otter Projektes" (10')


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version