Thetford couple remove garden pond after otter eats their prized fish

Alan and Linda Brown by their pond in their Thetford garden, which they are filling in after an otter ate around 250 fish while they were away on holiday.
Alan and Linda Brown by their pond in their Thetford garden, which they are filling in after an otter ate around 250 fish while they were away on holiday.

A devastated couple have removed a pond from their garden after 200 of their prized fish were eaten - by an otter.

Linda and Alan Brown, both 60, say the 6,000 gallon pond in the garden of their Thetford home was the talk of the neighbourhood.

It contained about 150 goldfish and 50 other fish, some of which the couple had owned for 25 years.

Wildlife including ducks, herons, kingfishers, frogs, newts and snakes use to visit the pond.

And children came to feed the goldfish, koi carp, mirror carp and ghost carp - some of which weighed a staggering 25lb.

But when the couple returned home last week, after a month spent visiting their daughter in New Zealand, they found an otter had treated itself to a free meal.

Their neighbour was left to clear up the half-eaten, rotting fish found sprawled on the decking that surrounded the pond.

Now Linda and Alan have removed the pond all together - because they don’t want to give the otter anything more to eat.

Linda said: “It was devastating for us because they were so beautiful and had been a part of our life for 25 years now.

“We had a good fence around the pond, a net over the top, but there is no way you could stop an otter getting in.

“We will not see the same wildlife visiting our garden any more because we are not giving the otter another chance to kill or mutilate any more fish.

“The otters just eat the livers and the kidneys so they just left the carcasses of the fish all over our garden, and our neighbour was left to clear it up while we were away.

“I don’t think I could have done it and we couldn’t bear to keep the pond and go through the whole thing all over again.

“We only had 30 little gold fish left and one ghost carp which had a huge chunk out of its tail.

“Some of the larger fish, like the koi and other colourful carps, altogether could be worth around the £10,000 mark.

“Money isn’t the issue though, we loved these fish and they had been a part of our lives for so long. It’s just really devastating.”

A national pot of money is available to contribute towards the cost of electric fencing - seen as the best way to protect the fish.

But Linda feels more needs to be done to educate other pond owners and let them know about the cash.

She said: “The Environment Agency is sitting on a big pot of cash which should be used to protect ponds like ours.

“We didn’t know about this and haven’t seen it advertised anywhere and it’s taken an otter to destroy our pond for us to find out about it.

“We have nets and things for child safety and to stop animals getting in but it wouldn’t stop an otter. We need proper protection.

“Otters are cute, they really are, especially when they are lying on their backs and playing with the fish.

“But I feel the people who released these otters back into the Norfolk rivers haven’t looked into this enough.”

The Otter population plummeted towards extinction across most of lowland England in the mid 1970s.

To improve the situation, Norfolk’s Otter Trust released a number of the animals into the wild between 1984 and 1997 - with the approval of various conservation bodies at the time.

Yesterday, an Environment Agency spokesman said there had been no reintroductions since 1999 and the rise in otter numbers was due to the otter’s natural recovery.