“On national news and online in Indonesia, this has been presented as something acceptable, fun, novel and exciting,” Dr. Nijman said. “There’s no way we can completely get rid of pet trade,” Mr. Willcox said. While increased protection under Cites would be a boon for otters, it would not end the illegal trade, said Daniel Willcox, science adviser to Save Vietnam’s Wildlife. Cause of extinction. Otter owners in Indonesia often join “civet lover” groups, online communities for fans of small carnivores. Unfortunately, this fad has lead to the illegal smuggling of otters into Japan. This pet isn’t a dog or a cat or a rabbit or a hamster. Despite these constraints, illegal commerce in pet otters flourishes on social media platforms that have popularized all sorts of exotic animals—from venomous spiders to big cats to talking birds—and made it easier for people to sell them. Tom Taylor is the program director for Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, a nonprofit that rescues wildlife, including otters, from exploitative domestic situations in the country. They ingest dangerous pesticides and have been losing habitat to development. Nearly half the retailers claimed that their animals were captive-bred in Japan. Otter cafes (like cat cafes) are also on the rise in Tokyo. Pet otters are increasingly common in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Therapy dogs play a huge role in helping the disabled, comforting hospital patients, and as … How much does a pet otter cost? But according to Duplaix, they’re destructive, make loud whistling noises, and can become aggressive when they don’t get what they want. Conservation groups have identified the Asian small-clawed otter as a species… People will pay thousands of dollars to own one of these creatures. “The problem with otters is that just normal people, even my friends, are now interested in keeping them as pets,” said Yui Naruse, a researcher at Traffic Japan. In addition to pet ownership in South East Asia, Japan is currently undergoing an ‘otter craze’ fueled primarily by Instagram-famous pet otters who are shown off on television and social media. To stay healthy in captivity otters need specialized food. Breeding them in captivity, Krishnasamy says, is possible but difficult. Tokyo, Japan, 19th October 2018—a boom in demand for otters as pets in Japan, particularly the Small-clawed Otter, has been linked to rising numbers of “otter cafés”, high-profile television programmes featuring otters and celebrities, and the popularity of otter pet “superstars” on social media platforms. Captive otters are often traded internationally, and significant numbers of illegally traded otters end up in Japan, where they become home pets or populate otter cafes. A customer at an otter cafe in Tokyo. Such illegal trafficking is detrimental to wild populations of animals worldwide. The police delivered 10 otters to the group in November alone. Pet otters aren’t just big in Japan. These environments are detrimental to the otters physical and mental wellbeing. If an otter is legal in your state, the average costs to adopt one usually hover around $3,500 to $5,000. Many conservationists believe that the majority of animals sold as pets are captured in the wild. IUCN Otter Spec. The otter trade has spread from Thailand, most notably to Japan. Japanese otter cafes and social media influencers are driving increased demand for pet otters all over the world, with devastating consequences. Now, 11 otter families live on the island. People who like to physically interact with their pets will be disappointed. A staff member holds an otter at the cafe. She goes for walks on a leash. Another relatively popular pet fad in Japan is the practice of keeping otters as pets. Corruption and enforcement challenges create obstacles, enabling many species fully protected by Cites to still be sold illegally. A ban on the international commercial trade of endangered otters found in Southeast Asia will take effect later this month to protect the animals affected by habitat loss and smuggling, amid booming demand for them as pets in Japan. The four otter species aren’t on the brink of extinction, but they’re not exactly thriving. An undercover investigation by World Animal Protection, being released today, reveals the illegal hunting and trafficking, as well as increased attempts to breed otters across […] In May, representatives will vote on whether to give short-clawed and smooth-coated otters the highest level of international protection at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. “It’s just been increasing,” she said. “There’s no such thing as otter mills.”. Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, a nonprofit that rescues and rehabilitates wildlife, says it can’t keep up with the surge in unwanted pets. She sleeps in a bed, plays with a ball, and clings onto her stuffed animal toy. Customers play with small-clawed otters in a booth at a cafe in Tokyo. Where are all of these pets coming from? Asian small-clawed otters are increasingly popular as novelty pets, particularly in Japan. In the wild, the freshwater-loving carnivores live in family groups of up to 15. Japan is home to tons of animal cafés, many of which charge visitors to pet and spend time with Asian small-clawed otters, a threatened species. In Vietnam, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, a nonprofit organization that rehabilitates animals confiscated from traffickers, has begun receiving otters for the first time in the group’s 14-year history. Opposite page: Wild smooth-coated otters in Singapore. People in Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, and elsewhere can pay thousands of dollars to own one. Otters often feed on live crayfish and a low pH cat food when in captivity. Many people have seen the film Ring of Bright Water or read author Gavin Maxwell’s 1960 book of the same title. Pet otters aren’t just big in Japan. “But the supply isn’t catching up.”. In Japan, otters have become popular as pets, social media influencers and television stars. Small-clawed otters and to a lesser extent the three other otter species found in Southeast Asia—the Eurasian otter, the smooth-coated otter, and the hairy-nosed otter—have become new stars of the regional pet trade. “Nothing indicates a rescue and rerelease or breeding center, and even if it did, the otters do not have the care or the environment to ensure they would survive in the wild.”. “Young otters are often taken from the wild while their mother is killed trying to defend her litter,” said Paul Yoxon, head of operations at the International Otter Survival Fund, a nonprofit group based in Scotland. The internet has largely driven the exponential increase in their popularity and trade as pets, said Nicole Duplaix, a conservation biologist at Oregon State University and co-chairwoman of the otter committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Trending: Otters as exotic pets in Southeast Asia Contents 3 About the cover: An otter in captivity at a cafe in Tokyo, Japan. The uplistings would prohibit all international commercial trade of those species. After passing around a laminated sheet with warnings printed in Japanese, Mandarin and English (“Otters sometimes become violent”), a handler opened the cage. © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society, © 2015- Otters have become oddly popular as pets in recent years and social media is flooded with their cute and alluring photographs. News; Trade in Small-Clawed Otters, Popular as Pets in Japan, to Be Banned; Trade in Small-Clawed Otters, Popular as Pets in Japan, to Be Banned. Otters are difficult to breed in captivity without proper techniques. Pollution and development have destroyed their habitats, and fishermen and aquaculture farmers kill the animals to remove competition. Other otters (sea otter, river otter) aren't as popular. They’re playful and behave quite like house cats, he says. Japan’s continued obsession with otters has left wildlife experts concerned about the future of the species. Furthermore, it is legal for the Japanese to keep otters as pets. In Japan, although it is illegal to smuggle otters in, once the animals make it inside, they can be marketed freely. The Eurasian otter has been listed on Appendix I since 1977. According to the Traffic study, the vast majority of Facebook ads were from Indonesia, followed by Thailand. Mr. Gea counted 16 adult animals during his visit to Kebun Alam Jaya. Mr. Nagayasu said that he has paperwork proving that all of the adult otters in his facility are rescues that the Indonesian government seized from the illegal wildlife trade. This contrasts with their lives in captivity, where they’re isolated from other otters and often get no more than a dunking in the bathtub. Japan was found to be the top destination for otters recovered in Southeast Asia between 2015 and 2017 after capture for intended smuggling, according to a He declined to share the paperwork with a reporter for The Times, referring her instead to the Indonesian government. This makes their commercial trade illegal without a special permit, Dr. Nijman said. The pet trade, however, has emerged as the most pressing threat to these otters in the wild, the Traffic report states. Mr. Nagayasu added that he legally imported his otters into Japan. Absolutely not. Krishnasamy and others are pushing for better enforcement of existing regulations and stronger laws to protect otters from the pet trade. “We’re seeing a rapid increase in demand as the popularity of keeping otters as pets keeps growing,” a cafe attendant told our group. 37(2) 2020 - 71 - A R T I C L E THE SITUATION OF PET OTTERS IN JAPAN – WARNING BY VETS Yumiko OKAMOTO1*, Naoki MAEDA2, Masakazu HIRABAYASHI3, Natsumi ICHINOHE4 1 Hsinchu Zoo: 279, Kung-Yung Rd, Hsinchu City, Taiwan 300 2 Maeda Animal Hospital: 9-12, 2-Chome, Matsushita, Inazawa City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan 4928208 3 All Pet Clinic: … This is a far cry from their captive existence as pets. Here, a vet with the foundation feeds a rescued baby otter. Photo credit: World Animal Protection/ Members get together to show off their animals, Dr. Nijman said, parading them down the street on leashes on Sundays in Jakarta, for example. This endangered species is showing up on social media in "animal cafes" and otter cafes around Japan are one reason why they're so popular. Otters are a protected species and it is 100% illegal to have a North American otter as a pet. “Some of these people really care about their animals, and if we can find a way to engage with them to show them why keeping otters is wrong, they can become advocates for wildlife conservation.”. Speaking at his Tokyo cafe location, where walls are lined with autographed photos of Japanese YouTube and television celebrities, Mr. Nagayasu said that his otters come from a breeding facility he founded in Malang, Indonesia, which he claimed received otters rescued from the illegal trade and bred them. Asian small-clawed otters are not domestically protected in Indonesia, but all trade in unprotected wildlife is subject to a harvest quota, and there is no quota for otters. It’s only illegal to sell them there because the country hasn’t set a quota for legal sales. Tokyo, Japan, 19th October 2018—a boom in demand for otters as pets in japan, particularly the Small-clawed Otter, has been linked to rising numbers of “otter cafés”, high-profile television programmes featuring otters and celebrities, and the popularity of otter pet “superstars” on social media platforms. “Same thing with an otter.”. Some nations want to prohibit international trade of certain otter species, and at the major upcoming CITES meeting in May, countries will discuss new proposals to move the Asian small-clawed otter and the smooth-coated otter to Appendix I of the treaty. “Sellers advertise online, and pet owners post endless cute pictures of their little otter, which spreads the news that otters make wonderful pets, which they don’t,” Dr. Duplaix said. They also are increasingly common in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. According to Traffic’s research, 70 percent of otters seized in Southeast Asia in 2017 were destined for Japan; authorities seized at least 39 otters coming into Japan or bound for the country from 2016 to 2017. “There’s something about otters moving together as a family — squeaking, diving and catching fish — that really excites people,” Mr. Sivasothi said. As she says: “It isn’t cool.”, Photograph by Suzi Eszterhas, Minden Pictures, Wild otters are the latest exotic pet trend, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/01/wild-otters-popular-exotic-pets.html. Many cafes and pet shops sell otters to anyone interested in taking one home. Researchers believe that people are stealing them from the wild in Indonesia, Thailand, and other countries in Southeast Asia to sell them as pets there and in Japan. Politics Society Aug 27, 2019 In Japan, for example, it’s legal to keep small-clawed otters. Otters and most exotic pets may not like to be restrained, especially with strangers. These countries supplies otters to international markets where they can be legally bred as pets. In a new documentary, British environmentalist and photojournalist Aaron Gekoski worked with World Animal Protection , an international nonprofit organization, to investigate the state of these animals. According to a recent Traffic report, researchers counting the number of otters for sale on Facebook in five Southeast Asian countries documented at least 700 between January and mid-May 2018. And, according to the Traffic report, Indonesia hasn’t explicitly outlawed the sale of wild otters. It’s a truly wonderful story that made a whole generation of us love these animals. But Asian small-clawed otters, a “terminally cute” threatened species, tend to be the primary targets for poachers, Dr. Duplaix said. Given a chance, otters and people still can coexist, even in crowded Southeast Asia, said Sivasothi N, a biologist at the National University of Singapore. 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