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Demand for pet otters is driving a harmful trade

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OTTERS ARE cute, this nobody can deny. They’ve huge eyes and snub snouts and paws like tiny leedle fingers. They appear even cuter once they put on jaunty hats and toss meals pellets into their mouths as in the event that they have been bar snacks, like Takechiyo, a pet otter in Japan. Documenting Takechiyo’s antics has earned his proprietor practically 230,000 followers on Instagram, a photo-sharing app.

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Takechiyo’s fame displays a craze throughout east and South-East Asia for conserving the cuddly creatures as pets. Fanatics in Japan go to cafés the place they pay to cuddle them; Indonesian house owners parade their pets round on leads or go swimming with them, then share their photos on-line. However these jolly images masks a trade that is doing a lot of harm. Even earlier than they turned modern companions for people, Asia’s wild otters confronted loads of threats. Their habitats are disappearing. They’ve lengthy been hunted for their coats, or culled by farmers who want to forestall them feasting on fisheries. The pet trade, which started selecting up within the early 2000s however appeared to speed up a few years in the past, has made issues worse. The numbers of untamed Asian small-clawed otters and smooth-coated otters, two species which might be in highest demand, have declined by no less than 30% within the three a long time to 2019.

The worldwide settlement that governs trade in wildlife, often known as CITES, now prohibits cross-border trade in these species. However legal guidelines banning possession are sometimes poorly enforced, as in Thailand, or riddled with holes, as in Indonesia. And the otter-keeping fad has been turbocharged by the web, says Vincent Nijman of Oxford Brookes College. In 2017 TRAFFIC, a British charity that screens the wildlife trade, spent practically 5 months taking a look at Fb and different social-media websites in 5 South-East Asian international locations. Throughout that point it discovered round 1,000 otters marketed for sale on-line.

In any case, otters don’t even make notably good pets. Yearly the Jakarta Animal Assist Community, a charity in Indonesia’s capital, receives some ten otters from individuals who have struggled to take care of them. Faizul Duha, the founding father of an Indonesian otter-owners’ group, admits that his two animals emit a “very particular” (learn: fishy) odor. They chunk people and gnaw at furnishings. Their screeching might be heard blocks away. And their cages want cleansing each two-to-three hours. That is how usually they evacuate their bowels.

This text appeared within the Asia part of the print version underneath the headline “Some prefer it otter”

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