Ban on endangered otter trade to take effect amid pet boom


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.

Conservation groups have identified the Asian small-clawed otter as a species threatened with extinction, but the animals have recently become popular in Japan at "otter cafes," where customers can pay to touch them, and as pets, fueling illegal trading.

The ban will come into effect on Nov 26 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Otter cafes have been springing up across the country, with one in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district keeping about 15 otters from Indonesia ranging in age from around 6 months to 2 years old.

Yoshiaki Nagayasu, 51, who operates two otter cafes in Tokyo and Fukuoka, said he has been approached a number of times about purchasing the animals.

He reported to the police last summer a man who brought in two emaciated otters. The man was later arrested on suspicion of smuggling them.

"Smuggled otters are marketed as 'domestically bred,'" Nagayasu said. "It's suspicious, but they're tacitly accepted."

According to TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade watchdog, a total of 59 otters smuggled from Southeast Asia were taken into protective custody between 2015 and 2017, of which 32 were headed to Japan.

In some cases, otters procured for a few thousand yen were traded for over 1 million yen ($9,200) each, according to the group.

In accordance with the ban on international trade, the Environment Ministry will restrict domestic trade as well, requiring otters imported before the ban as well as those bred in Japan to be pre-registered for sale or transfer within the country.

However, some in the pet business are questioning the effectiveness of the ban, which could have loopholes.

For example, arrests have been made related to the illegal trade of the slow loris, a small nocturnal primate that came under the protection of a similar trade ban in Japan in 2007, with reports of unauthorized use of registration certificates issued for legally traded animals.

In order to prevent the false registration of smuggled baby otters as bred in Japan, TRAFFIC is calling for the submission of DNA test results to prove parentage, as well as birth certificates from veterinarians.

Otter expert Hiroshi Sasaki, a professor at Chikushi Jogakuen University, says the otter boom in Japan has triggered smuggling of the wild animals.

"There is no point of the ban if we don't eliminate illegal trade in Japan through the strict implementation of a registration system," he said.

Sasaki and other researchers in the country, who established an organization for otter conservation in October, will conduct investigations into the illegal trade of the animals.


©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Will this be more effective than the ban on ivory?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

People who trade in these animals should be made to pay in kind!

4 ( +8 / -4 )

People who trade in these animals should be made to pay in kind!

Very Old Testament if you, Yubaru. Can't say that I disagree though.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Well,there goes my dream for a house pet and my favorite past time watching youtube channels about otters i guess. My favorite otter on youtube is Bingo. He always cheer me up. I learn so much about this animal. But i kinda understand the need to protect this animal. Can’t let such a beautiful creature goes extinct.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

These otters have been listed as highly endangered for thirty odd years, but it’s only now Japan decides to ban their trade after hundreds (possibly thousands) have been sold in Japan as pets and cafe attractions. How wonderful!

9 ( +10 / -1 )

How does their popularity hurt its status as an endangered species? Demand will fuel breeding efforts and the numbers will increase.

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

Otters are animals accustomed to large amounts of space to move, play, and live. Something like a otter cafe is monstrous. Not every animal needs to be domesticated.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Hiro, if you like watching otters, I'd recommend the classic British film Ring of Bright Water. Gavin Maxwell understood that his otter needed plenty of space, like JJ Jetplane said, and so decided to move from London to the west coast of Scotland!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Human beings have a habit of making other animals' lives a misery. I am so glad a growing number of countries are banning animal circuses.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

People who trade in these animals should be made to pay in kind!

Yes. Make the traders and the otter cafe proprietors go and live in an Indonesian river, see how they like that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Their is no reason, to keep a wild animal, as domestic pet, a woman learn this the hard way, when she was found strangle by a python, you can keep a king cobra as pet in Texas ,with a 10 dollar fee

1 ( +2 / -1 )

How does their popularity hurt its status as an endangered species? Demand will fuel breeding efforts and the numbers will increase.

Doesn't work that way in the real world. Its way cheaper to poach them in the wild and smuggle them into Japan than it is to legitimately breed them. So the rise in demand just fuels poaching which decreases their numbers in the wild and puts the survival of the species outside captivity at greater risk.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

What an amazing animal! They mate for life, live in family units, and should not be kept as pets.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

So if it’s not a dog or cat, I shouldn’t own it, eh? Crazy.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Otter ban all and any commercial/ private transactions. Who on earth needs an otter?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Yup - register all existing, and ban the transfer, sale, and breeding - except to registered organisations dedicated to their preservation.  Prison at hard labor for violators.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm going to go buy 2 and breed my own.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I doubt Japan will actually respect this ban. They seem to have no empathy for the animals, and only seem to care about the "enjoyment" they get from exploiting them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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