A recent undercover investigation by World Animal Protection revealed theillegal hunting, trafficking, and increased attempts to captive breed ottersacross Japan, Thailand and Indonesia to satisfy a growing international demandfor the animal.

The surge in exotic pets across Southeast Asia and the latest “otter craze” isbeing fueled by social media influencers and interactive otter cafes in Japan.

In more than a dozen animal cafes featuring otters, it was found that the wildanimal’s welfare is severely compromised for the entertainment of customers.The otters are sadly heard whimpering, shrieking and making distress callswhile customers are interacting with them.

Some otters are kept in solitary conditions with no natural light, others areseen biting their claws and exhibiting traumatised behavior – some of theworst housing conditions included small cages with no access to water.

With long, sleek, streamlined bodies and webbed feet, otters are natural bornswimmers. Otters are most charismatic, highly social and live in large familygroups of up to 20 individuals. A far cry from their captive existence aspets.

The investigation also raises the following concerns:

– Otter cubs are snatched from their parents in the wild. Their parents whoare fiercely protective are shot, electrocuted or their nests are smoked out,so poachers can take their cubs
– Three out of four otters found in Southeast Asia, including the Asian small-clawed otter, are considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild by theInternational Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)
– An organised network of farmers, hunters, collectors, dealers and exporterssource otter cubs from the wild and export them through their networks
– Evidence of laundering through captive breeding facilities, in at least onelocation. Further sources have indicated similar efforts elsewhere

Reported incidents of suggested involvement of law enforcement and governmentofficials in facilitating the cruel trade. One report from Indonesia statedthat a government worker requested operations on otters to remove the glandthat causes them to smell, to make them more appealing as pets.

Cassandra Koenen, Global Head of Wildlife not Pets said:

“Just because a wild animal is cute, it does not mean you should take it homewith you.

“Once otters are in people’s homes, there is no realistic way to replicate thespace and freedom these animals would have in the wild. Many animals are keptin spaces vastly smaller than their natural habitats and they don’t have thecorrect nutrition, even if owners have their best intentions to feed themproperly.”

Evidence from the investigation also suggests complicity on behalf of lawenforcement and government agencies in facilitating the trade. With ottersbeing assessed as “risk of extinction in the wild,” urgent attention is neededto address illegal trade concerns and fraudulent captive breeding operationsin Southeast Asia.

World Animal Protection is also urging people to not buy, own or breed a wildanimal as a pet. A life in captivity is a world away from a life in the wild.Wild animals are not pets, they belong in the wild.

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