WWF Insider: The Otterly Cute Animal In Grave Danger Around Asia

Last week, otters made a surprising appearance on the agenda of CITES, the “United Nations for wildlife”. At CITES, governments around the world make critical decisions that determine the fates of endangered wildlife.

Did you know: Lensed by Singaporean Kang Yen Thiing, the photo below clinched the grand prize for a National Geographic photo contest as part of the nation’s 53rd birthday this year. 

Once thought to be extinct from Singapore, wild otters have made a strong comeback — in local waters and our hearts. But they are the lucky ones. Everywhere else in Southeast Asia, otters are in greater danger than ever. 

Here, our bite-sized pictorial updates on what you need to know about Singapore’s favourite animal: 

Which are the 3 species of Asian otters highlighted for stronger protection from trade? 

The three species: Asian-small clawed otter (above), smooth-coated otter and hairy-nosed otter.
© David Lawson / WWF-UK

The three species are currently listed on CITES Appendix II, where the otter trade is controlled in order to prevent them from going extinct. 

At CITES, some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have recommended for the three species to be uplisted from Appendix II to Appendix I. Meaning: Threatened with extinction, they are asking for these otters to have the highest level of international protection.

Otters are being sold online as pets 

There is a thriving online trade for otters in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
© Global Warming Images / WWF

From January to April 2018 alone, 560 online advertisements on Southeast Asia’s otters were posted for sale, according to this TRAFFIC report

Being cute, in this case, comes at a price. Poaching of wild otters for the pet trade is one of the biggest threats to Southeast Asia’s otters, according to wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC.

Otters in Singapore

There is little information about populations of smooth-coated otters due to a lack of data. However, they are listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN, and global populations have declined over 30% in the past 30 years.

The small-clawed otter and smooth-coated otter can be found in Singapore. The former is nocturnal and harder to spot, while the latter (above) is commonly spotted in local waterways and mangroves.

Feature image: @fussy_pot

ICYMI: See more about saving the great whales, bad news about the ivory trade and a bird that’s about to become rarer.

Stay tuned to this space for more bite-sized updates on global developments in wildlife protection.

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