Otter smuggling fuelled by Japanese craze for cute animals


A recent undercover investigation by World Animal Protection has revealed the illegal hunting, trafficking, and increased attempts to captive-breed otters across Japan, Thailand and Indonesia to satisfy a growing international demand for the animal.

The surge in exotic pets across Southeast Asia and the latest ‘otter craze’ is being fuelled by social media influencers and interactive otter cafes in Japan.

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

Some otters are kept in solitary conditions with no natural light, others are seen biting their claws and exhibiting traumatised behaviour. Some of the worst housing conditions included small cages with no access to water. 

With long, sleek, streamlined bodies and webbed feet, otters are natural born swimmers. They are very charismatic, highly social and live in large family groups of up to 20 individuals—a far cry from their captive existence as pets.

“Just because a wild animal is cute, it does not mean you should take it home with you,” Cassandra Koenen, global head of Wildlife not Pets said.

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

World Animal Protection is urging people to not buy, own or breed a wild animal as a pet. A life in captivity is a world away from a life in the wild. Their message is: wild animals are not pets; they belong in the wild.


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