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Rise in Asian otters being kept as pets
An increasing number of people are keeping otters as pets in Southeast Asia.
Craze fuelled by social media and ‘otter cafes’

Asian otters are on the verge of extinction thanks to a rise in people keeping them as pets, according to charity World Animal Protection (WAP).

The organisation says there’s a ‘dramatic and troubling’ surge in exotic animals being kept as pets in Southeast Asia, with the latest otter craze being fuelled by social media influencers and interactive ‘otter cafes’.

An undercover investigation by WAP revealed the illegal hunting, trafficking and breeding of otters across Thailand, Japan and Indonesia to satisfy the increasing demand. It found that otter cubs are being snatched from their parents in the wild and unearthed evidence of laundering through captive breeding facilities.

The investigation also uncovered reported incidents of suggested involvement of government in facilitating the trade. In one report from Indonesia, a government worker requested operations on otters to remove the gland that causes them to smell, to make them more appealing as pets.

More than a dozen animal cafes in Japan feature otters and it was here that WAP found that welfare is being compromised for the sake of entertainment.

The otters can be heard whimpering and making distress calls while customers are interacting with them, the report notes. When not interacting with customers, they are being kept in cramped, solitary conditions with no natural light or access to water.

Cassandra Koenen, global head of Wildlife not Pets says: “Just because a wild animal is cute, it does not mean you should take it home with you. Unfortunately, this fact appears to be lost on many people as they are influenced by social media, and influencers showing them off as fun and cool pets. 
 
“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.”  
 

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New road sign to protect small wildlife

News Story 1
 Transport secretary Chris Grayling has unveiled a new road sign to help cut traffic accidents and protect small wildlife, particularly hedgehogs.

Local authorities and animal welfare groups are being asked to identify accident and wildlife hotspots where the sign - which features a hedgehog - should be located.

Government figures show that more than 600 people were injured in road accidents involving animals in 2017, and four people were killed. These figures do not include accidents involving horses. The new sign will be used to warn motorists in areas where there are large concentrations of small wild animals, including squirrels, badgers, otters and hedgehogs.  

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News Shorts
NOAH members re-elect Jamie Brannan as chair

Jamie Brannan, senior Vice President of Zoetis, has been re-elected as chair of NOAH for 2019/20, during this year’s AGM, held in London.

Mr Brannan joined Zoetis and the NOAH board in 2016, becoming NOAH’s vice-chair in 2018 and replacing Gaynor Hillier as chair later that year.

He commented: “I am extremely pleased to have been elected by the NOAH membership and am proud to be able to represent our industry at such a critical time for the UK animal health industry. I look forward to driving forward our new NOAH Strategy and to working with our members, old and new, in the coming year.”