You can help wild otters by ignoring cute pet otter videos on social media
Wild otters need your help. Japan, Thailand and Indonesia are all experiencing an ‘otter craze,’ propelled by social media, interactive otter cafes in Japan, and high-profile public events involving otters in domesticated environments. Unfortunately, wild otters are being hunted and poached nearly out of existence to fuel international demand.
Recently, on World Otter Day, we released a heartbreaking documentary about the devastating pet otter trade. Throughout the last year, our investigations team travelled to Asia to get a deeper understanding of the fast-growing and lucrative business.
Sadly, when our team visited interactive otter cafes, they found otters living in cruel, extremely substandard conditions: some were kept in tiny cages with no access to water, or in solitary confinement with no natural light. In the wild, otters live in very social family groups, but in cafes, otters are forced to be handled by humans all day long. These poor otters whimper, shriek, and call out in distress as they suffer for human entertainment.
Many cafe employees could not tell us where the otters came from. While there are numerous breeding locations in Japan, it is extremely difficult to successfully breed otters in captivity, and only a small number of cubs are born. In order to meet demand, otter cubs are poached from the wild and their protective parents are sadly killed in the process.
Because of the illegal nature in selling otters poached from the wild, much of the business selling otters for pets is conducted online through social media. Sellers take precautions and are careful in their approach. Generally, sellers ask buyers to pay for a motorbike courier, which delivers the otters to the buyer at a specified meeting place. Buyers cannot see the otters in advance, and sellers do not disclose their locations, but will often send videos and pictures of the otters to interested buyers.
In fact, photos and videos of pet otters get thousands of likes and shares on social media, and particularly on Instagram. Some pet otter accounts have over 300, 000 followers! Unfortunately, an otter’s needs cannot fully be met in captivity and keeping them as a pet is just plain cruel. If you see any photos and videos of pet otters, the best thing you can do is ignore them, and let your family and friends know why otters belong in the wild by sharing our documentary.