Last week we received a telephone call from a man who had been keeping an otter as a pet for one year after purchasing it from a Facebook page, he had decided that he wanted a better life for the otter where it could be with its own species. The WFFT Rescue Team headed out to see the otter which was being kept in a dirty small enclosure in a yard the city of Bangkok. When we arrived on the site we found an overweight male oriental small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinereus) who had been kept in the small enclosure outside the mans house. He has been fed solely of dog biscuits and had never seen a fish in his life. The owner informed us that he had purchased Potto from a Facebook page when he was a few weeks old, his eyes had not even opened before he was ripped away from his mother and sold as a pet. Luckily for this one, his owner saw sense and contacted us for help, although not buying an otter in the first place would have been the best thing.
Oriental small-clawed otters are currently listed as Vulnerable (VU) by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Throughout Asia the main threat to its continued survival is destruction of its habitats due to changing land use pattern in the form of developmental activities. In many parts of Asia, the habitats have been reduced due to reclamation of peat swamp forests and mangroves, aquaculture activities along the intertidal wetlands and loss of hill streams. Another important threat to Asian Small-clawed Otter is reduction in prey biomass due to over-exploitation, which make its remaining habitats unsustainable. Pollution is probably the single most important factor, causing decline in the population of many fish species. The threat posed by poaching, for the fur trade and pet trade, is still very significant in many parts of South Eat Asia and will certainly count as a major threat that needs to be constantly monitored. Sadly, an increase in keeping these animals as pets has been seen throughout Thailand. We are hearing reports of otter ‘farms’ where many are being specifically bred for the pet trade.
Potto has been at WFFT for a few days now and is settling in well. We hope that once he has gone through his quarantine period he will be able to meet and socialize with other otters in our care. We have seen a huge increase in otters in need of help this year. We are in desperate need to build another large open area for the otters as they cannot all live together. Please help us fund this by donating at https://www.wfft.org/donate/ or adopting one of our animals at https://www.wfft.org/adoptions/