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Illegal Trade of Otters in Southeast Asia

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... Duplaix & Savage, 2018). In parts of South East Asia, otters are also particularly susceptible to persecution because of their prized fur and body parts, and are increasingly susceptible to poaching to be sold illegally as pets (Gomez & Bouhuys, 2018). Because of the strict requirements that otters have, which are directly affected by urbanization, many of the 13 otter species have suffered population declines over the years and are threatened throughout much of their global distribution (Duplaix & Savage, 2018). ...
... However, in many situations even when laws are present, species are still subject to persecution because of the lack of enforcement (Duplaix & Savage, 2018). This is evident in the decline of populations of Smooth-coated otters in Indonesia and Thailand, where these otters are increasingly hunted for their pelts or to fuel the illegal pet trade (Gomez & Bouhuys, 2018). In Singapore, the level of wildlife poaching is considerably lower when compared to the rest of South East Asia, so much so that Singapore is considered a safe haven for Critically Endangered species such as the Sunda pangolin Manis javanica and Straw-headed bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus, which are targeted by poachers elsewhere in the region (Lee et al., 2018;Yong et al., 2018). ...
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Urbanization has a major impact on biodiversity, especially on carnivores. Otters are particularly sensitive to urbanization as it increases their risk of being persecuted and threatens the key requirements essential for their survival. Because of this, many otter species have suffered population declines throughout the world. However, in Singapore, the Smooth-coated otter Lutrogale perspicillata has made a tremendous rebound after an absence of three decades. The species is now widely distributed across the river systems and reservoirs , and can even be found in the highly urban city centre. This return of the Smooth-coated otters to Singapore was so successful that it was touted by many as a conservation success and role model for otters in the city. With more populations of otters elsewhere in the world threatened by the effects of urbanization, lessons can be drawn from the successful return of otters to Singapore and applied to these other countries. These lessons include the importance of laws, social factors and public-private partnerships in facilitating the return of a top carnivore to the city.
... A significant emerging threat is also the growing exotic pet trade, and digital platforms in particular are leading to a rapidly growing and easily accessible illegal exotic pet trade online (Siriwat and Nijman, 2018;Siriwat et al., 2019). Although this trade affects numerous small carnivores (Siriwat et al., 2019), it is particularly active for otters (Lutrinae) in Southeast Asia (Gomez and Bouhuys, 2018;Siriwat and Nijman, 2018). ...
Article
Small mammalian carnivores (Carnivora <16 kg) carry out important roles in ecosystems, such as influencing ecosystem structure and providing numerous ecosystem services. Despite their importance, there are contrasting views on the required conservation and management needs for species within this group. In a review of the IUCN Red List species-level assessments, we found that 53 small carnivore species were threatened (CR, EN, or VU) compared to 15 large. However, there were similar proportions of large (4%, 9%) and small (1%, 9%) carnivores endangered with extinction (CR or EN, respectively). We did not find support for small carnivores benefiting from mesopredator release in a global context; more than half of both large and small carnivore species decreasing, suggesting parallel declines. On average, large carnivores received their first IUCN assessment 10 years before small and, since their first assessment, small carnivores have received fewer assessments than large, highlighting the disparity in conservation attention within the guild. The leading threats for all carnivores include biological resource use and land use change. We review the major threats to threatened small carnivores and suggest areas for priority research and conservation. Collectively, we show that small carnivores are as endangered with extinction as are large carnivores, and that small carnivores should be of conservation concern globally, but particularly in species-rich regions of Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Madagascar. To inform conservation, we encourage more research into the basic ecology and demography of small carnivores, particularly regarding current and future threats in the face of global change.
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There are around 172 species of small carnivores and although only 23% of these have been given the most threatened categories in the IUCN Red List, most wild populations are declining because of habitat loss and fragmentation, and human exploitation. The articles in this volume describe the conservation status of a number of small carnivores at the time of writing, and research studies and surveys that have been carried out. Such work will not only increase our knowledge and expertise for caring for these species in zoos and aquariums, but the information will also facilitate conservation activities with wild populations and habitats. (Photo: Asian small‐clawed otters Aonyx cinereus. Nicole Duplaix).
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Madagascar contains the highest concentration of threatened carnivore species anywhere in the world. The country's deteriorating protected‐area network makes it a priority for small carnivore conservation, and several species may need some form of ex situ action. Small carnivores in South East Asia are under significant pressure from hunting to supply the illegal wildlife trade, as well as habitat loss, and the interactions between these two factors. Owston's civet Chrotogale owstoni is the conservation priority from this region. The rapidly declining status of Large‐spotted civet Viverra megaspila needs careful monitoring, as it may warrant intervention soon. Otters (Lutrinae) in Asia are in decline and there may exist as yet undescribed conservation units that are extremely threatened. Hairy‐nosed otter Lutra sumatrana is not yet a priority for ex situ conservation because of low feasibility; efforts should focus on managing the populations of Smooth‐coated otter Lutrogale perspicillata and Asian small‐clawed otter Aonyx cinereus already in human care. The future of European mink Mustela lutreola and Black‐footed ferret Mustela nigripes will depend on ongoing support to conservation‐breeding efforts, as well as threat reduction. To a lesser extent, Red panda Ailurus fulgens conservation is also dependent on continued support to its integrated conservation plan. There are no obvious candidate species for ex situ conservation of small carnivores from Africa, though the bushmeat trade, planned large‐scale infrastructure projects and a growing transnational wildlife trade link to Asia may change this assessment in the near future. It is unclear what role ex situ conservation would have for Pygmy raccoon Procyon pygmaeus: the main threat to this species is hurricanes. A speculative assessment of emerging threats to small carnivores includes: infrastructural development in the tropics, illegal wildlife trade networks that include Latin American, African and Asian markets, and the growing Vietnamese and Chinese diasporas that operate in other Asian countries, Africa and Latin America, and the interactions between all of these factors. The majority of small carnivores are not threatened with extinction. However, the group contains a number of species that are globally listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered on the IUCN Red list, and require urgent conservation action, particularly in Madagascar and South East Asia. Several species require some form of ex situ conservation action, or are very likely to in the near future. The threats to these taxa include hunting to supply the illegal wildlife, pet and bushmeat trades, habitat loss (including hardwood extraction from protected areas), large‐scale infrastructure projects, human–wildlife conflict and, in the case of the Pygmy raccoon Procyon pygmaeus, hurricanes, probably as a result of climate change. The author presents a speculative assessment of emerging threats to small carnivores and indicates some of the taxonomic uncertainties that must be resolved before effective conservation actions can be taken. (Photo: European mink Mustela lutreola in the wild in Estonia. This Critically Endangered species is a priority for mammal conservation, including through conservation breeding. Tiit Maran, Tallinn Zoo)
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Indonesia is home to one species of bear, sun bear Helarctos malayanus. Aside from forest loss and habitat degradation, wild populations are being hunted and killed for the illegal wildlife trade. Yet, very little data exists on the extent of this exploitation or its potential impact on bears. To gain a better understanding on this front, we assessed seizure data involving bears, their parts and derivatives in Indonesia from 2011 to 2018. We obtained 71 records of seizures of bears in Indonesia over the 8-year period which was estimated to represent a minimum of 254 sun bears. We found a relatively high number of bears being kept as pets as well as parts prized as trophies or talismans like claws, teeth, or taxidermied specimens. To a lesser extent, we found bear parts coveted for traditional medicine use and for food. At least five countries were linked in the illegal trafficking of bears from Indonesia, mostly involving bear parts (teeth, claws, gall bladders and paws). Our results show that the sun bear trade in Indonesia is widespread and persists despite its protection status, in violation of national laws and international regulations. While numerous seizures have been made, follow-up arrest, prosecution and conviction rates are extremely low. Considering how lucrative the illegal trade in wildlife has become, punishments must reflect the crime if it is to serve as any kind of deterrent, and if the sun bear is to be saved from further decline.
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Otters trading as pet in Indonesian online markets have been investigated from January to May 2012. Two species of otter (Aonyx cinerea and Lutrogale perspicillata) were recorded sold in online market. All of trading were recognized from Java island with East Java (Jawa Timur) province the biggest trade activity. Price vary from 150,000 to 800,000 IDR for one-week new born baby to five month juvenile cubs. Delivery mechanisms were also described.
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The conservation status of otters in South-east Asia remains poorly known, because of a paucity of records for which certain identification can be confirmed. Otter populations in South-east Asia face a multitude of threats and are in decline; the identification and then protection of sites that support sizeable populations is a priority for their conservation. A rapid camera-trap survey targeted otter populations along one stream in Prek Toal Core Area, an area of flooded forest in the Tonle Sap Great Lake Cambodia. 172 camera-trap days over May to July 2014 produced a total of 34 notionally independent photographs of otters, of which 24 could be identified as Smooth-coated Otter and 4 as Hairy-nosed Otter. Although few other otter records exist for Cambodia, these data indicate that Prek Toal is at least a regionally important site for these species and of probable global significance for Hairy-nosed Otter. Protection of fish-breeding habitat and a large waterbird colony has perhaps benefitted the otter population at Prek Toal.
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Hunting and trade of otters in South-East Asia is a severe threat to the regional conservation of all four species. During surveys of the wildlife trade in the town of Mong La, Shan State, Myanmar, three species of otters were observed, including a skin of a Hairy-nosed Otter Lutra sumatrana. This is the first record of this species in trade in Myanmar, and the second record of the species in the country.
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INTRODUCTION T here is limited information on the ivory trade in Lao PDR but the presence of Asian Elephant Elephas maximus populations and a geographic position—situated between the world's largest ivory traders Thailand and China—as well as the presence of ivory for sale in the country, may suggest an emerging role for the country in the international ivory trade. Six towns known for their involvement in wildlife trade were surveyed in order to quantify the levels of open trade in ivory. In three of these towns, ivory was observed for sale, with the vast majority in Vientiane. Here, 2391 pieces of ivory, including bangles, earrings, name seals and raw tusks, were openly offered for sale in 22 outlets. Information from vendors indicated that the ivory originated from Lao PDR and not from neighbouring countries (Thailand, Viet Nam) or Africa, but forensic analysis would be necessary to determine the origin of the ivory more precisely. Prices were advertised in US dollars or Chinese Yuan Renminbi, clearly suggesting an international clientele, a fact confirmed by most vendors. However, recent seizures data also suggest that Lao PDR may also be playing a transit country role for African ivory.
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On 22 January, 2013, TRAFFIC reported that the Royal Thai Customs officers working at the Wildlife Checkpoint of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport discovered 11 live otters when they scanned a bag that had been left at the oversized luggage area of the airport. The otters, six Smooth Otters Lutrogale perspicllata and five Oriental Small-clawed Otters Aonyx cinereus were all juveniles and are suspected to have been smuggled out of Thailand, bound for Japan to be sold as exotic pets. The bag bore no tags nobody claimed it, and therefore no arrests were made. The otters will undergo health checks before being handed over to the Huay-Ka-Kaeng Breeding Center in Uthai Thani for care.
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We identified otters based on tracks and other signs in a West Sumatran rice field. Field surveys were conducted from July to December 2008 at Padang Pariaman, West Sumatra, Indonesia. We identified one species, Aonyx cinereus (Illiger, 1815) based on the size and form of 8 fore and 17 hind footprints. Further, we describe three types of spraint site, sliding sites and other evidence of otter existence in this area.
Article
There is very little published information on the recent status of small carnivores in Myanmar, even though three species identified as global conservation priorities by the 1989 IUCN/SSC Action plan for the conservation of mustelids and viverrids inhabit the coun- try (Stripe-backed Weasel Mustela strigidorsa, Spotted Linsang Prionodon pardicolor and Large-spotted Civet Viverra megaspila). A better understanding of small carnivore present status would help assess national conservation priorities. This review is based on ‘by-catch’ data from camera-trap surveys, mostly for Tigers Panthera tigris, between 1999 and 2005, supplemented by examination of wild animal remains in hunting camps, villages and markets and other incidental information. The 19 survey areas were inside habitat-blocks potentially able to support Tiger and/or other threatened large mammals, located across most of Myanmar. They were mainly within evergreen forest. Historical species records were assembled from published sources. In total, 25 small carnivore species are known from Myanmar. Of these, 18 were confirmed by these surveys; few of the recent records of otters and none of ferret badg- ers could be identified to species but at least two and one species, respectively, persist. Small Asian Mongoose Herpestes javanicus, Small-toothed Palm Civet Arctogalidia trivirgata and Siberian Weasel Mustela sibirica have other recent information, but no recent Myanmar records were traced for Banded Civet Hemigalus derbyanus. Yellow-throated Marten Martes flavigula, Large Indian Civet Viverra zibetha and Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus remain widespread and at least locally common. Red Panda Ailurus fulgens, Yellow-bellied Weasel Mustela kathiah and Banded Linsang Prionodon linsang were reconfirmed in their limited his- torical range. All species of otter are evidently much depleted, as may be Large-spotted Civet. Each of the other 8–9 species found had records from rather few sites and few conclusions can be drawn: survey was insufficient within the known national geographical and/ or habitat range, and/or the species is partly or largely arboreal and so may have been much under-recorded by the camera-trapping style used. The priority need for most species is a better understanding of their status, specifically species-by-species response to the heavy hunting and habitat conversion widespread in Myanmar. Most importantly, otters merit immediate conservation management of remaining populations. Other specific needs are securing the Hkakaborazi National Park for the population of Red Panda (global inter- est) and Beech Marten Martes foina (regional interest), and the Hukaung Tiger Reserve for its population of Large-spotted Civet, and work to establish effectively protected areas incorporating lowland forest elsewhere in the country, particularly in southern Tanintharyi. Keywords: activity patterns, camera-trapping, geographical range, historical review, hunting, lowland forest
Article
A skin of a Hairy-nosed Otter Lutra sumatrana collected in northern Myanmar (at 26°43′N, 97°58′E; altitude c.900 m) on 6 April 1939 and held in the Natural History Museum, London, has remained unpublished. The species’s ecology and distribution remain poorly known: this is the first record for Myanmar, was collected c.1800 km from the generally accepted range, and is from hill evergreen forest, a very different habitat from the species’s current known localities. There is no plausible alternative explanation for the skin at this location other than the species inhabiting the area. Validating the species’s presence there may now be impossible, because of massive recent trade-driven declines of all otters there, as are occurring widely in mainland South-east Asia.
Lutra sumatrana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
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Aadrean, A., Kanchanasaka, B., Heng, S., Reza Lubis, I., de Silva, P. & Olsson, A. (2015). Lutra sumatrana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T12421A21936999. Online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-2.RLTS. T12421A21936999.en. Viewed 25 July 2017.
Ho Chi Minh City pet shop owner arrested for wildlife smuggling
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An, K. (2015). Ho Chi Minh City pet shop owner arrested for wildlife smuggling. Online at: http://www.thanhniennews.com/ society/ho-chi-minh-city-pet-shop-owner-arrested-for-wildlife-smuggling-55571.html. Viewed in February 2018.