Cruel Reality Of ‘Otter Craze’ Sweeping Across Japan
The cruel reality of the ‘otter craze’ – which has seen otters taken from their natural habitat to work in cafes – has been highlighted in these images as it sweeps across Tokyo.
The demand for the otterly-adorable animals, fuelled by social media influencers and the cafes themselves, is shown in these heart-breaking shots, where otters are forced to interact with paying customers and are fed unsuitable diets.
Otters can be seen desperately reaching out of their cages to be fed cheese and pellets of cat food – despite a wild otter’s diet consisting ainly of fish.
The photographs released by a new campaign through World Animal Protection show the otters living in unnatural conditions.
Taken in three separate cafes across Tokyo – Cafe Mimi, Harry Zoo Cafe and Kotsumate – the images also illustrate the otters exhibiting traumatised behaviour – such as biting their claws, or even in extreme cases, biting off their own tail.
Cassandra Koenen, global head of campaigns at World Animal Protection said: “Our report shows that in Japan, where more than a dozen animal cafes feature otters, it was found that the wild animal’s welfare is severely compromised for the entertainment of customers.
“The otters are heard whimpering, shrieking and making distress calls while customers are interacting with them.
“Some 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.
“The interaction that humans are having with otters is driving a false narrative that these animals are easy, it’s acceptable and they would make good pets.
“Without access to water, without access to proper nutrition, and without access to the enrichment that they would normally have out in a wild environment, it is a lifetime of suffering.”
Investigations by World Animal Protection highlighted that some of the otters in Japan may have been trafficked illegally from Indonesia or Thailand.
Otter cubs are snatched from their parents in the wild. Their parents – who are fiercely protective – are shot, electrocuted or their nests are smoked out, so poachers can take their cubs. Once in Japan, they may be traded for large sums of money.
With long, sleek, streamlined bodies and webbed feet, otters are born swimmers. They are found in waterways and often seen floating on their backs, pat stones into the air, catching them and rolling them skillfully around their chests and necks.
Otters are charismatic, highly social and live in large family groups of up to 20 individuals. A far cry from their captive existence as pets.
To learn more about otters and the exotic pet trade, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubcDXOo70n0