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Sunday, July 10

India tops otter skin seizures in Asia during the last three decades, shows TRAFFIC study

Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) (Image courtesy by Bernard Landgraf CC BY-SA 3.0

Among the South Asian countries, India recorded the most number of otter skin seizures in the last three decades pointing to the intensive illegal fur trade in the region, claims a report by TRAFFIC, a global wildlife trade monitoring network.

According to the TRAFFIC report, during the period of 35 years from 1980 to 2015, India recorded 52.7 percent of total otter seizures recorded across 16 Asian countries. According to the data compiled from different CITES management authorities in these countries, a total of 167 incidents of otter seizures were reported during the 35 year period which amounted to a total of 5979 otter specimens. Among this, 88 incidents amounting to 3276 individuals were from India. The demand in the Chinese market is the major reason for the rampant illegal trafficking of otter skins from India, claims the report.

However, the report indicates that the largest number of cases reported as well as specimens recovered from India may be attributed both to a flourishing trade as well as effective law enforcement.

There is a decline in the number of seizures from 2005 onward, but the report is not conclusive about if it is due to weak law enforcement or declining trade or a decline in the otter population. “While the seizures of otter skins have increased over the years in terms of frequency, the quantities seized have decreased. This could be attributed to an increase in undetected trade; or more worryingly to declining otter populations,” says the report. Earlier studies have shown that illegal hunting has made otters locally extinct in parts of India, and have restricted them to protected areas.

The global pet trade, another threat to otters according to the report, seems to have affected India less as the seizures from the country have so far recorded only skins, no live specimens, unlike the case of countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Viet Nam.

The report analysed the threats to Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra), Hairy-nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana), Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus) and Smooth-coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata). Among these four species, all except Hairy-nosed Otter are natively found in India.

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