Man arrested in Sakai City on charges of smuggling

Google translate of first paragraph:

The fear of extinction: “Kazumeka otter”;

Nov 27, 2019 17:03:00

A 54-year-old man who lives in Sakai, Osaka, was arrested for trying to
smuggle two Kotsumeka otters that are popular as pets and traded at high
prices in Thailand. The police are investigating as they tried to smuggle
the endangered Kotsumeka otter for resale.

Arrested by Hiroyuki Matsui (54), a self-employed person living in Sakai,
According to police and customs, Matsui suspected that in September, he
tried to bring two Kotsumeka otters, which are inter

Amid boom in Japan, ban on trading endangered otters set to take effect


Nov 5, 2019

Amid booming demand for them as pets in Japan, a ban on the international commercial trade of endangered otters found in Southeast Asia will take effect later this month to protect the animals, which are affected by habitat loss and smuggling.

Conservation groups have identified the Asian small-clawed otter as a species threatened with extinction, but the animals have recently become popular in Japan at “otter cafes,” where customers can pay to touch them, and as pets, fueling illegal trading.

The ban will come into effect on Nov. 26 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Otter cafes have been springing up across the country, with one in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district keeping about 15 otters from Indonesia ranging in age from around 6 months to 2 years old.

Yoshiaki Nagayasu, 51, who operates two otter cafes, in Tokyo and Fukuoka, said he has been approached a number of times by people who wanted to sell him animals.

Last summer, he reported to the police a man who brought in two emaciated otters. The man was later arrested on suspicion of smuggling them.

“Smuggled otters are marketed as ‘domestically bred,’” Nagayasu said.
“It’s suspicious, but they’re tacitly accepted.”

According to Traffic, a wildlife trade watchdog, a total of 59 otters smuggled from Southeast Asia were taken into protective custody between
2015 and 2017, of which 32 were headed to Japan.

In some cases, otters procured for a few thousand yen were traded for more than ¥1 million each, according to the group.

In accordance with the ban on international trade, the Environment Ministry will restrict domestic trade as well, requiring otters imported before the ban as well as those bred in Japan to be preregistered for sale or transfer within the country.

However, some in the pet business are questioning the effectiveness of the ban, which could have loopholes.

For example, arrests have been made related to the illegal trade of the slow loris, a small nocturnal primate that came under the protection of a similar trade ban in Japan in 2007, with reports of unauthorized use of registration certificates issued for legally traded animals.

In order to prevent the false registration of smuggled baby otters as having been bred in Japan, Traffic is calling for the submission of DNA test results to prove parentage, as well as birth certificates from veterinarians.

Otter expert Hiroshi Sasaki, a professor at Chikushi Jogakuen University, says the otter boom in Japan has triggered smuggling of the wild animals.

“There is no point in the ban if we don’t eliminate illegal trade in Japan through the strict implementation of a registration system,” he said.

Sasaki and other researchers in the country, who established an organization for otter conservation in October, will conduct investigations into the illegal trade of the animals.

Boaters object to trapping, killing of river otters at Kingston Marina

Port officials say the otter traps are set every year, but some in the community raised concerns about what happens to the animals after they’re caught.

Residents and boaters complained last week when they learned that river otters that frequent the area around the Kingston Marina were trapped — a process Port of Kingston officials say is standard practice.

The protests were at least partially effective. The port won’t stop trapping the critters, but the method being used now leads to a happier result for the otters themselves.

Otters are drawn to marinas because they find food there, but they can become a nuisance. They defecate on the docks, for one thing, and they can cause serious damage to vessels or boathouses.

Port officials say the otter traps are set every year, but some in the community raised concerns about what happens to the animals after they’re caught.

Mark Andresen, a Kingston resident, said he noticed a port employee with a trapper setting the snares in the water last week. When Andresen asked, the employee told him the otters would be killed.

“I said, really, you’re going to just kill them?” Andresen said.

Andresen, who has had a slip at the marina for seven years, said he was shocked that the port would kill the animals just for defecating on the dock.

“It seems like the punishment didn’t fit the crime,” he said.

Port executive director Jim Pivarnik said several people objected to the traps. He emphasized that the port isn’t setting or checking the traps — the agency contracts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program to capture and deal with otters.

“We do have a lot of damage being done, not just pooping on the dock,” Pivarnik said. “We have otters that will move into boats and have babies, we’ll have them just making terrible messes, ripping canvas and things like that.”

Trapping otters is an annual operation for the port, according to Pivarnik, and something most marinas have to deal with. He said it’s the first time anyone has complained about the practice.

“We’ve never really had an issue with it until this year,” Pivarnik said. “It just takes one person to complain and then all of a sudden it turns into, ‘We’re killing Bambi.’”

Pivarnik suspects some people may have been confusing sea otters, which are federally protected, with river otters. River otters, which are what are being trapped in Kingston, are smaller and come ashore more often than sea otters.

Under state law, river otters are “furbearers,” meaning they can be trapped during open season with a trapping license. Killing river otters is legal if they damage property, crops or domestic animals, according to the Department of Fish & Wildlife.

Trapping otters should be a last resort, according to Matt Blankenship, a wildlife conflict specialist with the state. But it can be a more reliable method in commercial areas — nonlethal methods like scare tactics or barriers don’t work as well in marinas because of the elusiveness of the animal.

“You can deploy some of these nonlethal techniques out there, but often they’ll move around and its harder to do that,” Blankenship said.

According to USDA data, 64 river otters were intentionally killed or euthanized in Washington state in 2016. Two otters have been killed at the Kingston Marina this year, according to Pivarnik.

Kingston isn’t the only marina in Kitsap that has an issue with river otters.

The Port of Poulsbo hires a private professional trapper every few years to catch and relocate them to the Olympic Peninsula, according to port manager Brad Miller.

“They just make a nuisance of themselves, they defecate all over the place, they can actually be destructive …. some of the boathouses that have the old foam flotation, they will tear that up,” Miller said.

At the Brownsville Marina, river otters are “absolutely” a problem, interim port manager Matt Appleton said. Otters have chewed holes in docks, nested in boats and chased people around the marina. At some point, it becomes a safety problem.

“They get into people’s boathouses, they do all kinds of physical damage,” Appleton said.

The Port of Brownsville also pays the USDA to trap the animals every year, but Appleton said he isn’t sure what the agency does with them once they’ve been caught.

“As long as they leave here, I’m not concerned with what happens,” he said.

In contrast, Port of Bremerton officials don’t hear many otter complaints at the Bremerton and Port Orchard marinas. The port had contracted with the USDA for a trap and release program in the past, but most boaters know that dealing with otters is part of boat ownership, port manager Kathy Garcia said.

That’s how Andresen, the Kingston Marina boater, feels.

“You take a hose and you spray it (the poop) off. … If you have a boat then that’s part of the deal, it comes with the territory,” Andresen said.

Because of the complaints from Andresen and others, the Port of Kingston asked the USDA to swap to “live” traps earlier this week, Pivarnik said. But he said he isn’t sure what will be done with the otters once they are caught.

Some boaters voiced objections because they thought the carcasses of the otters were being wasted, but Andresen thinks they shouldn’t be being killed at all.

“I understand they’re a nuisance, I’ve had them come into my backyard,” Andresen said. “But we kind of put our stuff on top of their world.”

“and the Fear of Thee and the Dread of Thee Shall Be upon Every Living Thing…”

— Genesis 9:2

Yesterday we came across a river otter who crossed the road about 30 yards in front of us and disappeared into our pond. No cars were around so he needn’t have been in a hurry, but still he was very business-like, loping purposefully from one waterway to the next. He didn’t stop and give us any extra time to appreciate his company, and clearly—though we meant him no harm and regarded him with respect—he didn’t seem to appreciate ours.

Similarly, on today’s walk along a road through the neighboring wetlands, a large flock of ducks took flight, putting as much distance between us and them as possible, as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, several pairs of Canada geese kept a wary eye on us as they

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

honked their warning calls and ambled reluctantly behind the cover of some cattails and tall grass. We spoke reassuringly to them, explaining that we didn’t intend to hurt them, but our mere presence was disruptive. Unfortunately wildlife tends to judge all people based on human nature in general.

Although fewer folks nowadays are out to kill everything they see, destructive behavior has been a hallmark of human nature since the genus Homo first set foot on the face of the Earth. Other traits representative of the species seem to be an over-bearing sense of entitlement (as in “it’s all here for us”) and a narcissistic arrogance that empowers them to see themselves as supreme among all other beings, whom they objectify as resources put here for them by some anthropomorphic deity for their benefit to exploit as they see fit.

It’s always disappointing that the wild animals assume the worst because imagesQB1DEJITof your association, no matter how distant, with the average gun-toting Elmer, when all you want to do is be friends.

Otters—a Pinnacle of Evolution

As is often the case, I awoke this morning to the sensation of our cat walking gingerly across my head. Sleek and silky, with luxuriant dark fur, Winnie reminds me of the river otter I saw yesterday afternoon crossing the road and heading upstream into our backyard beaver pond system.

I’d been hoping the otter I have been seeing in the waterways nearby would find our ponds, which are fed by several small streams flowing out of the surrounding hills. Though the ponds turn a light brown this time of year from the clay-rich soil leaching from their banks, they support a healthy variety of life, from frogs, fish and crawdads; to ducks, herons, kingfishers and osprey; to beaver, muskrat, raccoon, mink…and now otter.

A descendant of the diverse weasel family, the river otter is a pinnacle of evolution if ever there were one. While their kin adapted to every other habitat in North America—the ermine and pine marten, to the snowy north woods; fisher, the ancient forests; mink, the riparian zones; badger, the arid plains; and wolverine, the mountainous high country—river otters are masters of inland waterways and freshwater lakes. To those who know them, “otter” is synonymous with the word “play.” Among the most spirited of species, they clearly enjoy themselves in the water, delighting in games with each other like tag and hide-and-go-seek. They also enjoy snow sports: otter “slides” are a familiar sight on snowy slopes along frozen rivers in winter.

Like every other fur-bearer on the continent, otters were nearly decimated during the mindless fur trade era. Unbelievably, otters are still killed in traps set by nineteenth century throw-backs even today. Others are shot by selfish humans unwilling to share aquatic resources that otters had adapted to hundreds of thousands of years before Homo sapiens reached the Western Hemisphere.

The threat of human greed is even more pervasive for sea otters, who have all but lost their ability to move about on land, giving themselves and their terrestrial origins up to their oceanic habitat. Unlike commercial fishermen, they don’t sit out the storms in a cozy home or a dry shack heated by an oil furnace; they spend day and night floating among the coastal kelp beds.

River otter are more than welcome to stay as long as they like here in our beaver ponds. Hopefully we’ll get an occasional glimpse of them swimming fluidly by, or moving on land with their trademark weasel-esque, undulating lope. I’m just glad Winnie is lighter afoot when she tip-toes across my head in the morning.