Wildlife & Biodiversity

CITES CoP 2019: Otters given highest protection from trade

Asian small-clawed as well as smooth-coated otters have been included in Appendix I of CITES

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 27 August 2019

Asian small-clawed and smooth-coated otters were included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at the ongoing 18th Conference of Parties (CoP) in Geneva on August 26, 2019.

The proposal to list the otters was floated by Bangladesh, India, Nepal and the Philippines. They were both accepted by vote with more than the required two-thirds majority.

Both species have been at high risk due to great demand for their skins as well as for them to be used as pets. Both were earlier listed in Appendix II of CITES, which mandates that trade in a species must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival.  

Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.

Both species are classified on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, as facing a ‘high risk of extinction in the wild’ and are listed as ‘vulnerable’.

Between 1980 and 2018, there were more than 250 seizures of pelts or live otters, representing a total of 6,010 individual otters, including Asian otters, according to the CITES trade database.

“An Appendix I listing for these otter species will send an important message to unscrupulous traders, add further trade controls and enhance scrutiny of captive-breeding operations. We have been particularly concerned by the increasing online trade in otters for the pet market,” Matt Collis, director, international policy, International Fund for Animal Welfare or IFAW, said in a press statement.

He added that there appeared to be a growing interest in otters among consumers, with a number of ‘otter cafes’ where people could interact with the animals in Japan. Online research had also found otter pelts advertised for sale online. “With populations of both species estimated to have declined by at least 30 per cent in the last 30 years, this is an important conservation victory,” said Collis.

CITES CoP 2019 opened in Geneva on August 17 and will conclude on August 28.

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