International campaign against fur trade launched to protect otters.17/04/2007 00:00:00
CONSERVATION STATUS OF OTTERS:
778 Otter Skins Seized
Recently there was a massive haul of 778 otter skins in Tibet and we are regularly getting reports of more and more skins found. Two days ago we had an email from Cambodia which said that a research team at the Tonle Sap Lake had just found 10 skins of smooth-coated otters and 6 skins of hairy-nosed otters at four different village houses. And this is just the tip of the iceberg as this is just one small area and just one find.’
Hairy Nosed Otter – Once Thought Extinct
It is even more worrying that many of the skins being traded are from the hairy-nosed otter, which was believed to be extinct in 1998 but small populations have been found in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. At this rate of hunting the hairy nosed otter will very soon be really extinct and this time there will be no great discovery of remnant populations.
Tibet is Main Market
The main market for the furs is Tibet, where otter fur forms part of the national dress, the chupa – one chupa may have skins from as many as six otters! These costumes are worn at many of the festivals and official state functions and the wearing of highly decorated fur costumes is seen as a means of demonstrating the wealth and status of Tibetan culture. Tibet has also been a notable market for tiger and leopard skins for the same reason.
In many countries wildlife crime is not seen as a matter of high priority and therefore there is only minimal effort in terms of money and enforcement. However the UN has recognised that it is a serious issue of trans-national organised crime, second only after guns, which even has a negative impact on the economy and social structure of the countries involved.
The new Furget-me-not campaign will raise funds to start immediate work in Cambodia using a team of researchers already working there. They will train local rangers and government staff to ensure the legal protection of otters is enforced and encourage the local communities to take part in the otter conservation programme.
Dr Yoxon said ‘IOSF is launching this campaign to combat the otter fur trade as a matter of urgency because without doubt this illegal trade is threatening the otters’ future existence. Most otters are captured by fishermen who are very poor and simply seek to earn additional money. By engaging these fishermen into the research and conservation of the otters instead of shunning them as hunters and problematic villagers, we can give these people an otter-friendly alternative to their destructive activities and provide real protection for the otters.’
Anyone interested in helping with this campaign should go to www.furgetmenot.org.uk