A baby otter for a selfie: social networks on the dock
Posting selfies with a pet otter or other endangered animals may seem trivial, but ecologists say that this mode could lead to the extinction of some species.
“The illegal trade in otters has suddenly increased exponentially,” says Nicole Duplaix, who co-chairs the otter group at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
All Asian otter species have long been considered vulnerable or threatened due to the shrinking of their natural habitat and the illegal trade in their fur.
But environmentalists blame social networks for the frenzy that has spurred demand for baby otters in some Asian countries, particularly Japan, which poses a threat to the future of the world. ‘species.
The thousands of delegates who came to Geneva, Switzerland, to attend a conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), must take a decision on the protection of two species of sea otter. Asia particularly in danger.
The common otter, also known as the dwarf otter, and the smooth-haired otter are already listed on CITES Appendix II as endangered species, but India, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Philippines request that they be included in Annex I, which would mean a total ban on their international marketing.
Ecologists believe this approach is vital for both species, whose population has declined by at least 30% over the last 30 years and whose decline has further accelerated with the fashion of pet otters.
“There is a real desire to own these exotic animals that is powered by social networks,” according to Cassandra Koenen, of the Canadian NGO Wildlife not Pets.
Some accounts on Instagram and Facebook drain hundreds of thousands of subscribers, who post in turn tender comments on pictures of dwarf otters, such as “too cute” or “I want one”.
Ms. Duplaix recognizes that these are “very charismatic creatures”, while lamenting that “it is precisely their cute side that causes their loss”.
The selfies mask the suffering endured by this small mammal that lives in community in nature and that we place abruptly in captivity and isolation.
Ms. Koenen cited the many “gags videos” showing otters turning on themselves, which, for a trained eye, is the manifestation of “enormous suffering”.
Faced with this growing demand, hunters and fishermen in Indonesia are killing adult otters and carrying babies who are put in cages and shipped for pets.
The main destination is Japan, where a baby otter can be worth up to $ 10,000.