World Otter Day highlights conservation efforts in Thailand

Photo courtesy of KhaoSod

Today marks World Otter Day, an initiative aimed to raise awareness about the protection of otters, classified as endangered wildlife. The International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) designated the last Wednesday of May each year to highlight the threats facing otters, such as habitat destruction, illegal fur trade, pollution, and poaching.

Otters, members of the weasel family, are the largest animals in this group, primarily feeding on fish. Out of the 13 species of otters existing globally, four are found in Thailand. These species are facing various levels of endangerment, with significant conservation efforts required to ensure their survival.

The smooth-coated otter is the most commonly found species in Thailand, inhabiting regions in the central and southern parts of the country. The Asian small-clawed otter, less common than the smooth-coated otter, can be seen in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the northern and southern regions.

The Eurasian otter, with its thicker fur, is found in the northern areas such as Doi Ang Khang in Chiang Mai. The hairy-nosed otter, the rarest of all, resides mainly in southern Thailand, particularly in the Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary and the mangrove forests along the Pattani River.

Presently, all four species are listed on the IUCN Red List, indicating their risk of extinction. The hairy-nosed otter is classified as endangered, while the smooth-coated and Asian small-clawed otters are deemed vulnerable. The Eurasian otter is categorised as near threatened.

Otters are typically found near water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and mangrove forests. They are carnivorous, consuming fish, crabs, and molluscs, and they play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of their aquatic ecosystems. As apex predators, otters control the population of their prey, contributing to the ecological equilibrium. The presence of otters is often an indicator of a healthy and thriving ecosystem.

Legal protection

In Thailand, otters are protected under the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act 2019. This law underscores the importance of otters in the natural food chain and the necessity of preserving their habitats. Removing otters from their natural environment not only disrupts the ecosystem but also violates legal protections.

Despite their charming appearance, otters should not be kept as pets. Doing so is illegal and disrupts the natural order of these skilled aquatic predators, reported KhaoSod.

By respecting wildlife laws and not disturbing natural habitats, individuals can contribute to conserving otter populations and ensuring the sustainability of their environments, said the IOSF.

“If we let otters remain in their natural habitats, we are not only complying with the law but also supporting the ecological balance.”

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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