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Conservation win at CITES as vulnerable otters are given highest protection from trade


27 Aug 2019


Climate & Environment

(Geneva, Switzerland – 26 August 2019) – Two species of otter, at risk of future extinction due to the illegal pet trade as well as demand for their skins, have been awarded key Appendix I protections by the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Both Asian small-clawed otters and smooth-coated otters were previously listed on Appendix II of CITES, which provides some protection, but IFAW felt this was insufficient given that most current trade in the species is illegal, including from unverified and likely fraudulent captive breeding sources.

Matt Collis, IFAW Director, International Policy, and head of IFAW’s delegation at CITES, welcomed the decision, saying: “IFAW is very pleased with this outcome as we believe 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.”

CITES CoP18 opened in Geneva, Switzerland on August 17th and runs until this Wednesday.

Asian small-clawed otters are mostly traded for the pet trade, while smooth-coated otters are more in demand for their pelts, though there is crossover with both species.

Wild populations of both species met the criteria for Appendix I listing because they have suffered marked population declines based on reductions in range, habitat loss, decline in habitat quality and high levels of exploitation. In addition, both species are classified on the IUCN 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 representing a total of 6,010 individual otters, including Asian otters, according to the CITES trade database.

Collis added: “There appears to be a growing interest in otters among consumers, with a number of ‘otter cafes’ where people can interact with otters in Japan, and IFAW online research has also found otter pelts advertised for sale online. With populations of both species estimated to have declined by at least 30% in the last 30 years, this is an important conservation victory today as we work to reduce the human-made threats to these animals and protect them for future generations.”

The proposals were submitted by Bangladesh, India, Nepal and The Philippines. They were both accepted by vote with more than the required two-thirds majority.

IFAW works in more than 40 countries, to rescue and protect animals and their habitats, for a world where animals and people can thrive together. A team of IFAW experts are attending CITES CoP18 and are available for interview throughout.


For more information or to arrange interviews with IFAW experts please contact Clare Sterling on mobile +44 (0)7917 507717, email, or Christina Pretorius on mobile +41 779 114253 or +27 (0) 82 330 2558, email Skype interviews can be arranged on request.

CITES information and documents are available here:

IFAW is tweeting updates from the proceedings via various accounts including @Action4IFAW and @IFAWUK

Images and footage are available for media use

About the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) - The International Fund for Animal Welfare is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at


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