We Remember the Japanese River Otter

Remember back in November when we brought you a tribute to extinct creatures inspired by Remembrance Day for Lost Species. This month ONCA is remembering the Japanese river otter. Volunteer researcher Matthew Stanfield tells us why.

 

 Japanese river otter (Lutra lutra whiteleyi) as depicted on a stamp issued in 1974, via StampCommunity.org

Japanese river otter (Lutra lutra whiteleyi) as depicted on a stamp issued in 1974, via StampCommunity.org

 

Generally considered a subspecies of the Eurasian otter, Japanese river otters were plentiful until the mid-nineteenth century. Fur hunting, combined with habitat destruction & degradation during the Meiji period of Japanese history, rendered them vulnerable. In the 1930s, their population crashed. After WWII only a handful of confirmed sightings were made, with the last of these coming in 1979 when a single animal was spotted.

In 1989, a study using preserved genetic material from the Japanese river otter suggested it was distinct enough from the Eurasian otter to be considered a species in its own right. During the 1990s several searches were undertaken in the hope of finding surviving otters. These were unsuccessful and the Japanese river otter was officially declared extinct on 28 August 2012.

 

For a reminder of our featured tribute by Lela Tredwell published on Remembrance Day for Lost Specices click here. For more information on the day and the leading souls behind it follow @lostspeciesday, check out lostspeciesday.org and get involved on Facebook