Saturday, 1 September 2012

Japan declares its river otter extinct

Japan's Ministry of the Environment today declared the Japanese river otter (Lutra lutra whiteleyi) extinct. Last seen in 1979 in the city of Susaki on the island of Shikoku, the unique subspecies was killed-off by overhunting and loss of habitat due to development.

The extinction of the Japanese river otter represents another loss in Japan's endemic mammal. Already the nation has seen the extinction two wolves, two bats, and a sea lion: the Honshu wolf (Canis lupus hodophilax) and the Hokkaidō wolf (Canis lupus hattai); Sturdee's pipistrelle (Pipistrellus sturdeei) and the Okinawa flying fox (Pteropus loochoensis); and the Japanese sea lion (Zalophus californianus japonicus).

Up until the Twentieth Century, the Japanese river otter was common in rivers across the country, feeding on fish and shrimp. Several expeditions to discover the mammal were undertaken in the 1990s. Yoshihiko Machida, a researcher at Kochi University, told The Japan Daily Press that he believes the animal may still survive based on scat found in 1999.

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