This tiny baby otter rescued recently near a popular market in Thailand is all kinds of cute – but for local wildlife rehabilitators, its story also highlights the threats these animals face, including a growing pet trade that plays on their adorableness.

Image: WFFT


"Oscar" the otter (an alliteratively appropriate new moniker) came to the attention of the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) after a local resident claimed to have found him, alone and in need of care, near the vast Chatuchak Weekend market in Bangkok.

According to WFFT, Oscar is an oriental small-clawed otter (Amblonyx cinerea) and is only about three months old. At this age in the wild, he'd be completely dependent on his mother for milk, spending all his time by her side.

It’s not clear how this tiny mustelid came to be on his own, but it's possible he's just one of a growing number of oriental small-clawed otters bred for the pet trade across southeast Asia. The species is the smallest of the world's otters, and its miniature size and charismatic nature only serve to increase demand for the animals as pets.

"We are hearing reports of otter ‘farms’ where many are being purposely bred for the pet trade," says WFFT in a Facebook update.

Add habitat loss, hunting for fur and pollution of its food sources to the mix, and you have a species that's at increasingly serious risk, now listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

Whatever Oscar's origins might be, WFFT says the youngster will be receiving round-the-clock care over the next few months, until he is old enough to be introduced to the other otters at the centre.

Image: WFFT
Image: WTTF
Image: WFFT
Image: WFFT
Image: WFFT
Image: WFFT
Image: WFFT


Top header image: Joachim S. Müller, Flickr