Last week, Japan’s Environment Minister declared the Japanese river otter extinct. There has not been a confirmed sighting of the Japanese river otter since 1979.
The Japanese river otter was a common animal up until modern times, even swimming in the waters around Tokyo. In the 1930s, the population of otters shrank. Human population growth contributed to habitat destruction and pollution of the waters the otter depended on to survive.
However, the largest contributor to their extinction was likely hunting. Japanese river otters grew to more than a meter long and had thick, dark brown fur, perfect for a fashionable winter coat.
Confirmed sightings of the otters were in 1964 in the Seto Inland Sea, 1972 and 1973 in the Uwa Sea, and 1979 in the mouth of the Shinjo River in Susaki. Droppings and some fur were found in 1992 in Kochi Prefecture and in 1994 researchers found urine from an otter. Some more droppings were found in 1999. Since then, there has been no indication of Japanese river otters.
The video shows footage of Japanese river otters.