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River otter found in Japan for 1st time in 38 years

Jiji Press

This image provided by the University of the Ryukyus shows what is believed to be a wild river otter on Tsushima Island, Nagasaki Prefecture, on Feb. 6.

Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The University of the Ryukyus captured a wild river otter on video in Nagasaki Prefecture in February, marking the first discovery of the creature in the country in 38 years, the university said Thursday.

The Environment Ministry collected droppings in a field survey conducted in July and detected river otter DNA in them. The ministry will carry out an investigation to determine whether the otter is a Japanese river otter.

The Japanese river otter, whose scientific name is Lutra nippon, inhabited wide areas of Japan until the 1868-1912 Meiji era, but its population decreased chiefly due to overhunting for its fur.

The species was last found in Kochi Prefecture in 1979. It was designated as an extinct species on the ministry’s red list of threatened species in 2012.

“Judging from the animal’s facial and tail features, it’s certainly a river otter, but we’re not sure if it’s a Japanese river otter,” Prof. Masako Izawa at the university, told a press conference in Tokyo.

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[Released on August 17, 2017]
Courtesy of University of the Ryukyus
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