River Otter Search Starts on Southwestern Japan Island


Tokyo, Aug. 28 (Jiji Press)—The Environment Ministry on Monday launched a research project on the island of Tsushima hoping to confirm the existence of the Japanese river otter, an endemic species that has been declared extinct, after an otter was discovered recently on the southwestern Japan island.

In the research across the island in Nagasaki Prefecture, some 10 members including experts will until around late September look for droppings and hairs of otters for DNA analysis, as well as dens and other clues about their inhabitation, the ministry said.

The search for traces of the Japanese river otter, whose scientific name is Lutra lutra whiteleyi (or Lutra nippon, as claimed by some scientists who believe it to be a distinct species rather than a variant of the Eurasian otter Lutra lutra) followed the University of the Ryukyus' release earlier this month of video footage taken on Tsushima in February that confirmed the existence of an otter in the country for the first time in 38 years.

In a field survey it conducted in July upon the university's report about the otter discovery, the ministry sampled droppings that were believed to be from two otters.

The DNA sequence detected in one dropping seemed to be close to that of an otter species found in South Korea and other places. But the samples were one to two months old and their conditions were so bad that sufficient DNA data could not be collected, people familiar with the matter said.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

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