Otters are playful animals known for their curious and adventurous nature. While they typically spend most of their time in the water hunting for fish and other prey, they also enjoy exploring their surroundings on land. It’s not uncommon for otters to chase and play with small creatures they encounter, including butterflies. Otters chasing butterflies made the news. In an adorable clip, a family of otters is spotted chasing a butterfly around at the Memphis Zoo in Tennessee. They stole the hearts of thousands who saw the photos and videos of them chasing the butterflies around.
Otters love people and will do anything they can to help them. This includes helping fishermen maximize their haul. In Bangladesh, fishermen have been training otters to act as herders and chase large schools of fish into the nets for centuries. According to Time Magazine, the fishermen use otters “because they catch more fish than we can alone,” and the otters don’t catch the fish but help chase them towards the fishing nets. The “fishing is usually done at night, and the otters can help fishermen catch as many as 26 pounds of fish, crabs, and shrimp (Time).
There are 13 species of otter in total, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe from endangerment. Five of them are endangered, five are near-threatened, and two are considered vulnerable. Out of all the species in the world, the North American river otter is of the least concern. Mainly, they’re threatened by pollution, destruction of their habitat, poaching, and overfishing, most of which can be stopped and prevented by humans. Rogue fishing gear also poses a threat to them, which is yet another thing humans can easily change. According to Oceana, “it is thought that oil spills pose the greatest threat due to the proximity of sea otters to major tanker routes and their susceptibility to hypothermia if their fur comes into contact with oil.” The best way we can prevent this is to start rethinking how we treat the world. Humans are the biggest threat to nature, anyway.
Because they’re fragile and necessary for the ecosystem, the U.S. and international law have reinforced laws protecting sea otters. Otters were “hunted to the edge of extinction by fur traders in the 18th and 19th centuries, the few remaining sea otters (about 2,000 scattered in remnant colonies throughout the North Pacific rim) were first protected by the International Fur Seal Treaty in 1911. Sea otters in the United States received additional protections with the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s” (DOI). Reading this eases our anxiety. It looks like most humans are doing everything they can to help these little critters survive.