60% of animal cafes in Japan harbor species restricted by international trade laws, study finds

Some 60% of animal cafes in Japan contain exotic species restricted by international trade laws, raising fears that their popularity may not just threaten their conservation, but may also heighten the risk of animal-borne diseases, a recent study found.

There were 137 such cafes as of 2019, with the popularity of the businesses and demand for the animals potentially triggering overhunting in their native habitats, according to the study by institutions including France’s Sorbonne University and the non-governmental organization Traffic, which is headquartered in Britain. The cafes allow customers to pet animals, such as owls or hedgehogs, or watch them up close.

“We need to implement measures whereby an animal’s biology and behavioral characteristics are given the utmost consideration, and only educational facilities such as zoos are allowed” to keep them, said Yumiko Okamoto of Traffic, established by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the International Union for Conservation of Nature to monitor the trade of wild animals and plants.

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