I got pretty excited when I saw this animal swimming in a river not far from Paris. At first, I thought it was an otter, albeit a really overweight one. Then I figured it must be some kind of European beaver, so I was pretty excited as I watched it, thinking I was seeing some rare animal.
It turns out that it’s a Coypu, and it’s a pest. The river rodent is neither rare nor loved. It’s an invasive species bought over from South America to Europe and Asia so it could be farmed for its fur. However, when some of those animals escaped, they quickly spread as they had few, if any, natural predators in the areas they were introduced to.
Only the UK has managed to eradicate the coypu, declaring its rivers free from the pest in 1989. Efforts to control its numbers have failed most everywhere else.
In the United States, where the animal is called a nutria, efforts to control its spread have been combined with the fashion industry. A company called Righteous Fur based in southeast Louisiana has dubbed nutria fur as “guilt free” and uses the slogan “Save Our Wetlands: Wear More Nutria.” It sounds objectionable on some level, but the company points out that this animal was introduced by humans to an eco-system where it has no business being, and where its presence poses a real threat to the natural and fragile equilibrium.
In the UK, writer A.A Gill is proud to wear coats made from the river rodent. “When you object to fur, you draw an arbitrary line through evolution,” he wrote in a Sunday Times article.
“Would you wear something that had been made from an animal that had been boiled alive, simply because it was luxurious and swanky? Probably not. But then again, probably yes: your knickers, your shirt, your dressing gown, your tie, your frock, your hanky. Silk is made from boiling the pupa of a moth. It’s not a worm, it’s an infant. But maybe you don’t mind, because it hasn’t got legs or an identifiable face.” wrote Gill.
So as I bring this post to an end, I have no conclusion to offer, other than Googling ‘fat otter’ completely ruined the excitement I felt when I saw it. Thanks, Google!