Amid booming demand for them as pets in Japan, a ban on the international commercial trade of endangered otters found in Southeast Asia will take effect later this month to protect the animals, which are affected by habitat loss and smuggling.

Conservation groups have identified the Asian small-clawed otter as a species threatened with extinction, but the animals have recently become popular in Japan at "otter cafes," where customers can pay to touch them, and as pets, fueling illegal trading.

The ban will come into effect on Nov. 26 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.