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Asian Otters

Find out more about our Asian projects (Helping Otters in Asia)

Asia is the home of five species of otter and more information is shown below:

Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra)
Smooth-coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)
Hairy-nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana)
Asian Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus)


Species: Eurasian Otter

The species is vulnerable (de Silva 2006), but no recent information is available.

Legal Protection: Not known

Threats: Hunting.


Species: Asian Small-clawed, Smooth-coated and Eurasian Otter

The Asian Small-clawed Otter is very rare. The Smooth-coated Otter is the commonest species although numbers are shrinking. The Eurasian otter has a sporadic small population found in Chittagong and Chittagong hill tracts and in the wetlands of Mymensingh and Syhet (de Silva 2006).Rapid degredation in the forest regions has occurred as a result of widespread transformation, degredation and destruction of habitat. (IUCN 2007 Abstract)

Legal Protection: Protected

Threats: Habitat destruction, illegal hunting, killed by fishermen.


Species: Asian Small-clawed, Smooth-coated and Eurasian Otter ( No recent information is available (de Silva 2006))

Legal Protection: Not known.

Threats: Not known.


Borneo is actually divided into three countries:  Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.  So please see these countries for further information.


Species: Asian Small-clawed, Smooth-coated and Hairy-nosed Otter?

The Asian Small-clawed Otter is common, while the Smooth-coated and Hairy-nosed otters are rare (de Silva 2006).

Legal Protection: Not known.

Threats: Not known.


Species: Smooth-coated , Eurasian, Hairy-nosed and Asian Small-clawed Otter Otter.IUCN 2007 Abstract

The most recent information on Cambodian otters was published in the IUCN Otter Specialists Group Bulletin - Distribution of Otters in the Tropeang Roung, Koh Kong Province, Cambodia Pages 63 - 77 by Tangkor Dong, Monorum Tep, Sotheary Lim, Sophall Soun and Tevy Chrin.

The Smooth-coated Otter is present in the Mekong river and its tributaries. In 1998 the Hairy-nosed otter was found in the Cardamom mountain area to the southwest of the country, it is also present in the Tonle Sap Great Lake. (Wildlife Conservation Society). In the late 1990's otters lived in Sihanoukville in tidal ponds and marshy areas off the coast. These were taken in 2003 for pets by people from Phom Penh. (Rich Garella, 2003)

Legal Protection: Eurasian and hairy-nosed otters protected by Forestry Law (2002). Asian small-clawed and smooth-coated not protected.

Threats: 30 year war destroyed vast areas of forest, pollution, hunting otter furs


Species: Asian Small-clawed, Smooth-coated and Eurasian Otter.

Smooth-coated Otters are found in the southwest area of Yunnan province and the coastal area of Guandong. The Eurasian Otter is widespread with five sub-species. Asian Small-clawed Otters occur along the southern boundary of China.

Legal Protection: All three species protected by Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Wildlife (1989) – Class II.

Threats: Habitat destruction and illegal hunting have resulted in serious damage to the otter population.

Otters used to be widespread in China except for a few provinces in arid zones but now they are hardly ever observed in the wild. Spraints or footprints can be occasionally observed in only a few provinces near streams, reservoirs or protected areas. Based on the China National Wetlands Survey completed in 2003, otters could only be detected in 12 provinces and 3 autonomous regions, and are rare in 9 of the 15 provinces and regions. In the Changbaishan Mountain nature reserve numbers of otters declined by 99% between 1975 and 2010.

Hong Kong

Species: Eurasian Otter.

Thought to be extinct in the mid 1990s the otter was again sighted in the Mai Po Nature Reserve in 1998. A PhD study of these otters was begun in 2016.

Legal Protection: Protected by Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (1976).

Threats: Hunting and habitat destruction.


Species: Eurasian, Asian Small-clawed and Smooth-coated Otter.

All species are becoming rare outside the protected National Parks. The Asian Small-clawed is the rarest and is found on the foothills of the Himalayas. The Smooth-coated Otter is found throughout India and the Eurasian Otter occurs in the foothills of the western Himalayas and in the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Goa in the south. (de Silva 2006)

Eurasian otters have been found in Lake Kribco near the city of Surat in South Gujarat. It is believed that this is the only site for this otter in South Gujarat and the lake is now protected. At times the otters move to another lake, Lake Gaver, which is about 6km away and this lake has been adopted by a non-governmental organisation, Nature Club Surat, for conservation of the wetlands - for further information

Legal Protection: All three species protected by The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 – Schedule I & II.

Threats: Habitat destruction, pollution and illegal hunting.

IOSF funded projects

1999 - Funded rehabilitation and release programme for a Smooth-coated Otter cub in Bangalore


Wildlife Society of India
Hunting by professional poachers
Nature Club Surat


Species: Eurasian, Asian Small-clawed, Smooth-coated and the Hairy-nosed Otter.

Hairy-nosed otters were found in 2003 in Sumba fresh waters, especially the Melolo river. In 2005 this picture was taken of a Hairy Nosed otter road kill from Sumatra. Since then more Hairy-Nosed otters have been reported in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

As far as we know there are no otters on Bali.

Legal Protection: Eurasian and hairy-nosed otters protected by Government Regulation No 5/1990 on Conservation of Natural Resources & the Ecosystem, Government Regulation No 7/1999 on Preservation of Flora & Fauna. Asian small-clawed and smooth-coated otters not protected.

Threats: Pollution, habitat destruction, road mortality and taking from the wild as pets. At the beginning of 2013 at least 800 otter pet owners were known in the Jakarta alone.

In March 2013 a workshop was held in Java to train people to do more otter research and education/public awareness. The government requested recommendations for further action and these were presented at the end of the workshop. These included legal protection for Asian small-clawed and smooth coated otters. An Indonesian Otter Network has been formed with their own Facebook page and pet owners are starting to think about giving up their otters for care at a proper sanctuary.


Species: Eurasian and Smooth-coated Otter

The Eurasian Otter can be found in rivers and lakes in the Zagros, Elburz and Koppe-Dagh mountain range and in the Iranian Azarbaiejan. Otters are also found south of the Caspian Sea in the Golestan province. Smooth-coated otters are also present in the border region with Iraq. (Addy de Jongh 2015 personal communication). The Smooth- coated Otter may be present as it is common in Pakistan and Iraq. In 1997 furs harvested on the Iran and Iraq border were from Smooth-coated Otters.

Legal Protection: Legally protected.

Threats: Pollution, habitat destruction and road mortality.


Species: Eurasian and Smooth-coated Otter (sub-species maxwellii, also called Maxwell’s Otter, Iraq Smooth-coated Otter, Mesopotamian Otter, Arabian Otter)

Both European and Smooth-coated otter are thriving in Iraq and became very rare after the Iraqi marshlands inundation in 2003. The Maxwell’s Otter “Iraq Smooth-coated Otter” is endemic to the Iraqi marshes. The numbers of both species decreased dramatically due to hunting, trapping, and habitat loss and destruction (i.e. marshland drainage). The adult otters are targeted by Marsh Arabs or local fishermen in order to collect their fur, while their cubs are trapped to be raised as pets or trained to help anglers in fishing. Iraqi legislation regulates hunting of both species under Iraqi wildlife protection law n. 17 issued in 2010. Indeed, the protection of otters is an environmental responsibility that needs to be achieved at a national level by Iraq. Recently, the government has made an important first step for the achievement of this goal by signing (2013) the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Hence, restrictions against the illegal commerce of live otters as well as of their parts (e.g., skins) are in force, as the European and smooth-coated otter are listed in Appendix I and II, respectively.

Legal Protection: Protected under Iraqi wildlife protection law n. 17 issued in 2010.

Threats: Illegal hunting/trapping, habitat loss and fragmentation (marshlands drought)


Species: Eurasian Otter.

Until the middle of the 20th century otters were abundant in Israel in all coastal rivers from the Lebanese border in the north to the Soreq river in the south as well as along the Jordan river including the Hula Lake and the sea of Galilee. Surveys in the 1990s found it had virtually gone from the coastal areas with healthy populations in the Jordan river catchments including Lake Tiberias and an estimate of the total Israel population is only about 100.

Signs of otters have been found on three occasions in recent years - in 1986, 2000 and 2006. This probably indicates sporadic transient otters from the Lebanese coast, and may represent an important source of genetic variability for the largely isolated Israeli otter population. Click

IOSF has been trying to raise funds for a project in Israel. Here is the latest update we have from our colleague Amit Dolev.

“We understand that all the otter population (about 100-200 otters) in Israel is present only in one catchment system (Jordan river), without the ability to connect to historic population sites along the coastal plain. Also genetic work suggests that the Israel population is possibly disconnected to the northern otter population and has a very low genetic variety. This status of the otter population, with the lack of possibilities to widen their distribution area to nearby regions as wetlands are not abundant in Israel, convinces us of the importance of our work in order to conserve the otter in Israel. It would seem that the only option is to translocate individuals to historic areas where otters have become extinct in recent decades.”

If you would like to donate towards this project please send a cheque marked “Israel” on the back.

Legal Protection: Protected..

Threats: Pollution, habitat destruction and road mortality.


The Japanese otter was officially declared extinct in 2012 but is actually believed to have died out in the 1990's. They are now looking into the possibility of a reintroduction programme in Hokkaido, and in October 2014 IOSF was invited to a workshop at Shiretoko National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An important part of the workshop was to visit potential release sites to assess food availability and habitat and to consider how any reintroduction should be carried out. In September 2015 Takahiro Murakami made a return visit to Skye to look at sites where otters are still found and to see examples of education work carried out by IOSF.

Otters are an important part of Japanese culture, so they want to bring them back before people forget. The Japanese otter is believed to have been a subspecies of the Eurasian otter, but it is also possible that it was a separate species altogether.

Legal Protection: Protected by Act on Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora (1992)


Species: Eurasian Otter.

Declining and only found in the Jordan, Yarmouk and Zarka rivers.

Legal Protection: Protection

Threats: Pollution and accidental deaths in fish traps.


Species: Eurasian, Asian Small-clawed, Smooth-coated and Hairy-nosed Otter. (de Silva 2006)

Legal Protection: All four species protected by Wildlife & Aquatic Law (2007).

Threats: Habitat destruction.


Species: Eurasian Otter.

After an absence of nearly 40 years, the European Otter Lutra lutra has been seen at the Aammiq Wetland, a Rocha's study site in Lebanon. One of the reserve staff recently enjoyed a brief sighting, and in April, the visiting A Rocha France Scientific Officer, François Tron, found otter spraints. The otter's presence is a sign that this very important wetland is becoming increasingly significant for scarce mammals, amphibians, birds and other animals.

Legal Protection: Not known.

Threats: Not known.


Species: Eurasian, Smooth-coated, Hairy-nosed and Asian Small-clawed Otter.

Only Small-clawed and Smooth-coated are found in peninsula Malaysia, while in eastern Malaysia all four species exist. The Hairy-nosed Otter population occurs in peat swamp forest near Nenasi.

In 2009 a research team working in Deramakot Forest Reserve, in the Malaysian state of Sabah, at the northern end of the island of Borneo, took a photo of a Hairy-nosed Otter with a camera trap. This was the first record in Sabah in more than a hundred years. 

In 2013 Nick Baker, a wildlife enthusiast who runs, visited the western side of Taman Negara, Peninsular Malaysia, where he saw and photographed a hairy-nosed otter. Before this there had only been a couple of confirmed sightings of the species in Peninsular Malaysia in the last 50 years

A. Sebastian (1995) - The Hairy-Nosed Otter in Peninsular Malaysia

Legal Protection: All four species protected by Wildlife Conservation Act (2010), Wild Life Protection Ordinance (1998), Wildlife Conservation Enactment (1997). But the Eurasian otter is not listed as a protected species in Sabah, and so is only protected in wildlife sanctuaries with other wildlife.

Threats: Habitat destruction and pesticides.


Species: Eurasian Otter.

Otters can be found in low numbers in two areas: Northern Mongolia in the Shhshid river in the Khuvsgul provinces and eastern Mongolia in the Khalk gol and Numrug rivers in Dornod province. (Enkhbold 2004)

Legal Protection: Fully protected since 1930.

Threats: Not known.

Myanmar (formerly Burma)

Species: Asian Small-clawed, Smooth-coated and Eurasian Otter.(de Silva 2006) Hairy-nosed otters used to be present in northern Myanmar (formerly Burma) and there are reports that they may still be there but this has not yet been confirmed.

Duckworth and Hills (2008) - A Specimen of Hairy-Nosed Otter Lutra sumatrana from Far Northern Myanmar

The Smooth-coated Otter is widely distributed but no other information is available.

Legal Protection: Eurasian, Asian small-clawed and smooth-coated otters protected by Protection of Wildlife & Wild Plants & Conservation of Natural Areas Law (1994) but the hairy-nosed otter as it is not recognised as existing in the country.

Threats: Not known.


Species: Eurasian Otter, Smooth-coated otter and the Asian small-clawed otter

The presence of otters has been confirmed in 24 districts of Nepal covering both lowland and hilly regions. Citation: Kafle, G. (2009)

Otters have declined in Nepal with the status of the Asian Small-clawed unknown (de Silva 2006) The Eurasian Otter has been found in Begnas and the Rupa lakes and the West Seti basin (de Silva 2006) The Smooth-coated Otter occurs in the rivers Karnali, Mahakali, Koshi and Narayani rivers.

Volume 28 of the IUCN Otter Specialists Group Bulletin gives an update on the distribution and threats to otters in Nepal.

Legal Protection: Eurasian and smooth-coated otters protected by Aquatic Life Protection Act 1961, National Parks & Wildlife Conservation Act 1973. Asian small-clawed otters only protected in National Parks.

Threats: Fishing conflicts, habitat destruction and disturbance.

IOSF funded projects:

2003 - Survey of the Smooth-coated Indian Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) in the Karnali River of Royal Bardia National Park, Nepal

2004 - Survey of the Smooth Indian Otter Lutra perspicillata in the Karnali River of Bardia National Park by Tej Thapa

2008 - Survey of Otters in Pokhara Valley Lakes of Nepal by Gandhiv Kafle

2012 - Survey of Lutrogale perspicillata in Babai Valley of Bardiya National Park by Paras Acharya

First issue of Journal of Wetland Ecology - The first issue of 'Journal of Wetlands Ecology' has been published - it is a half-yearly online journal from the Wetland Friends of Nepal (WFN) dedicated to the exchange and dissemination of information related to wetland issues connecting wetlands, human and wildlife. The journal publishes peer-reviewed research papers, review papers, project papers, short notes, news and any relevant information related to wetland issues. This journal provides immediate open access to its content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge. The journal can be accessed via its website

In the first issue are articles on "Otters in Nepal: Urgent need for action" and "Preliminary survey and awareness for otter conservation in Rupa Lake, Pokhara, Nepal.

North Korea

Species: Eurasian otter.

Otters are protected in three reserves: Sinyang Otter Reserve, Daehung Otter Reserve and Popdong Otter Reserve. Otters also inhabit the upper reaches of all the major North Korean rivers.

Legal Protection: Not known.

Threats: Not known.


Species: Smooth-coated and Eurasian Otter.

The Eurasian Otter is not common and occurs in the Northwest Frontier Province. The Smooth-coated Otter is more common and can be found again in the Northwest Frontier Province. Good areas for the Smooth coated otter are Haleji, Hadero, kennjhar lake bufferzone, Zangi Nawar Lake,Ucchali, Khabbika, Jalar lake bufferzone,The Sind and Mekran coast, Indus Delta and River system and Rawal Lake.(de Silva 2006).

An update on the situation in Pakistan was published in the IUCN Otter Specialists Group Bulletin in 2010 - Otter Conservation In Pakistan Pages 89 - 92 by Waseem Ahmad Khan and Hussain Bux Bhagat.

The Pakistan Wildlife Foundation was founded by Waseem Khan after attending the Cambodian Otter Workshop in 2007.  In the mammals section on the website ( you will find further information on otters in Pakistan.

Legal Protection: Both species are fully protected.

Threats: Overhunting and damming of rivers.


Species: Asian Small-clawed Otter.

Occurs in estuaries, tidal areas and rivers throughout the Philippines.

Legal Protection: Protected by Wildlife Resources Conservation & Protect Act RA9147 (2001).

Threats: Loss of habitat due to logging and mining.


Species: Asian Small-clawed and Smooth-coated Otter. ( Thought to be extinct (de Silva 2006))

Single Asian Small-clawed family lives on Pulau Tekong Besar, an island north east of the main island. The Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, at the northern edge of the country, is also part of the East Asian Migratory Flyway in which countless birds migrate each year from Siberia and China to Australia and New Zealand, and back again, it is the home for a family of Smooth coated otters.

Smooth-coated otters are now regularly seen in Singapore and in 2016 there were reported to be 50 otters in the country. There are families in Bishan, Tanah Merah, Serangoon and Pulau Ubin and the Bishan 10 family were chosen to represent the country’s 51st year. However there are some problems in Sentosa where they are taking fish out of ponds in residential homes or luxury hotels. An Otter Working Group has been set up to look into these issues and includes representatives from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, National Parks Board, Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, National University of Singapore, Wildlife Reserves Singapore and OtterWatch.

Legal Protection: Both species protected by Wild Animals & Birds Act (1965).

Threats: Disturbance of waterways and mining activity.

South Korea

Species: Eurasian otter.

Endangered and rare.

It is distributed in rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs. Recently it has undergone a dramatic decline due to overhunting and habitat loss.(IUCN2007)

Legal Protection: Protected by Protection of Wild Fauna & Flora Act (2004).

Threats: Not known.

Sri Lanka

Species: Eurasian otter.

Once was widespread from sea level to the mountains but today very restricted. (de Silva 2006)

Legal Protection: Protected.

Threats: Pesticide pollution and hydro-electric dams.


Species: Eurasian otter.

Found on the river Euphrates but numbers have dropped over the last 40 years following construction of the Tabagua dam.

Legal Protection: Not known.

Threats: Hunting and dam construction.


Species: Eurasian otter.

Reported in 1998 on Kinmen and Little Kinmen islands, Taiwan.

Legal Protection: Protected by Wildlife Conservation Law (1989).

Threats: Not known.


Species: Eurasian, Asian Small-clawed, Smooth-coated and Hairy-nosed Otter.

The Hairy-nosed Otter was thought to be extinct in 1998 but a population was found in 1999 in the Toa Daeng peat swamp in southern Thailand. The Eurasian Otter was thought to be extinct in 1990 but it was found in Uthai Thani province in southern Thailand in 1994. The Asian Small-clawed is found in many National Parks throughout Thailand with large numbers in the western forested areas.(de Silva 2006)

The Smooth-coated Otter occurs in western and southern areas and is common in the Mekong delta.

Legal Protection: All four species protected by Wild Animals Preservation & Protection Act (1992).

Threats: Habitat destruction, illegal killing, pollution to waterways.

IOSF funded projects:

2001 - Hairy-nosed Otter project in Thailand

2001 - First pictures of Hairy-nosed Otter in Thailand.


At the present time there is no evidence that otters still exist in Tibet but they certainly seem to have been present in the past.

Both the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) and Asian Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus) are listed for Tibet in several authories most recently on - Otters are listed in the foreward and the section about them is HERE

A book claims both species for Tibet


Species: Eurasian, Asian Small-clawed, Smooth-coated and Hairy-nosed Otter.(de Silva 2006)

Otters occur throughout the country in a variety of habitats, but all four species are threatened and need urgent conservation measures.
The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has added Vietnam’s Kien Giang biosphere reserve to its global list of biospheres.

The Kien Giang province’s People’s Committee, said the official ceremony would take place after the issue is formally discussed at the 19th session of the International Co-ordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program in October.The document of accession will be signed by Koïchiro Matsuura, UNESCO director-general.

The 1.1 million hectare Kien Giang biosphere reserve consists of three core areas: U Minh Thuong National Park, Phu Quoc National Park, and Kien Luong – Kien Hai protected coastal forest.

It has a varied ecology comprising tropical rain forests, melaleuca forests, salt-marsh forests, submerged forests, savanna, coral reefs, and seagrass.

It is also home to some endangered species listed like the dugong (Dugong dugon), red headed crane (Grus vipio) , and hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana).

Otter distribution maps ( From Small carnivores in Vietnam, September 2004)

Asian Small-clawed Otter, Eurasian, Smooth-coated, Hairy-nosed (In black)

Legal Protection: All four species protected by Decree No 32/2006/ND-CP, Decree No 59/2005/ND-CP, Decree 157/2013/ND-CP.

Threats: Habitat destruction due to Vietnam war - even now there are still effects from the use of Agent Orange. Illegal killing by fishermen, pollution to waterways.

IOSF funded projects

Results of the Hairy-nosed Otter project in Vietnam