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About Otters

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The Mustelid Family

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Otter-like animals have inhabited the earth for the last 30 million years and over the years have undergone subtle changes to the carnivore bodies to exploit the rich aquatic environment.

Otters are members of the Mustelid family which includes badgers, polecats, martens, weasels, stoats and mink.

You can find out more about each of the 13 species below and check out their current conservation status in the Red Data List.

You can find out more about each species in “Otters of the World” available at the Ottershop.

World of Otters

Our interactive map of otter locations around the world.

Hairy Nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana)

SIZE 1.05 to 1.34 m
WEIGHT 5 to 8 kg
HOME RANGE The otters will move from one area to the other often-travelling very long distances.
DIET Crabs and crayfish - also eat fish, molluscs, water snakes, birds and amphibians.
GESTATION Believed to be about 9 weeks.
CUBS 1-4 cubs
HABITAT A variety of habitats including flooded forest, coastal mangrove and Melaleuca forest, marshland and forest streams.
CITES Appendix II
THE THREAT TO THE SPECIES: The main threats to the otter are disturbance by human activities such as fishing, cultivating crops and vegetable. These activities cause various negative impacts on the otter habitat such as destruction of holts, reduction of food resources and pollution caused by the use of pesticides. Hunting is another major threat, particularly in south-east Asia - for every tiger skin found there are at least 10 otter skins and hunters can getup to $200 for each pelt.

The most recent information on this species has come from a report on work carried out in Cambodia. CITATION: Heng S., Dong T., Hon N. & Olsson, A. (2016) The hairy-nosed otter Lutra sumatrana in Cambodia: distribution and notes on ecology and conservation. Cambodian Journal of Natural History, 2016, 102–110.

Using camera traps they found that although otters are active throughout the day and night they are most active between 17.00-01.00. During the wet season they seem to prefer gallery forest habitat with wide canopies but as the waters subside they move to streams and ponds which still retained water.

Breeding in Cambodia takes place between November and March with the young being born in April to June. This means that the cubs are born when water levels are low and it is easier to catch fish which are restricted to smaller water bodies. There is also more land available for natal holts.

Reed Meadows: This consists of very tall reeds that are densely packed and can grow up to 3m. The standing water under the reeds supports abundant fish, crabs and molluscs.

Phragmites reed meadow

Open swamps: Water is shallow and covered by floating vegetation. The habitat has abundant fish for the otters but no cover so the otters only use these areas for foraging.

The open swamp habitat

Reed meadow mixed with mature trees: The ground has much shallow water and the habitat provides the otter with ample fishing the tree roots provide holts and dry land.

Canals: This is the main habitat for the otters, they provide the main feeding areas and the banks are dry covered with dense vegetation.

Canals and banks

Skin of Hairy Nosed Otter caught by hunters

Distribution of the Hairy Nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana)

Hairy-nosed Otters are present in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia (Sumatra and Java) and Sabah (Malaysia), but the populations are isolated and vulnerable. Their presence in Myanmar was confirmed in 2014 when a freshly killed animal was found in a market at Mong La. This is only the second record of this species for Myanmar and the first one was a skin collected in the north of the country in 1939.

Distribution of the Hairy Nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana)

Data based on Otters of the World (IOSF 2015)