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Asian Otters

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.

Asian Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus)

SIZE 65-90cm
WEIGHT 2-6kg
DIET Crabs, Molluscs and other bottom living organisms.
OFFSPRING 4-5 cubs
THE THREAT TO THE SPECIES: There is still a demand for live specimens for pets and zoos; hunted for furs; habitat destruction is becoming an increasing problem.
CITES Appendix I

Asian Short Clawed Otter
Photo: Rene Limjoco

Also known as the Asian Short Clawed Otter, Oriental Small Clawed Otter or the Malaysian Small Clawed Otter. The Asian Small-clawed Otter is the smallest of all otters, measuring a mere 65-90cm, and  hardly ever reaching 5kg.  Unlike the Eurasian Otter its front feet are only partially webbed, but it has short claws for  digging in the mud and lifting rocks. If you ever get close to an Asian Small-clawed Otter take a look at its front feet closely: they are masters at using these front paws to catch prey, and are the only mammals other than the primates to use these with almost human dexterity.  They are very group orientated, and as many as 15 can be seen together although it is more common to find groups of 4-8. Their birdlike squeaks help them to locate each other in the wild, but their social vocabulary goes much further than this and they have developed something like 12 or more different calls. 

Research has shown that the groups are composed of a dominant pair together with offspring from successive litters and it is thought that the males and females pair for life.  They have large litters of 4 or 5 cubs, and can produce 2 litters per year, with commonly both parents bringing up the young;  however, unlike the Eurasian Otter they are not very good at rearing these young. 

Asian Small-clawed Otters live in a variety of diverse habitats from mangrove swamps to small streams and marshy areas, searching for crabs and small fish. They are largely nocturnal, returning to the cover of the bankside vegetation during the day. 

Troubles exist in Asia for these otters: they are killed for their pelts and for their organs which are believed to have medicinal value. Also many cubs are taken from the wild for pets and the demand for otter pets is increasing. For more information on trade go to our Illegal Trade page.

There are also threats due to pollution and habitat destruction. The activities of many western logging companies result in siltation of the waterways and damage to streams used by these otters.

Distribution of the Asian Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus)

Data based on Otters of the World (IOSF 2017) which is available at the Otter shop.