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  Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
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Smooth Otter

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5

Fig 6


Family : Mustelidae
Species : Lutrogale perspicillata

Head-body length : 52-75 cm
Tail length : 35-45 cm
Weight : 7-11 kg

A medium-sized species, the Smooth Otter inhabits coastal areas such as estuaries and mangroves, and inland water bodies such as lakes and reservoirs. They are usually encountered in family groups of around 4 to 6 individuals which may include near-adult offspring from different breeding seasons. The litter comprises one or two cubs.

They feed on fish, shellfish and crustaceans. Identifying features include the buff-coloured throat and underparts, the short, smooth fur and the hairless nose. The feet are large and webbed, and the tail somewhat flattened.

The Smooth Otter ranges throughout mainland Southeast Asia as far west as India, and in Sumatra. In Singapore, the species has become more common in recent years, having become adapted to highly modified aquatic habitats such as reservoirs and wide, concretised storm drains, where it feeds mainly on non-native fish species.

In 2017 the population of Smooth Otter in Singapore was been proven to be a rare hybrid between Lutrogale perspicillata and Aonyx cinerea (Moretti et al, 2017).

Fig 1 : An adult pair (male in foreground) keep watch over their unruly pups.

Fig 2 : Smooth Otter pups are highly boisterous and playful.

Fig 3 : The pups return to their parents.

Fig 4 : Muddy mangrove inlet at low tide - a habitat favoured by the Smooth Otter.

(Figs 1 to 4 from Sungei Buloh, Singapore).

Fig 5 : Adult male consuming a fish in a freshwater canal at Byram, Penang state, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 6 : Lone adult consuming a fish in a mangrove inlet on Penang Island, Peninsular Malaysia.

References : M1, M2

Moretti, B., Al-Sheikhly, O.F., Guerrini, M., Theng, M., Gupta, B.K., Haba, M.K., Khan, W.A., Khan, A.A. &  Barbanera, F.  (2017). Phylogeography of the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata): distinct evolutionary lineages and hybridization with the Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinereus). Scientific Reports, 7.

Links :
Ring of Bright Water - A Close Encounter
with the Otters of Sungei Buloh

Conservation Links :
IUCN Otter Specialist Group
International Otter Survival Fund