Vertebrate fauna of SE Asia
  

 

   
 
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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2022

 
     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

   
   
 
Eurasian Otter
   
   

Order : CARNIVORA
Family : Mustelidae
Species : Lutra lutra

Head-body length : 55-72 cm
Tail length : 38-48 cm
Weight : 7-12 kg

Lutra lutra (Eurasian Otter) is a widespread and highly adaptable mustelid whose range stretches from western Europe and northwest Africa to southern India and Sri Lanka, the Russian Far East, Korea and China (including Taiwan) and Southeast Asia.

In Southeast Asia most records are from freshwater habitats in hilly or montane areas in  Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Sumatra and Borneo(?) (Francis, 2019); this is the subspecies Lutra lutra barang, one of the smaller forms, whose numbers are badly impacted by hunting. It appears to be absent from coastal habitats which are dominated by the Smooth Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata).

Key features of Lutra lutra barang are summarised in Francis (2019); these include "upper parts dark brown, with paler chin and upper throat; fur dense, consisting of short hairs and longer, paler guard hairs producing a grizzled appearance; end of tail circular in cross-section".

Shown here are images of a female and cub from the Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK; females typically raise one or two cubs (occasionally three) single-handedly, with no assistance from the male in terms of hunting for food. (This is the nominate subspecies which extends across much of Europe; after decades of population decline due to water pollution and hunting, numbers are now on the increase in many parts of Europe.)

The diet of Lutra lutra is mainly fish and crustaceans, however there is a high degree of plasticity in its adaptation to available food sources, and other vertebrates may be consumed including amphibians, reptiles and small mammals (Roos et al, 2021).


Figs 1 to 3 : Female Eurasian Otter with a single cub, observed on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK, in rocky coastal habitat with abundant seaweed and kelp growth. These images show some identifying features of the species, including dark brown fur with pale chin and throat, a rough, grizzled appearance due to stiffer guard hairs, and the end of the tail being circular in cross-section.

All photos thanks to Vivienne Davies.


References :

Francis, C. M. (2019). A Field Guide to the Mammals of South-east Asia. Second Edition. New Holland. 416 pp.

Roos, A., Loy, A., Savage, M. & Kranz, A. 2021. Lutra lutra. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T12419A164578163. 

Links:
IUCN

Conservation Links :
IUCN Otter Specialist Group
International Otter Survival Fund

 

Fig 1
  
  ゥ  Vivienne Davies

Fig 2
 
  ゥ  Vivienne Davies
 

Fig 3
  
  ゥ  Vivienne Davies