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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Oriental Small-clawed Otter

Family : Mustelidae
Species : Aonyx cinerea

Head-body length : 36-55 cm
Tail length : 23-35 cm
Weight : 3-5 kg

The Oriental Small-clawed Otter is the smallest of the world's 13 species of otter. They inhabit mangrove, forested rivers, creeks, marshes and freshwater swamp forest.

This species is sometimes diurnal, sometimes nocturnal, but during the hottest part of the day they will remain hidden in the shade or in their burrows.

They are highly gregarious and are rarely seen alone. A typical group might comprise an adult pair, with various offspring of different ages : up to 10 individuals, occasionally more, may be seen together. Litters typically comprise 2 to 4 cubs.

They are highly vocal, and communicate through loud, high-pitched squeaks and cat-like 'meow' sounds.

Their front feet are only partly webbed, and their claws are very short, which gives them great dexterity when digging for molluscs, crabs (including freshwater crabs) and other crustaceans which comprise the bulk of their diet. Fish comprise a minor part of their diet.

Their fur is light to medium brown, sometimes greyish brown, and paler underneath. The throat, sides of the neck and cheeks are pale buff to white.

The species occurs in parts of India, various territories in the Himalayas, southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam), Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Palawan (Philippines), Sumatra, Borneo, Java and other westerly islands of Indonesia, such as Bali, Lombok and Sumbawa.

Fig 1 : Family group caught on automatic video camera on Pulau Ubin, Singapore.  Video still thanks to Noel Thomas.  Watch full video.

Figs 2 and  : A small family group at the edge of a dried-up, lowland forest stream.

References : M3, M5

Conservation Links :
IUCN Otter Specialist Group
International Otter Survival Fund


Fig 1
  ゥ  Noel Thomas

Fig 2

Fig 3