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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.

Smooth Coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)

SIZE 1.21 m
CUBS 2-5 cubs
HABITAT Rivers, estuaries and swamps
WEIGHT 7 to 10kg
DIET Fish, shellfish and crustaceans
CITES Appendix I

Photo by Jollence Lee

This otter is bigger than the Eurasian Otter and has short smooth fur and large webbed feet.  It is variable in colour from nearly black to sandy brown with a white to yellow chin and throat patch.  The feet are large and webbed and they have a flattened tail.

It has a wide distribution in Asia: Pakistan and India eastwards across the Himalayan countries to China and down south-east Asia to Malaysia and Indonesia.

There is also an isolated population in Iraq which is restricted to the dense reed beds of the southern marshes with one record from Kurdistan (See “Phylogeography of the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata): distinct evolutionary lineages and hybridization with the Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinereus)”, Moretti et al. 2017). This is a subspecies, (Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli), also called Maxwell’s otter after the author Gavin Maxwell. During his travels in Iraq in 1956 Maxwell found a young otter cub which he brought back to the UK. This otter became famous as Mijbil in his book “Ring of Bright Water” and the subsequent film.

Maxwell’s otter was believed to be extinct in the 1980s largely as a result of the habitat destruction during the time of Saddam Hussein and also hunting. However, it was re-discovered during field surveys in 2007-2012 and the first photographic evidence of an adult in the wild was taken at Al-Edheam Marsh in March 2017.

Photos: Omar Al-Sheikhly and Mukhtar Haba-Iraqi Green Climate Organization

A report on this discovery is in Volume 3 of OTTER, the Journal of the International Otter Survival Fund (available at the Ottershop).

Distribution of the Smooth Coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)

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