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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.

Hairy Nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana)

SIZE 1.05 to 1.34 m
WEIGHT 5 to 8 kg
HOME RANGE The otters will move from one area to the other often-travelling very long distances.
DIET Crabs and crayfish - also eat fish, molluscs, water snakes, birds and amphibians.
GESTATION Believed to be about 9 weeks.
CUBS 1-4 cubs
HABITAT A variety of habitats including flooded forest, coastal mangrove and Melaleuca forest, marshland and forest streams.
CITES Appendix II
THE THREAT TO THE SPECIES: The main threats to the otter are disturbance by human activities such as fishing, cultivating crops and vegetable. These activities cause various negative impacts on the otter habitat such as destruction of holts, reduction of food resources and pollution caused by the use of pesticides. Hunting is another major threat, particularly in south-east Asia - for every tiger skin found there are at least 10 otter skins and hunters can getup to $200 for each pelt.

This amazing otter gets its name from the fact that the black part of its nose, the rhinarium, which in most mammals is a moist, naked surface, is in this case distinctly hairy.

Photo: Romain Pizzi

It is a very long and slender animal with an incredibly long tail, far longer in proportion to the body length than that of most otters.

Photo: Try Sitheng, Wildlife Alliance

At the beginning of the 20th century Hairy-nosed Otters appeared to be common in southeast Asia but by 1979 their population had been greatly reduced. In 1998 they were believed to be extinct as there had been no recorded sightings for ten years. However, one scientist from Thailand, Budsabong Kanchanasaka, thought there might still be some present in her country and this was confirmed in 1999 when some were found being kept as pets.

Photo: Hairy-nosed otter cub, found in Thailand © Budsabong Kanchanasaka

Since then Hairy-nosed Otters have been found in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Laos, but the populations are isolated and vulnerable. It looks like they are also in Myanmar as in 2014 a freshly killed animal was found in a market at Mong La. This is only the second record of this species for Myanmar - the first one was a skin collected in the north of the country in 1939.

Unfortunately, few field studies have been carried out so there is little information on their basic ecology and behaviour in the wild. As field studies are now beginning, such information is starting to emerge but a lot of questions still remain.

They are considered to be solitary animals although groups of four to six individuals have been seen. They seem to be most active in the early morning and late afternoon but, again, information from camera traps has shown them to be active from midnight to the early hours of the morning. Unlike most otters they do not seem to have regular toilet areas, and they often spraint on fallen logs.

Not a lot is known about their breeding cycle although the gestation period of about two months appears to be the same as for most otters. The actual breeding season is uncertain but it appears to vary. Vietnamese fishermen suggest that breeding is mainly in November-December; in Thailand young have been seen in December-February so breeding would appear to be October-December; in Cambodia it seems to take place November-March.

Their favourite habitat appears to be peat swamp forests, particularly those with Melaleuca, the swamp tea-tree. These swamps are all lowland areas but otters have also been found in highland jungle areas, if only in low numbers. This could be because there is more available prey in the swamp areas but unfortunately the area of Melaleuca forest available has decreased in recent times.

In Sumatra they have also been found in plantations of oil palm and rubber.

Distribution of the Hairy Nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana)

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