(Last Updated On: March 20, 2021)

The smooth-coated otter, scientific name Lutrogale perspicillata is an otter species occurring in a lot of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, with disjunct inhabitants in Iraq.

Smooth-Coated Otter profile

It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1996 and is threatened by habitat loss, air pollution of wetlands, and poaching for unlawful wildlife commerce. As its name signifies, its fur is {smooth} and shorter than that of different otter species.

An in-depth cousin to the small-clawed otter, the smooth-coated otter has a big distribution that’s slowly however steadily shrinking, a reality made apparent by the remnant of inhabitants in Iraq – its range as soon as unfold from the Middle-East to southeast Asia.

Its drawback is and has all the time been its largest asset: a brief, {smooth}, velvety fur, heat chocolate brown on the back, and delicate gray on the abdomen.

These otters are primarily nocturnal, though they are often diurnal when unmolested. Smooth-coated otters kind massive, vocal, family teams, preying collectively on fish, shrimps, frogs, crabs, bugs, birds. Found primarily within the sluggish flowing waters typical of rice paddies and floodplains, they could use massive rivers in some areas.

The smooth-coated otter wants thick riverside vegetation through which to cover, dig dens and lift cubs. Recently, unlawful trapping for fur commerce has taken a heavy toll in lots of Asian international locations through which this species happens and legislation enforcement is missing.

smooth coated otter swimming

Smooth-Coated Otter Distribution and habitat

The smooth-coated otter has been recorded in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, southwest China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesian islands of Borneo, Sumatra, and Java, and Brunei. Isolated inhabitants can be discovered within the marshes of Iraq.

It happens in areas the place recent water is plentiful — wetlands and seasonal swamps, rivers, lakes, and rice paddies. Where it’s the solely occurring otter species, it lives in nearly any appropriate habitat.

But the place it’s sympatric with different otter species, it avoids smaller streams and canals in favor of bigger water our bodies. Although it’s usually present in saltwater close to the coast, particularly on smaller islands, it requires a close-by source of recent water.

The inhabitants within the Mesopotamian Marshes were feared to have perished, however otter tracks have been present in 2009, suggesting the inhabitants could have survived.

Skins of smooth-coated otters have been discovered throughout surveys between 2005 and 2012 within the neighborhood of Hammar and Hawizeh Marshes. Tracks and scat present in Erbil Province have been additionally thought to have been left by smooth-coated otters.

In southern Bangladesh, smooth-coated otters are used for industrial fishing. They are bred in captivity, educated, and used to chase fish into fishing nets. By 2011, this fishing approach was utilized by about 300 fishermen, with a further 2,000 people not directly depending on the approach for his or her livelihood.

Smooth-Coated Otter Physical Description

Smooth-coated otters are the most important otters in Southeast Asia. They weigh from 7-11 kg as adults and will be as much as 1.three m long. Their fur is shorter and smoother than different otters and seems velvety and shining.

They have quick tightly packed below fur and longer water repellant guard hairs. The below fur measures 6-8mm, the guard hairs are 12-14 mm long. The fur is light to darkish brown dorsally, and light brown to nearly grey ventrally.

Smooth-coated otters are distinguished from different otters by their rounder heads, distinguished bare noses, and flattened tails. Their noses resemble the other way up v or a distorted diamond. Like different otters, they’ve webbed feet and powerful dexterous paws which can be armed with sharp claws.

Smooth-Coated Otter

Characteristics

The smooth-coated otter has a brief and smooth fur that’s darkish to reddish-brown alongside the back, however, light brown to nearly gray on the underside. It is distinguished from different otter species by its more rounded head and a hairless nostril within the form of a distorted diamond.

Its tail is flattened, in distinction to the more rounded tails of different otters. Its legs are quick and powerful, with massive webbed feet bearing sturdy claws. It is a comparatively massive otter, from 7 to 11 kg (15 to 24 lb) in weight and 59 to 64 cm (23 to 25 in) in head-body size, with a tail 37 to 43 cm (15 to 17 in) long. Females have two pairs of teats.

Behavior

The smooth-coated otter lives in teams of as many as 11 people. The rest on sandy riverbanks and set up their dens below tree roots or amongst boulders.

Observations in Peninsular Malaysia point out that they’re lively foremost through the day, with a brief relaxation throughout noon. They mark their playground by urinating and sprinting on rocks or vegetation.

They talk via vocalizations reminiscent of whistles, chirps, and wails.

Food Habits

Smooth-coated otters are omnivorous and can eat bugs, earthworms, crustaceans, frogs, water rats, turtles, massive birds, and fish. Fish make up 75 to 100% of the diet.

Smooth-coated otters ceaselessly hunt in teams, driving colleges of fish collectively for straightforward capture. Fishermen in India and Bangladesh use this group searching behavior to coach them to herd fish into nets.

A bunch of otters has a feeding territory of seven to 12 sq. kilometers. A single adult consumes about 1 kg of meals per day in captivity.

Smooth-Coated Otter Diet

Smooth-coated otters have been noticed to forage on river banks amongst tree trunks. They feed primarily on fish together with Trichogaster, climbing gourami, and catfish.

During the rice planting season, additionally, they hunt rats in rice fields. Snakes, amphibians, and bugs represent a small portion of their diet. Especially in areas the place they share habitat with different otter species, they like bigger fish, usually between 5 and 30 cm (2.0 and 11.8 in) in size.

In Kuala Selangor Nature Park, an otter group was noticed searching. They shaped an undulating, barely V-shaped line, pointing within the path of motion and practically as large because of the creek.

The largest people occupied the center part. In this formation, they undulated wildly via the creek, inflicting panic‑stricken fish to leap out of the water a couple of meters forward.

They all of the sudden dived and grasped the fish with their snouts. Then they moved ashore, tossed the fish up just a little on the muddy part of the bank, and swallowed it head‑first in a single piece.

Smooth-Coated Otter eating

Smooth-Coated Otter Reproduction

Smooth-coated otters kind of small family teams of a mated pair with as many as 4 offspring from earlier seasons. Copulation happens in water and lasts lower than one minute.

No conclusive research has been made on reproductive timing in smooth-coated otters. Where otters are depending on monsoons for precipitation, they’re more than likely to breed between August and December.

In the Delhi Zoo, all matings occurred within the month of August. The gestation interval is 61-65 days. Smooth-coated otters give start to and lift their younger in a burrow or shelter close to water, which they excavate, or they assume an abandoned one. The cubs disperse at about 1 year of age. Sexual maturity is reached at two years.

So long because the meal supply is ample, they breed all through the year, however, the place otters are depending on monsoons for precipitation, breeding happens between October and February.

The largest recorded wild-born litter of seven pups was noticed in Singapore in November 2017. The common litter size is as much as 5 pups and is born after a gestation interval of 60 to 63 days.

Two to 5 cubs are born in a litter, blind and helpless. At thirty days, the cub’s eyes open, and by sixty days, they’ll swim. The younger are weaned at about 130 days.

Unlike different otters, smooth-coated otters kind small family teams consisting of a mated pair with as much as four offspring from earlier seasons. The male is allowed to affix the group after the cubs are weaned, and he helps present the cubs with meals.

The moms give start to and lift their younger in a burrow close to water. They could both assemble such a burrow themselves, or they could take over an abandoned one.

At birth, the pups are blind and helpless, however after 10 days, their eyes open, and they’re weaned at about three to 5 months. They attain adult size at a few years of age, and sexual maturity at two or three years.

Lifespan/Longevity

The oldest recognized smooth-coated otter in captivity died at 20 years and 5 months. The typical lifespan within the wild is between four and 10 years, though no conclusive research has been made.

It is usually recommended that the mortality fee of smooth-coated otters is correlated with the abundance of fish. Smooth-coated otter populations observe fish populations within the Tarai areas of the higher Gangetic plains in India and Nepal.

Following the monsoon season, smooth-coated otters transfer into flooded swamp areas to make the most of fish inhabitants’ booms. The otters breed there and when the swamps shrink and the fish return to the everlasting rivers so do the otters.

Smooth-Coated Otter Communication

Like different carnivores, smooth-coated otters use scent for inter and intra particular communication. They have a pair of scent glands on the base of the tail, which they use to mark vegetation, flat rocks, or shorelines close to feeding areas.

This marking behavior in otters is named sprainting. In areas the place the smooth-coated otter, European otter, and small-clawed otter happen collectively, sprinting occurs in several areas by every species. Sprinting sites in small-clawed otters are often high on the bank on flat rocks.

Sites for smooth-coated otters are more distinguished than these of small-clawed otters. Sprainting sites of European otters are decreased on the bank and less frequent than that of different otters.

Predation

Saltwater crocodiles and different crocodile species are the more than likely predators of smooth-coated otters. Other potential predators are medium-sized cat species and enormous birds of prey (totally on younger otters).

Smooth-coated otters are agile within the water and on land and use their delicate whiskers to detect water disturbances. They are additionally social animals, with every animal in a bunch contributing to vigilance efforts.

Smooth-Coated Otter baby

Smooth-Coated Otter Threats

The smooth-coated otter is threatened by poaching, loss, and destruction of wetlands, as these are transformed for settlements, agriculture, and hydroelectric initiatives; water programs are being polluted by pesticides reminiscent of chlorinated hydrocarbons and organophosphates.

These components result in a diminished prey base. Otters are indiscriminately killed particularly at aquaculture sites. Trapping of otters is prevalent in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Along the Chambal River in India, smooth-coated otters are most susceptible throughout winter once they rear younger. During this season, they’re disturbed by people harvesting crops and eradicating wooden alongside rocky stretches of the river.

Six juvenile smooth-coated otters have been found in a bag left at Bangkok airport in January 2013. This was the first case of smooth-coated otters thought to have been destined for unlawful pet commerce.

At least seven smooth-coated otters have been supplied on the market via websites by merchants in Thailand and Malaysia between 2016 and 2017.

Conservation

The smooth-coated otter is a protected species in most range international locations and listed globally as a susceptible species. It had been listed on CITES Appendix II since 1977. Since August 2019, it’s included in CITES Appendix I, thus strengthening its safety with reference to worldwide commerce.

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