Asian short clawed otter

Asian Short Clawed Otter

The Asian Short Clawed Otter might be the smallest otter in the world and it might have shorter claws than other otters but don’t think that’s going to hold it back. It’s a great swimmer and has some unusual characteristics for an otter.

Asian Short Clawed Otters are the only otters that catch their prey in the claws, which they are able to do because of their unique, partially webbed feet. It makes them much more dextrous than other species of otter and very successful as hunters.

Unfortunately, the Asian Short Clawed Otter is considered to be vulnerable. And it’s not their fault.

...more about the Asian Short Clawed Otter

The Asian Short Clawed Otter lives in the mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands of Bangladesh, Burma, India, southern China, Taiwan, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. This often includes rice paddies and river systems.
They are social animals and live in extended family groups, choosing to reside in burrows dug into muddy banks. Only the dominant pair will breed, whilst their offspring and older cubs will help to raise new litters. They are playful and will spend much of the day on land playing, grooming, resting and sleeping.

The Asian Short Clawed Otter is under serious threat from the presence of man. Their population is decreasing due to rapid habitat destruction, hunting and pollution.

The Asian Short Clawed Otter feeds on invertebrates such as crab and other crustaceans, molluscs and amphibians as well as insects and small fish such as gouramis and catfish. They may also eat rodents, snakes and frogs.

Perhaps remarkably, this otter will form monogamous life pairings and will have two litters of between 1 and 6 young every year. When they are born the young are undeveloped and weigh just 50g. They are also toothless, unable to move and their eyes are closed. They spend the first few weeks sleeping and nursing and will not open their eyes until they are 40 days old. By 14 weeks they will be fully weaned and able to swim. They will live to be around 11 to 16 years.

This otter is distinctive because its claws do not extend beyond its forepaws and its feet are webbed only to the last joint. These unique attributes give them an excellent sense of touch and coordination, providing them with more dexterity than other otters with full webbing.
They are excellent swimmers and are very agile in the water. They swim by moving their hind legs and tail. They also ‘dog-paddle’ with all four feet while swimming or floating. When swimming at a high speed, they undulate the entire body, including their tail, up and down while their hind feet steer. They can dive under water for about 6 to 8 minutes.

Asian Short Clawed Otters spend a lot of time grooming. This vigilance keeps their fine and dense, velvety coats in good, waterproofed condition whilst their vibrissae (whiskers), which are sensitive to touch and underwater vibrations, detect the movements of prey.

Communication, as you’d expect, is important for such a social animal. They do this through scent markings, sign heaps and vocalisation. They can communicate vocally with at least 12 different types of sounds. But scent is the most important sense for communication, especially for marking territorial boundaries. Their tail has scent glands where they deposit their musky scent on their spraint (faeces).

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