This is the smallest of the nineteen species of otter and is found in many parts of Southern Asia and Indonesia inhabiting paddy fields, lowland streams and marshes and estuaries.
They feed on small crabs, molluscs, and small fish, which they find by probing in the mud and under pebbles with their paws. This probing habit makes them unpopular with rice growers because they uproot the growing plants but at the same time they eat lots of small crabs that are a pest in the rice fields.
Unlike our native European otter, which is a secretive shy and generally nocturnal animal, the Asian Short Clawed Otter is a particularly playful species, much more diurnal in habit and more social usually mating for life, with both parents playing an important role in rearing young. Thus, from a visitor’s point of view, it is the best species to be kept and observed at the sanctuary. If you look closely you will see that the front feet are not webbed as they are on the European otter but instead they have thin dextrous rubbery toes that they use to winkle out food from under stones or in crevices. Some of the resident Asian otters have also become very good at juggling pebbles between their feet which you may notice during your visit, particularly after feeding time when they like to show off!
DID YOU KNOW?
Otters of this species are used by fishermen in Southeast Asia to drive shoals of fish into their nets. The otters are kept on long lines with a harness, and are allowed to eat any fish they catch. By working with from boats with three or four tame otters the fishermen make good use of the otters and even breed them for this purpose.