Smooth-coated otter

The smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) is an otter species occurring in most of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, with a disjunct population in Iraq.[1] As its name indicates, the fur of this species is smoother and shorter than that of other otter species.

Smooth-coated otter
Smooth-coated Otter (14157590954)
A smooth-coated otter photographed in Borneo, Malaysia
Scientific classification
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L. perspicillata
Binomial name
Lutrogale perspicillata
Smooth-coated Otter area
Smooth-coated otter range
Synonyms

Lutra perspicillata

Characteristics

The smooth-coated otter is a relatively large otter, from 7 to 11 kg (15 to 24 lb) in weight and 59 to 64 cm (23 to 25 in) in head-body length, with a tail 37 to 43 cm (15 to 17 in) long. It is distinguished from other otter species by its more rounded head and a hairless nose in the shape of a distorted diamond. Its tail is flattened, in contrast to the more rounded tails of other otters. Its legs are short and strong, with large webbed feet bearing strong claws. As its name suggests, it has unusually short and sleek fur; this is dark to reddish brown along the back, while the underside is light brown to almost grey in color. Females have two pairs of teats.[2]

Distribution and habitat

Smooth-coated otter1
Smooth-coated otter, Tungabhadra River Bank, Humpi, Karnataka, India

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. An isolated population is also found in the marshes of Iraq.[1]

It occurs in areas where fresh water is plentiful — wetlands and seasonal swamps, rivers, lakes, and rice paddies. Where it is the only occurring otter species, it lives in almost any suitable habitat. But where it is sympatric with other otter species, it avoids smaller streams and canals in favour of larger water bodies.[2] Although it is often found in saltwater near the coast, especially on smaller islands, it requires a nearby source of fresh water.[3]

Taxonomy

The smooth-coated otter is the only living species in the genus Lutrogale. Three subspecies are recognised:[2][4][5]

Fossils belonging to the genus Lutrogale are known from the early Pleistocene in Java. Two fossil species, an earlier form, L. robusta, and the more recent L. palaeoleptonyx, are known. They probably fed primarily on shellfish, rather than on fish as the current species does.[2]

Ecology and behavior

2006-kabini-otter
Smooth-coated otter in Kabini River, India
Smooth-coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)
Smooth-coated otter in Nagarhole National Park
Smooth-coated-otters

Smooth-coated otters are social and hunt in groups.[3] They are mainly diurnal, and have a short lull in activity during midday.[6]

They spend the night in dens dug in dense vegetation, under tree roots, or among boulders. They use scent to communicate both within the otter species, and with other animals. Each otter possesses a pair of scent glands at the base of the tail which are used to mark land or objects, such as rocks or vegetation, near feeding areas in a behavior called sprainting. They also communicate through vocalisations such as whistles, chirps, and wails.[2]

Some may construct permanent holts near water, in a layout similar to that of a beaver dam, with an underwater entrance and a tunnel that leads to a nest above the water.

Fish comprise over 70% of their diet, but they also eat reptiles, frogs, insects, crustaceans, and small mammals.[3] Especially in areas where other species of otter are also found, they prefer larger fish, typically between 5 and 30 cm (2.0 and 11.8 in) in length.[3][7] They sometimes hunt in groups of up to 11 individuals.[2]

In the Kuala Selangor Nature Park, an otter group was observed hunting. They formed an undulating, slightly V-shaped line, pointing in the direction of movement and nearly as wide as the creek. The largest individuals occupied the middle section. In this formation, they undulated wildly through the creek, causing panic‑stricken fish to jump out of the water a few metres ahead. They suddenly dived and grasped the fish with their snouts. Then they moved ashore, tossed the fish up a little on the muddy part of the bank, and swallowed it head‑first in one piece.[8]

A group of otters can have a feeding range of 7 to 12 km2. A single adult consumes about 1 kg of food per day in captivity.

Reproduction

Smooth Coated Otter Babies at WWP
Smooth-coated otter young at Wingham Wildlife Park

Smooth-coated otters form small family groups of a mated pair with up to four offspring from previous seasons.[9] Copulation occurs in water and lasts less than one minute.[10]

So long as the food supply is sufficient, they breed throughout the year, but where otters are dependent on monsoons for precipitation, breeding occurs between October and February. A litter of up to five pups is born after a gestation period of 60 to 63 days.[2] However, on 14 June 2014, a smooth-coated otter called Ping at Wingham Wildlife Park in the UK gave birth to a litter of seven young.[11] The mothers give birth to and raise their young in a burrow near water. They may either construct such a burrow themselves, or they may take over an abandoned one. At birth, the pups are blind and helpless, but after 10 days, their eyes open, and they are weaned at about three to five months. They reach adult size at about a year of age, and sexual maturity at two or three years.[2]

In Singapore, it was discovered that female Asian small-clawed otters interbred with male smooth-coated otters, resulting in the first documented case of hybridization between otter species in the wild. The resulting offspring and their descendants bred back into the smooth-coated otter population, but maintained many of the genes found in their small-clawed otter ancestors. Today, a population of at least 60 of these hybrid otters exists in Singapore, but the question remains as to how widespread the hybridization is between these two species actually is, and the resulting effects it has.[12]

Threats

Major threats to Asian otter population are loss of wetland habitats due to construction of large-scale hydroelectric projects, reclamation of wetlands for settlements and agriculture, reduction in prey biomass, poaching, and contamination of waterways by pesticides. In most Asian countries, increased human population during the last century, inadequate and ineffective rural development programmes have not been able to address the problems of poverty, forcing people to be more and more dependent on natural resources. Consequently, most of the wetlands and waterways do not have adequate prey base for sustaining otter populations. Wetlands and waterways are polluted by eutrophication and accumulation of persistent pesticides such as chlorinated hydrocarbons and organophosphates through agricultural runoffs. Increased pesticide use is not only regarded as a major obstacle to the development of rice-fish culture, but also poses a danger to all predators feeding on aquatic prey in the area. In the entire South and Southeast Asia, severe conflict exists between otters and humans, because of poverty and recent increases in aquaculture activities leading to indiscriminate killing of otters. Many important habitats of smooth-coated otters have been lost to development activities. In Southeast Asian countries, intentional otter trapping does not seem to occur, though it is prevalent in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.[1]

Due to the draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes during the presidency of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi population of otters was feared to have perished. A biodiversity site review in 2009 found tracks of an otter, suggesting the population may have survived,[13] and comprehensive surveys in 2005–2012 found that it survived at several locations (even extending its range to Iraqi Kurdistan, far north of its previously known distribution).[5]

Conservation

Lutrogale perspicillata has been listed on CITES Appendix II since 1977. It is a protected species in almost all the range countries, which prohibits its killing. Most range countries are not able to control the clandestine trade leading to extensive poaching.[1]

The smooth-coated otter is listed as a vulnerable species. Their range and population are shrinking due to loss of wetland habitat and contamination of waterways by pesticides. The otters are protected in India under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Smooth-coated otters are used for commercial fishing in southern Bangladesh. These otters are bred in captivity, trained, and used to chase fish into fishing nets. This fishing technique is currently used by about 300 fishermen, with an additional 2,000 people indirectly dependent on the technique for their livelihood.[14]

Otters studied along the Chambal River in India have shown to be most vulnerable during winter due to their breeding habits and rearing of young in these months. Currently human presence is noted to be highest during these months due to the local winter crops. The otters are shown to be highly disturbed in the presence of humans, making counting through spraint detection, tracks, and visual sightings hard to give accurate population numbers in conservation studies in India. Smooth-coated otters have been given some protection along the Chambal River under protection stated for local aquatic fauna, but continual effort to protect them includes prohibition of tree removal along rocky stretches along river sides.[15]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e de Silva, P.; Khan, W.A.; Kanchanasaka, B.; Reza Lubis, I.; Feeroz, M.M. & Al-Sheikhly, O.F. (2015). "Lutrogale perspicillata". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2015: e.T12427A21934884. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-2.RLTS.T12427A21934884.en. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Hwang, Y. T. & Larivière, S. (2005). "Lutrogale perspicillata" (PDF). Mammalian Species. 786: 1–4. doi:10.1644/786.1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  3. ^ a b c d Kruuk, H.; Kanchanasaka, B.; O'Sullivan, S.; Wanghongsa, S. (1994). "Niche separation in three sympatric otters Lutra perspicillata, L. lutra and Aonyx cinerea in Huai Kha Khaeng, Thailand". Biological Conservation. 69 (1): 115–120. doi:10.1016/0006-3207(94)90334-4.
  4. ^ Khan, W.A.; Bhagat, H.B. (2010). "Otter Conservation in Pakistan". IUCN Otter Spec. Group Bull. 27 (2): 89–92.
  5. ^ a b Al-Sheikhly, O.F.; and Nader, I.A. (2013). The Status of the Iraq Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli Hayman 1956 and Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra Linnaeus 1758 in Iraq. IUCN Otter Spec. Group Bull. 30(1).
  6. ^ Foster-Turley, P. (1992). Conservation aspects of the ecology of Asian small-clawed and smooth otters on the Malay Peninsula. International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Otter Specialist Group Bulletin 7: 26–29.
  7. ^ Anoop, K. R. & Hussain, S. A. (2005). "Food and feeding habits of smooth-coated otters (Lutra perspicillata) and their significance to the fish population of Kerala, India". Journal of Zoology. 266 (1): 15–23. doi:10.1017/S0952836905006540.
  8. ^ Helvoort, B. E. van; Melisch, R.; Lubis, I. R. & O'Callaghan, B. (1996). "Aspects of Preying Behaviour of Smooth Coated Otters Lutrogale perspicillata from Southeast Asia". IUCN Otter Specialist Group Bulletin. 13 (1): 3–7.
  9. ^ Hussain, S. A. (1996). Group size, group structure and breeding in smooth-coated otter Lutra perspicillata Geoffroy in National Chambal Sanctuary. Mammalia 60: 289–297.
  10. ^ Badham, M. (1973). "Breeding the Indian smooth otter Lutrogale perspicillata sindica X L.p. perspicillata at Twycross Zoo". International Zoo Yearbook. 13 (1): 145–146. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1090.1973.tb02132.x.
  11. ^ "Wingham Wildlife Park Facebook Page". Wingham Wildlife Park. 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  12. ^ Hong, S. (2018). Surprising branch in Singapore's otter family tree. The Straits Times, Singapore.
  13. ^ Salim, M (2009). "Key Biodiversity Survey of Southern Iraq" (PDF). Nature Iraq. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-17. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  14. ^ Feeroz, M. M., Begum, S. and Hasan, M. K. (2011). "Fishing with Otters: a Traditional Conservation Practice in Bangladesh". Proceedings of XIth International Otter Colloquium. IUCN Otter Specialist Group Bulletin (28A): 14–21.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ Hussain, S. A., Choudhury, B. C. (1997). "Distribution and status of the Smooth-coated Otter Lutra perspicillata in National Chambal Sanctuary, India". Biological Conservation. 80 (2): 199–206. doi:10.1016/S0006-3207(96)00033-X.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)

External links

Asian small-clawed otter

The Asian small-clawed otter (Amblonyx cinerea, syn. Aonyx cinereus), also known as the oriental small-clawed otter or simply small-clawed otter, is a semiaquatic mammal native to South and Southeast Asia. It is a member of the otter subfamily (Lutrinae) of the weasel family (Mustelidae), and is the smallest otter species in the world. Its paws are a distinctive feature; its claws do not extend beyond the fleshy end pads of its partially webbed fingers and toes. This gives it a high degree of manual dexterity so that it can use its paws to feed on molluscs, crabs and other small aquatic animals.

The Asian small-clawed otter inhabits mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands in South and Southeast Asia. It lives in extended family groups with only the alpha pair breeding; offspring from previous years help to raise the young. Due to ongoing habitat loss, pollution, and hunting in some areas, it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Barak River

The Barak is a 900 km river flowing through the states of Nagaland, Manipur and Assam in India and into the Bay of Bengal via Bangladesh. It is being developed as one of the Inland waterways of India. Its drainage basin covers 880,000 sq km (340,000 mi). The environment of Barak's basin hosts a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Bishazari Tal

Bishazari Tal, also spelled Beeshazar Tal, is an extensive oxbow lake system in the buffer zone of the Chitwan National Park, a protected area in the Inner Terai of central Nepal. This wetland covers an area of 3,200 ha (7,900 acres) at an altitude of 286 m (938 ft), and is situated between the Mahabharat mountain range (Lower Himalayan Range) to the north and the Siwalik range to the south. In August 2003, it has been designated as a Ramsar site.The Nepali words 'bis' बिस् (twenty), 'hajār' हजार् (thousand) and 'tāl' ताल् (lake) mean '20,000 lakes'.

Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary

The Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area located in the Mandya, Chamarajanagar and Ramanagar districts of Karnataka, India. The Cauvery River passes through its midst. An area of 510.52 km2 (197.11 sq mi) was established as Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary on 14 January 1987 under Section 18 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1973 with the objective of providing protection, conservation and development of Wildlife and its environment. The sanctuary was expanded to its current area of 102,753 hectares (253,910 acres) in 2013. On its east, it adjoins Dharmapuri forest division of Tamil Nadu state.

Central Marshes

The Central or Qurna Marshes were a large complex of wetlands in Iraq that were part of the Tigris-Euphrates river system, along with the Hawizeh and Hammar Marshes. Formerly covering an area of around 3000 square kilometres, they were almost completely drained following the 1991 uprisings in Iraq and have in recent years been reflooded.

Fishing cat

The fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is a medium-sized wild cat of South and Southeast Asia. Since 2016, it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Fishing cat populations are threatened by destruction of wetlands and have declined severely over the last decade. The fishing cat lives foremost in the vicinity of wetlands, along rivers, streams, oxbow lakes, in swamps, and mangroves.The fishing cat is the state animal of West Bengal.

Gavin Maxwell

Gavin Maxwell FRSL, FIAL, FZS (Sc.), FRGS (15 July 1914 – 7 September 1969) was a Scottish naturalist and author, best known for his non-fiction writing and his work with otters. He wrote the book Ring of Bright Water (1960) about how he brought an otter back from Iraq and raised it in Scotland. The otter was of a previously unknown sub-species which was subsequently named after Maxwell. Ring of Bright Water sold more than a million copies and was made into a film starring Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna in 1969. The title Ring of Bright Water was taken from the poem "The Marriage of Psyche" by Kathleen Raine, who said in her autobiography that Maxwell had been the love of her life.

Ghodaghodi Tal

Ghodaghodi Tal is a Ramsar site in western Nepal. Established in August 2003 it covers an area of 2,563 ha (6,330 acres) in Kailali District at an altitude of 205 m (673 ft) on the

lower slopes of the Siwalik Hills. This Ramsar site consists of a system of around 13 large and shallow oxbow lakes and ponds with associated marshes and meadows. It is surrounded by tropical deciduous forest and some streams along the periphery, which are separated by hillocks.

Hairy-nosed otter

The hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana) is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to Southeast Asia and one of the rarest and least known otter species. It is threatened by loss of natural resources and poaching.

Kutai National Park

Kutai National Park is a lowland national park located on the east coast of Borneo Island, in the East Kalimantan province of Indonesia, ranging approximately 10 to 50 km north of the equator.

Lutrogale

Lutrogale is a genus of otters, with only one extant species—the smooth-coated otter.

Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park

Chhatbir Zoo (formally Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park), is a zoological park situated close to Zirakpur, India. The zoo was constructed in the 1970s and is home to a large variety of birds, mammals and reptiles.

Meghalaya subtropical forests

The Meghalaya subtropical forests is a montane subtropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion of eastern India. The ecoregion covers an area of 41,700 square kilometers (16,100 sq mi), encompassing the Khasi Hills, Garo Hills, and Jaintia Hills of India's Meghalaya state, and adjacent portions of Assam state. The ecoregion is one of the most species-rich in India with a rich diversity of birds, mammals, and plants.

Mesopotamian Marshes

The Mesopotamian Marshes or Iraqi Marshes are a wetland area located in southern Iraq and partially in southwestern Iran and Kuwait. Historically the marshlands, mainly composed of the separate but adjacent Central, Hawizeh and Hammar Marshes, used to be the largest wetland ecosystem of Western Eurasia. It is a rare aquatic landscape in the desert, providing habitat for the Marsh Arabs and important populations of wildlife. Draining of portions of the marshes began in the 1950s and continued through the 1970s to reclaim land for agriculture and oil exploration. However, in the late 1980s and 1990s, during the presidency of Saddam Hussein, this work was expanded and accelerated to evict Shia Muslims from the marshes. Before 2003, the marshes were drained to 10% of their original size. After the fall of Hussein's regime in 2003, the marshes have partially recovered but drought along with upstream dam construction and operation in Turkey, Syria and Iran have hindered the process. Since 2016 the mesopotamian marshes are listed as an UNESCO Heritage Site.

Mustelidae

The Mustelidae (; from Latin mustela, weasel) are a family of carnivorous mammals, including weasels, badgers, otters, ferrets, martens, mink, and wolverines, among others. Mustelids are diverse and the largest family in the order Carnivora, suborder Caniformia. Mustelidae comprises about 56-60 species across eight subfamilies.

Otter

Otters are carnivorous mammals in the subfamily Lutrinae. The 13 extant otter species are all semiaquatic, aquatic or marine, with diets based on fish and invertebrates. Lutrinae is a branch of the weasel family Mustelidae, which also includes badgers, honey badgers, martens, minks, polecats, and wolverines.

Sundarbans West Wildlife Sanctuary

Sundarbans West Wildlife Sanctuary is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and animal sanctuary in Bangladesh. The area of the reserve covers 715 km2. It is part of the larger Sundarbans region, one of the largest mangroveforests in the world. It is formed at the unified delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal. The total area of the entire Sundarbans is about one million ha, 60% of which is found in Bangladesh, with the remainder in India. The region is divided by the Raimangal River. Within the Bangladeshi area of Sundarbans, there are three wildlife sanctuaries: Sundarbans East, Sundarbans South, and Sundarbans West.

Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary

Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary is located in Bhagalpur District of Bihar, India. The sanctuary is a 50 km stretch of the Ganges River from Sultanganj to Kahalgaon. Designated in 1991, it is protected area for the endangered Gangetic dolphins in Asia. Once found in abundance, only a few hundred remain, of which half are found here.

The Gangetic dolphins have been declared as the National Aquatic Animal of India. This decision was taken in the first meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) chaired by Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh on Monday, 5 October 2009.

Wildlife of Tamil Nadu

There are more than 2000 species of fauna that can be found in Tamil Nadu. This rich wildlife is attributed to the diverse relief features as well as favorable climate and vegetation in the Indian state. Recognizing the state's role in preserving the current environment, the government has established several wildlife and bird sanctuaries as well as national parks, which entail stringent protective measures. Tamil Nadu is also included in the International Network of Biosphere Reserves, which facilitates international recognition and additional funding. Currently, there are five national parks and 17 sanctuaries that serve as homes to the wildlife.

Extant Carnivora species

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