Smooth-coated Otter

The Smooth-coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) is a species of otter, the last living representative of the genus Lutrogale. It is found from India east to southeast Asia, and a separate, small population in Iraq. It occurs throughout most of southern Asia, in the
Indomalaya ecozone, from India eastward. Smooth-coated otters are found in areas where water is plentiful. Peat swamp forests, freshwater wetlands, large forested rivers, lakes, and rice paddies are suitable habitats. Though the Smooth-coated Otter is adapted to aquatic life, it can be quite comfortable on land, and may travel long distances over land in search of suitable habitat.

The Smooth-coated Otter is the largest species of otter in southeast Asia. It weighs up to 24.25 pounds and grows to 51 inches long (4.25 ft). It is easily distinguished from other species of otter by a more rounded head and hairless nose in the shape of a distorted diamond. Its tail is flattened and may be up to 60 percent of the otter’s total body length. Like other otters, it has webbed toes and strong paws with sharp claws. Its coat is shorter and smoother than that of other otter species. The fur is light to dark brown along the back, while the underside is light brown to gray in color. Like most carnivorous mammals, this otter uses scents to communicate with other animals. The scent glands are located at the base of the tail which they use to mark objects, such as rocks and vegetation, near feeding areas. This behavior is called “ňúsprainting’.

The diet of the Smooth-coated Otter consists of a variety of foods including insects, earthworms, crustaceans, frogs, water rats, turtles, birds, and fish. Fish accounts for at least 75% of its diet. They frequently hunt in groups, herding schools of fish together for easy feeding. A group of otters may have a feeding range up to 12 square km. A single adult can consume up to 2.25 pounds of food per day.

Smooth-coated Otters form strong monogamous pairs. Mating times are not well-known, but usually occur between August and December. Once mating has occurred, the gestation period is about 61 to 65 days. The female gives birth from two to five cubs and are raised in a burrow near water. The cubs are blind at birth and open their eyes after 30 days, and can swim after 60 days. They are weaned at about 130 days and leave the safety of their parents at 1 year of age. Sexual maturity is reached by age 2.

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

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