The young Asian Small-Clawed Otters, at Zoo Berlin, have been entertaining visitors with their undeniable cuteness and their playful antics. Recently, swimming lessons were the preferred activity, and their parents were close by to supervise.
The Asian Small-Clawed Otter is the smallest otter species in the world. They are native to the mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands of Bangladesh, Burma, India, southern China, Taiwan, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Their paws and claws are a distinctive feature and give the animal a high degree of manual dexterity for feeding on mollusks, crabs and other small aquatic creatures.
The Asian Small-Clawed Otter is currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. The threat to the Small-Clawed Otter is similar to that of Smooth-Coated and Eurasian Otters. Throughout Asia the potential threat to its continued survival is destruction of its habitats due to changing land use pattern in the form of developmental activities. In many parts of Asia, the habitats have been reduced due to reclamation of peat swamp forests and mangroves, aquaculture activities along the intertidal wetlands, and loss of hill streams. In India, the primary threats are loss of habitats due to tea and coffee plantations along the hills, loss of mangroves due to aquaculture, increased human settlements, and siltation of smaller hill streams due to deforestation. Increased influx of pesticides into the streams from the plantations reduces the quality of the habitats.
Learn more about the otter, below the fold!
Aside from the intervention of accredited zoos throughout the world, concerted efforts have been implemented to ensure the species survival in the wild. It is a protected species in almost all the range countries which prohibits its killing. The Asian Small-Clawed Otter was once common in the streams and wetlands of south and south east Asia, but it is now restricted to a few Protected Areas. The creation of networks of Protected Areas, and the identification of sites as wetland of national and International importance under the Ramsar Convention, has to some extent halted the degradation of its habitat.
Over the years the Otter Specialist Group has developed a cadre of biologist across Asia to conduct field surveys, and it has popularized otter conservation by promoting the otter as ambassador of the wetlands. However, for the long term survival of the species, policy based action, research on factors affecting its survival, habitat based action and communication, and awareness building actions are needed.