The hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana) is a very mysterious otter. It lives in Southeast Asia but its exact range is unknown, possibly being extinct in many places. It is the rarest and least known Asian otter. It is the most similar to Eurasian otters, being the second member of the Lutra genus.
The hairy-nosed otter has a similar size and appearance to the Eurasian otter. It weighs between five and eight kilograms and can grow between 1 meter and 1.35 meters in length. Its distinctive feature is what gives it its name: Instead of being black and moist like in most otters, the rhinarium is covered by hair. It is also known by the white fur around its lips. The hairy-nosed otter's tail is proportionally longer than that of most otter species.
Hairy-nosed otters are found in south-east Asia. Having been declared extinct in 1998 and later rediscovered, the species is classified as endangered and is viewed as particularly vulnerable. Today, the species can be found in Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma in sparse, isolated populations.
Hairy-nosed otters are known to especially like to live in swamp forests, mangrove forests, lowland flooded forests and mountain streams. They are also known to live in oil palm plantations. Only few studies have been carried out, so not much is known about the habitat preferences of this animal.
Like Eurasian otters, hairy-nosed otters are considered to be solitary animals, while sometimes living in groups of up to four individuals.
The hairy-nosed otter mainly eats fish, making up 80-85% of its diet. Other vertebrates and invertebrates are also eaten. It will swim quickly to drive fish into the roots of plants where they can catch them with ease. Hairy-nosed otters are able to raid fish traps and steal fish without damaging the traps.
Hairy-nosed otters have a gestation period of about two months, which is typical for otters. Their breeding season appears to variably take place in the time between October and March.
Hairy-nosed otters are listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List. They face significant threats from illegal hunting and from loss of habitat. Despite legal protections, illegal trade in otters still occurs unchecked across south-east Asia. The hairy-nosed otter is the rarest of the south-east Asian otter species, which is sometimes credited to a low number of dedicated surveys that have taken place.
- International Otter Survival Fund: Hairy Nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana). Retrieved 27 August 2021.
- IUCN SSC Otter Specialist Group: Hairy-nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana). Retrieved 27 August 2021.
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