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The Global Otter

Conservation Strategy
Nicole Duplaix and Melissa Savage
The Global Otter
Conservation Strategy
Nicole Duplaix and Melissa Savage

Thankyou to our generous supporters


Published by: Our Sponsors 3

IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group, Four Corners Institute, Salem, Copyright, ISBN, citation 4
Oregon, USA Acknowledgements 6

Citation The IUCN, SSC and OSG 7

Nicole Duplaix and Melissa Savage (2018), The Global Otter Introduction 9
Conservation Strategy. IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group, Salem, Vision and Goals 10
Oregon, USA
Objectives 12
ISBN: Our contributors 24
978-0-692-04221-2 (electronic book version) Otter Species by Region
978-0692-04222-9 (paperback book version)
1. Asia:
Copyright Smooth-coated otter Lutrogale perspicillata 26
© 2018 IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group Short-clawed otter Aonyx cinereus 34
Hairy-nosed otter Lutra sumatrana 40
Reproduction of this publication for educational or other 2. Eurasia
non-commercial purposes is authorized without prior written Eurasian otter Lutra lutra 46
permission from the copyright holder provided the source is fully 3
 .North America
acknowledged. North American river otter Lontra canadensis 58
Sea otter Enhydra lutris 66
Reproduction of this publication for resale or other commercial
4.South America
purposes is prohibited without prior written permission of the
Giant otter Pteronura brasiliensis 74
copyright holder.
Neotropical otter Lontra longicaudis 82
Marine otter Lontra felina 90
Southern river otter Lontra provocax 96
The copyright of all the photographs in this book belong to their
individual authors 5.Africa
Spotted-necked otter Hydrictis maculicollis 102
Disclaimer African clawless otter Aonyx capensis 110
The designation of geographical entities in this book, and the Congo clawless otter Aonyx congicus 106
presentation of the material, do not imply the expression of any The Illegal Trade in Otters 119
opinion whatsoever on the part of IUCN or any of the funding
How will Climate Change affect otters? 125
organizations concerning the legal status of any country, territory,
or area, or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its How Captive Otter Populations Contribute
frontiers or boundaries. to Otter Conservation 139
Image Credits 142
The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect
References by Species 143
those of IUCN.
Legal Protection by Country 153
Illustrations: Conclusion and Next Steps 166
See Page 8: IIlustrations by Toni Llobet from Wilson, D.E. &
Mittermeier, R.A. eds. (2009). Handbook of the Mammals of the
World. Vol. 1. Carnivores. By kind permission of Lynx Ediciones,
Barcelona, Spain.

Graphic designer
Damon Richardson -

Cover Photograph
Greg Nyquist, Sequoia Park Zoo, Eureka, California, USA

Available for download:

4 — The Global Otter Conservation Strategy —5

Acknowledgements About IUCN

The editors would like to express heartfelt The final draft was presented at the IUCN, International Union for conservation decisions.
thanks to every species author and Southeast Asian Otter Conservation Conservation of Nature, SSC members also provide scientific advice The IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group
OSG member that contributed to the Planning Meeting, 9-13 September 2018, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to conservation organizations, government The Otter Specialist Group (OSG) is one 
development of this Strategy. This was an hosted by the Singapore Zoo. Animated to our most pressing environment and agencies and other IUCN members, and of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s
amazing global team effort that was both discussions by participants improved the development challenges by supporting support the implementation of multilateral specialist groups.
challenging and exhilarating. content significantly, and we owe each of scientific research; managing field environmental agreements.
them a debt of gratitude. projects all over the world; and bringing Its goals since 1974 are to:
Sawfish: A Global Strategy for governments, NGOs, the UN, international Working in close association with IUCN’s 1. provide leadership for the conservation
Conservation, written by Lucy R. Harrison The Strategy’s Vision, Goals, Objectives conventions and companies together to Global Species Program, SSC’s major of all 13 otter species
and Nicholas K. Dulvy of the IUCN/SSC and Actions section is a good place to start develop policy, laws and best practice. role is to provide information to IUCN on
Shark Specialist Group, and Damon to develop direct conservation actions in The world's oldest and largest global biodiversity conservation, the inherent 2. determine, review and share on a
Richardson’s beautiful lay-out inspired us your own country, region and community, environmental network, IUCN is a value of species, their role in ecosystem continuing basis the status, threats
and we followed their example. Thank you to achieve a Vision of “a world where otter democratic membership union with more health and functioning, the provision of and needs of otters worldwide and
for creating the model that made our work populations thrive, co-exist with, and are than 1,000 government and NGO member ecosystem services, and their support update the IUCN Red List
so much easier. valued by people thanks to conservation organizations, and over 13,000 volunteer to human livelihoods. This information is
efforts, understanding and respect.” scientists and experts as members of the fed into The IUCN Red List of Threatened 3. promote the wise management of
We also acknowledge the support of the IUCN commisions in some 160 countries. Species. otters in the wild and in captivity
many home institutions and organizations IUCN's work is supported by over 1,000 through ongoing collaboration with
of the contributors for allowing them the professional staff in 60 offices and Established in 1964, the International zoos and the publication of studbooks
time to carry out this work. hundreds of partners in public, NGO and Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red and husbandry manuals
private sectors around the world. IUCN's List of Threatened Species has evolved to
headquarters are located in Gland, near become the world’s most comprehensive 4. undertake the new research,
Geneva, in Switzerland. information source on the global conservation and management
conservation status of animal, fungi and programs necessary to insure the
The IUCN Species Survival Commission plant species. recovery of threatened and endangered
Participants of the SE Asian Otter Conservation Planning Meeting, September 2018, Singapore Zoo (SSC) is a science-based network of more otter populations
Top row: Max Khoo De Yuan, Will Duckworth, Lalita Gomez, Jennifer Van Brocklin, Benjamin Lee, Wanlop Chutipong, Daniel Wilcox, Philip than 7,500 volunteer experts from almost The IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of
Johns, Victor Augustine, Chung-Hao, Le Van Dung Fourth row: Kanitha Krishnasamy, Meryl Theng, Meaghan Harris, Camille Coudrat, Reza every country of the world, all working the health of the world’s biodiversity. Far 5. train and mentor a new generation
Lubis, Carol Bennetto, Amanda Mayhew, Tina Liow, Leona Wai, Katrina Fernandez, Rekha Mohan, Alexandra Kalher, Atul Borker together towards achieving the vision of, "A more than a list of species and their status, of otter researchers
Third row: Aadrean, Bosco Chan, Jamie Bouhuys, Melissa Savage, Syed Hussain, Nicole Duplaix, Padma De Silva, N. Sivasothi, Paul Todd, just world that values and conserves nature it is a powerful tool to inform and catalyze
Adrian Loo, Sonja Luz Front row: Cecilia Tang, Kelly Chew, Abdussalam Marikan, Roopali Raghaven, Anna Wong, Sagar Dahal, Mohan through positive action to reduce the loss action for biodiversity conservation and 6. present and promote actions to
Ponichamy of diversity of life on earth". policy change and is critical to protecting curb the illegal trade and decrease
the natural resources we need to survive. otter-fishermen conflict
Most members are deployed in more than It provides information about range,
145 Specialist Groups, Red List Authorities, population size, habitat and ecology, use
Task Forces and Sub-Committees. Some and/or trade, threats, and conservation
groups address conservation issues actions that will help inform necessary
related to particular groups of plants, fungi
or animals while others focus on topical
issues, such as reintroduction of species
into former habitats or wildlife health.

6 — The Global Otter Conservation Strategy — Acknowledgements —7

Changing the Future of Otters

1. 1. Giant otter The thirteen otter species spread around the world belong to the subfamily Lutrinae. As
Pteronura brasiliensis mustelids, they are low-slung, agile, and resemble their relatives, the badger, mink and
South America ferret. Some species are more aquatic than others but all otters are strong swimmers, well
*Endangered adapted to both marine and freshwater habitats.
2. North American River otter
Lontra canadensis Otters are incredibly resilient animals. Give them protection and healthy rivers with fish,
North America and they will make a comeback. We have seen this happen in huge cities like Singapore
*Least concern where otter family groups parade through the parks from one fishing hole to another,
3. Neotropical otter surrounded by people. We have watched their return to the United Kingdom where otters
4. Lontra longicaudis were scarce in the 1970s, but now live in every county. We witnessed the return of sea
South America otters to the Pacific Rim, from the brink of extinction in the 1900s to large populations
*Near threatened living along the North American coast.

4. Marine otter Yet otter populations everywhere remain fragile and at risk. When wetlands shrink and
Lontra felina fisheries dwindle conflicts arise between people and otters, and the otters lose. Threats
South America take many forms. For instance, China’s new wealth spurs the illegal trade in precious
*Endangered furs and curios, otters included. As countries prosper and urban areas seemingly appear
5. Southern river otter overnight, the wildlife departs.
5. Lontra provocax
South America The IUCN-SSC Otter Specialist Group has produced otter conservation programs since
*Endangered 1974. We have seen successes when otters returned to their former haunts but we
6. Sea otter are also witnessing the sharp acceleration of environmental threats that affect otters
6. everywhere: pollution, deforestation, overpopulation, illegal trade, limited protection,
Enhydra lutris
North America and the escalating effects of climate change. As you read the Global Otter Conservation
*Endangered Strategy, you will notice the litany of similar threats for each species and the urgent need
for programs that can stem the tide. We identify and discuss the significant factors that
7. Spotted-necked otter influence habitat quality and the presence of otters in each region where they occur.
Hydrictis maculicollis Some species have already been studied in great detail, like the Eurasian otter and sea
Africa otter, others hardly at all, like the Hairy-nosed otter. The goal of this Strategy is to be both
7. *Near threatened aspirational and inspirational: for biologists to aspire to know more about otters and go do
8. Hairy-nosed otter it, and to inspire foundations to fund their efforts. The future of otters depends on this.
Lutra sumatrana
8. Asia Most important are the local communities that share their rivers with otters. We must
*Endangered work side by side and understand their concerns and their needs. By involving adults
9. 9. Eurasian otter and children in our projects, by sharing our knowledge and enthusiasm about why otters
Lutra lutra play an important role in our wetlands, we can overcome conflicts and create new otter
Eurasia ambassadors in places where otter numbers are dwindling. Without their support we will
*Near threatened not succeed.
10.African clawless otter We know what needs to be done, we have launched conservation programs before and the
Aonyx capensis otters returned to their former haunts, but we must expand these efforts significantly if
Africa we are to ensure that otters have a secure future on the planet.
*Near threatened
11. Congo clawless otter Nicole Duplaix and Anna Loy
Aonyx ongicus Co-Chairs, IUCN-SSC Otter Specialist Group
11. Africa
*Near threatened
12. Short-clawed otter
Aonyx cinereus
13. Smooth-coated otter
Lutrogale perspicillata
12. *Vulnerable

8 — The Global Otter Conservation Strategy — Introduction —9

Recognizing the various positive roles (such as flagship, indicator,
and umbrella species) that otters can play in aquatic systems; and
Recognizing that when provided with protection from killing
and the pet trade, and with suitable habitats and environmental
conditions, otters are resilient species and can return and flourish;
Recognizing that ‘suitable habitats’ for otters can include a wide
range of natural, near-natural and human-made habitats;
The IUCN-SSC Otter Specialist Group envisages a world where
otter populations thrive, co-exist with, and are valued by, people
thanks to conservation efforts, understanding and respect.

Goal 1 Goal 2
To rebuild and maintain To promote a global otter
healthy populations of all community to achieve effective
otter species across all parts otter conservation and
of each species’ range as held restoration through a ‘One-
before major human-induced Plan’ approach integrating
declines. interventions in the wild with
captive populations, including
a supportive legal and policy
base, location-based habitat
conservation, elimination of
illegal trade, strategic research,
education and outreach,
collaborative capacity-building
and support from all sectors
of society including the local
communities who share otter

10 — Chapter 2 - Vision, Goals and Objectives — 11

Objectives 1 –9 Objective 1
Supportive legislation and policy for otter conservation

Recognizing that many otter populations that have benefited from legal protection
have now recovered, while other otter populations that do not have effective
protection are in decline, otter range states develop and apply their national wildlife
protection legislation to include otter species, including regulation (which often will be
prohibition) of their capture and sale for local and international trade, and that national
and international policy is supportive of otter conservation.

1.1 Engage with existing international initiatives, including those focused on
wetlands (e.g. Ramsar, IUCN and Wetlands International to mainstream otter
conservation into their plans and activities.
1.2 Review the national policy, protection legislation and regulations specific to
otters in all range states; review compliance with legislation and regulation; and
make appropriate revisions.
1.2.1 Assist in modification of existing otter legislation in many range countries
(mindful that in some there are legal harvest programs that do not threaten
the species concerned) to protect all otter species, rather than just listed
species, thereby reducing the existing identification barrier currently
hampering law enforcement (see below).
1.2.2  Assist in drafting and promoting the adoption of new or modified legislation
for range states that do not provide legal protection or provide only
inadequate protection for otter species.
1.2.3 Assist in enhancing existing otter protection legislation with text that is
stronger, more specific, and/or more comprehensive in terms of otter
protection, as needed, including ensuring adequate penalties.
1.2.4 Assist in drafting and promoting the adoption of legislative text to enhance
the legal basis for enforcing otter protection and penalizing infractions,
particularly in areas with high illegal trade in otters.
1.3 Ensure that otter range states and consumer destination states have the political
will and capacity to prioritise the strict enforcement of national and international
otter protection legislation.
1.4 Provide workshops for wildlife law enforcement agents in key otter ranges and
consumer countries that do not ban all otter trade on how to: 1) identify otter
pelts, other otter parts, and live animals down to species level, 2) promote active
law enforcement of wildlife regulations.
1.5 Review international and national policies, protection legislation and regulations
specific to wetlands and other otter habitat, including habitat structure, invasive
species, pollution, overfishing and any other factor relevant to habitat quality for
otters, in all range states; review compliance with legislation and regulation; and
make appropriate revisions.
1.5.1 Assist in drafting and promoting the adoption of new or modified legislation
for range states that do not provide adequate legal protection for otter
1.5.2 Assist in enhancing existing otter habitat protection legislation with text
that is stronger, more specific, and/or more comprehensive in terms of
otter habitat protection, as needed, including ensuring adequate penalties.
1.5.3 Assist in drafting and promoting the adoption of legislative text to enhance
the legal basis for enforcing national and international regulations related
to protecting otter habitats, and penalizing infractions.
1.6 Ensure that otter range states have the political will and capacity to prioritise the
strict enforcement national and international regulations related to protecting
otter habitats.

12 — Chapter 2 - Vision, Goals and Objectives — 13

Objective 2 Objective 3
Locality-based implementation of conservation Eliminating illegal trade

Maintain and enhance habitats in conditions suitable for otters by attention to Reduce and eliminate the illegal trade in otters by increasing law enforcement
substrate, vegetation, hydrodynamics, pollution, prey stocks, invasive species and all effectiveness in range and consumer countries, ensuring compliance with CITES
other factors affecting otter habitat suitability. obligations and national regulatory frameworks and reduce demand for otters, their
Conserve extant otter populations by reducing killing and live off-take of otters to parts, and products.
non-threatening levels.
Encourage and support range states to develop and implement regional plans/
agreements to harmonize and strengthen national and subnational efforts to identify,
maintain enhance and protect critical salt and freshwater otter habitats (including, 3.1 Strengthen law enforcement effort in range and consumer countries.
increasingly, urban and other heavily modified areas), and their otter populations. 3.1.1 Continue to monitor the illegal trade in otters in all ranges and consumer
states, including seizures and trade occurring in physical and online
Actions markets. Ensure the provision of such information to relevant authorities
and bodies for action, including publishing relevant findings.
2.1 Control illegal offtake, initially in key otter localities, progressively broadening to
cessation of poaching in all otter localities range-wide. 3.1.2 Research and investigate the trade in otters in Africa and the Americas.

2.2. Reduce human–otter conflict to non-threatening levels, initially in key otter 3.1.3 Maintain an up-to-date database of information on national and
localities, progressively broadening to all otter localities range-wide. international trade dynamics, including through close working relationships
with TRAFFIC to provide them with updates to maintain information on the
2.3 Reduce any other locally acting threat to non-threatening levels, recognizing illegal otter trade.
that the threat profile in any given locality evolves, that some new threats may
appear (e.g. diseases), and that locally specific knowledge of threats is essential 3.1.4 Build capacity and knowledge of law enforcement agencies, particularly
to successful locality-based conservation (see Research). in Asia, to investigate and take action on illegal otter trade. Including the
development of otter identification cards and reports to law enforcement
2.4 Conserve and enhance critical otter habitats, by preventing the degradation of agencies in Asia, Africa and South America.
those habitats still suitable for otters and, for those currently unsuitable, achieve
their regeneration by changing conditions of bankside and channel substrate and 3.1.5 Work with law enforcement agencies and online trade portals to prevent
vegetation; restore appropriate hydrodynamics; reduce pollution, problematic the listing of otters for sale online and identify and prosecute the trade of
invasive species and inappropriate debris; construct over- or underpasses where otters online.
road mortality is a threat; and other locally appropriate actions. 3.1.6 Work with law enforcement agencies and other partners (including those
2.4.1 Promote region-specific, concerted efforts by the wide range of interest that work to reduce illegal trading in other species) to ensure effective
groups that share the common goal of conserving and improving rivers, implementation of CITES Decisions.
other wetlands and coastal areas threatened by pollution, overfishing, 3.2 Ensure adequate international protection for otters in trade.
hydrodynamic change, invasive species, climate change and/or any other 3.2.1 Draft, develop, and secure range state proponent/s for a proposal to uplist
relevant factor. three Asian otter species that are currently under Appendix II of CITES
2.4.2 Enhance national wetland protected area networks, consistent with the (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species),
Aichi Biodiversity Targets. to Appendix I for consideration at the next CITES CoP (Conference of
2.5 Identify extant or proposed long-term effective locality-based conservation Parties) in 2019.
projects into which otter-specific interventions could be added, allowing cost 3.2.2 Promote adoption of the proposal to uplist Asian otters to Appendix I under
and administrative efficiencies, and partner with these projects to support the CITES at the next CoP, including through CITES-specific fact sheets and
inclusion of these otter-specific interventions (see also fund-raising section). active participation at CITES CoP 2019.
2.6 Build local community capacity for a range of otter-related projects in key 3.3 Reduce demand for otters and otter products.
otter habitats. 3.3.1 Understand the drivers and dynamics of the demand, and situational
circumstances facilitating trade such as weak law enforcement.
3.3.2 Develop and implement targeted awareness campaigns aimed at reducing
demand for pet otters, pelts and products used for traditional medicine.

14 — Chapter 2 Vision, Goals and Objectives — 15

Objective 4 4.4 Develop reliable methodology for eDNA assays for the detection of otter species.
Strategic research 4.5 Survey little-known areas that have been included in range-modelling exercises
to assess how effective these are in predicting real otter distribution, and thus
Ensure that appropriate research guides the development of programs and projects their value in informing otter conservation.
to conserve otters and their habitats, taking into consideration the local context and 4.6 Sustain existing, and where practicable develop new, national or other large-scale
constraints. otter occurrence and population monitoring programs, recognising that these
consume heavy resources and that, in resource-poor areas under significant
threats, locality-based conservation interventions will often take priority for
Actions these resources.
4.1 Review and, where necessary, revise otter taxonomy using information from
4.7 Clarify the habitat-use (including for widespread species,the geographical
all relevant aspects (morphological, ecological, genetic and possibly vocal), to
patterns) and other natural history aspects of the lesser-known otter species,
ensure otter conservation is based on the most appropriate taxonomic units and
prioritizing those aspects with the highest potential to inform the design and
in particular that it does not overlook taxonomically cryptic highly threatened
implementation of effective conservation.
species or subspecies.
4.7.1 Particularly in regions where the waterscape changes dramatically between
4.2 To aid conservation, recovery and potential re-establishment throughout their
wet and dry season, understand seasonal patterns of otter movements
historical ranges, particularly for otters listed as globally threatened on the IUCN
to reduce the risk of locality-based otter conservation programs failing
Red List of Threatened Species, collate and synthesize all available otter records
through the selection of insufficiently large and/or connected areas.
(mindful of the high risk of species-level mis-identification in many sources) to:
4.8 Understand the motivations for the human activities threatening otter
4.2.1 determine historical and current, total and core, distributions of otter
populations (including, but not limited to, over-harvest, human–otter conflict,
pollution, over-fishing, habitat degradation, climate change, invasive species and
4.2.2 propose key localities or Hotspots for each otter species. disease) recognizing that these will vary between given areas and that as part of
4.2.3 identify regions where information is insufficient to assess whether otter regionally-based conservation, precise understanding at the local level must also
populations occur (or persist) but are high priorities for survey because if be developed for targeted interventions to be likely to work.
they do, these populations might be of high global significance. 4.9 Understand the general barriers to, and how to overcome them for, enforcement
4.2.4 identify regions where current status is poorly known. of species and habitat legislation, human–otter conflict reduction, cessation of
poaching, and the resolution of all other identified significant threats, recognizing
4.2.5 identify key threats to otters at the population level, including geographical
that these will vary between localities and that as part of locality-based
conservation, precise understanding at the locality level must also be developed
4.3 Throughout otter range but particularly in areas where current status and for locality-based interventions to be likely to work.
conservation needs are poorly known, generate new, reliable information on otter
4.10 Identify and collaborate with other research initiatives likely to be in a position
status (where feasible to the species level) and conservation needs, using locally
to develop information relevant to otter conservation (otter records, habitat
apt methodology such as:
information, harvest information and others), such as those related to wetland
4.3.1 documentation of local communities’ perceptions of current and historical cats, river and other wetland birds, predatory fish, freshwater and estuarine
otter local status. turtles and crocodiles.
4.3.2 assembly of camera trap and other photos of live animals, road-kills 4.11 Develop and update as necessary regional, national and subnational
and signs, appropriately documented sight-records, and other credible comprehensive conservation and recovery action plans for otters, with specific,
evidence. measurable objectives and timelines, and prioritized to areas of particular
4.3.3 surveys using methodologies leading to verifiable records (such as camera- importance to otter conservation at global and regional scales, to provide the
trapping, environmental DNA [eDNA] and, in many circumstances, signs), delivery mechanism for this strategy.
targeted to localities and regions where collation of local information and
of others’ credible records is insufficient to understand status at sufficient
4.3.4 development and promotion of a global real-time citizen-science reporting
system for otter records and information about trade and other threats,
using insight from a review of existing pilot Otter ID programs (e.g. India
and Malaysia), and considering modifications for the replicability of such
programs in other countries.
4.3.5 for northern South-east Asia and potentially other regions where large
numbers of otter fecal samples have been stockpiled for DNA-based
species identification, and idenfy hese samples.
4.3.6 identify the types and intensities of population-level threat (including, but
not limited to, over-harvest, human–otter conflict, pollution, over-fishing,
habitat degradation, climate change, invasive species and disease) to the
otter populations of global or regional significance, recognizing that these
will vary between localities and that as part of locality-based conservation,
precise locality-level understanding must also be developed for locality-
based interventions to be likely to work.

16 — Chapter 2 Vision, Goals and Objectives — 17

Objective 5 Objective 6
Education and outreach Conflict resolution

Increase societal awareness of and support for otters and their environment. Facilitate peaceful co-existence between otters and people by decreasing human-
Reduce negative community perceptions of otters. Where possible create otter otter conflict throughout otter ranges. Provide IUCN SSC guidelines to aid local
support, particularly local human communities, to help with effective conservation, stakeholders in addressing otter – human conflict.
including government action. Create education/outreach materials to aid regional
conservation efforts and encourage citizen participation in otter research and
conservation. Actions
6.1 Identify and preempt probable otter-human conflict scenarios; provide timely
6.2 Develop and facilitate regional training programs to better address conflict
5.1 Increase the number of otter research and conservation articles published in
reputable scientific publications, and ensure the transfer of important findings
into media used by the public. 6.3 Study the socio-economic impacts of otters on local communities.
5.2 Develop a global education campaign using targeted and locally relevant 6.4 Foster multidisciplinary actions to improve perceptions of local communities in
social media and local outreach to engage the public about the need for otter conflict areas towards otters.
conservation. 6.5 Develop innovative conflict mitigation strategies to address ongoing conflict
5.3 Inform the public through social media, press releases, popular scenarios at local and regional level.
articles, and other means about otter related news and conservation successes 6.6 Evaluate and facilitate opportunities for the development of additional sources of
and failures. livelihoods for communities perceived to be negatively impacted by otters.
5.4 Develop downloadable information packets and study materials for educators 6.7 Educate recreational users of otter habitats who face problems with otters.
based on well-founded scientific and conservation understanding about otters,
taking note of recent advances. Disseminate educational and outreach material
among relevant stakeholders of all ages via physical and downloadable content.
5.4.1 Encourage all captive holding facilities that house otters to develop otter
awareness and conservation programs.
5.4.2 Encourage and provide information packets to schools in key
otter habitats.
5.5 Prepare and distribute otter identification and information manuals in local
languages for enforcement officials and their government and civil-society
partners in countries where a total ban on otter trade does not exist or is not
5.5.1 Translate existing otter identification and information manuals, such as
those originally prepared for Southeast Asian countries in 2018. Expand
and adapt them for use by national and international law enforcement
agencies to help identify otter species and otter products in trade, and
understand the conservation needs of otters and the urgency for their
5.6 Develop information and education kits for educators (physical and
downloadable) in regional languages and regions as appropriate.
5.7 Develop educational and outreach material to aid conflict resolution.
5.8 Educate pet owners on pet trade ethics, legalities and welfare, taking appropriate
care that this does not result in increased demand to keep otters as pets.
5.9  Foster otter friendly corporate relationships and help make corporations aware of
the importance of otters as ambassadors and their importance to ecosystems as
well as educate them regarding regulations related to otters and ecosystems.

18 — Chapter 2 Vision, Goals and Objectives — 19

Objective 7 Objective 8
Captive populations Global otter community

Ensure that all otter species are assessed for their captive conservation needs and Increase capacity for the implementation of the Global Otter Conservation Strategy,
that all captive otters are professionally cared for and managed in a state of positive by creating a Global Otter Community via multi-media platforms that will be an ever-
welfare and good genetic health. Also ensure that all existing and future captive expanding forum for otter conservation and communication. This will be composed
breeding is linked to or part of ex-situ collaborative conservation programs. of a broad spectrum of participants, locally and internationally, be they conservation
practitioners, educators, holders of ex-situ otters, communicators, policy makers,
tourism operators, advocates, researchers, and academics, from both government and
non-governmental sectors, and including citizen networks and specialist knowledge
7.1 Promote and implement the “One-Plan” approach to achieve a continuum bodies, such as the IUCN SSC Specialist Groups.
of effective otter conservation measures in situ and ex situ.
7.2 Ensure that all action plans for otters include comprehensive ex-situ
conservation needs assessments following the IUCN ex-situ guidelines. Actions
7.2.2 Conduct Integrated Collection Assessment and Planning (ICAP) for all 8.1 Identify partners at regional, national and subnational level for the
otter species. implementation of this global otter strategy.
7.3 Ensure that good record systems are in place in captive holding institutions 8.1.1 Create a special Global Otter Community on social media platforms to
(e.g. Species 360). consolidate and expand global initiatives.
7.3.1 Encourage involvement in established species management programs 8.1.2 Link the Global Community with the Education web pages on the IUCN
(e.g. GSMPs [Global Species Management Programmes], EEPs [European Otter Specialist Group website to share educational materials.
Endangered Species Programmes], SSPs [Species Survival Plans], and 8.2 Expand the existing visibility of the Otter Specialist Group on multi-media
TAGs [Taxon Advisory Groups]). outlets to attract and educate more followers and encourage global
7.3.2  Encourage information exchange and collaboration between otter holding communication exchanges.
facilities and the IUCN Otter Specialist Group. 8.3 Identify, encourage and equip leaders from within the IUCN Otter Specialist
7.4 Develop and disseminate husbandry manuals/guidelines (available through the Group membership and the Global Otter Community to promote otter awareness
Otter Specialist Group website) for all otter species and translate them to range and conservation actions in local communities.
and ex-situ countries' languages. 8.3.1 Train these potential young leaders to serve as Otter Heroes in their region.
7.4.1  Continuously improve existing husbandry guidelines through research and 8.3.2 Local Otter Heroes activities could include:
• Hold listening sessions with the community to hear their views of otters, both
7.4.2 Develop and disseminate existing veterinary guidelines for the medical positive and negative, and where needed strive to encourage more positive
management of all otter species in captivity. views and actions.
7.4.3 Build capacity for holding institutions requiring assistance in improving • Develop outreach programs with local schools and communities to promote the
captive otter management including husbandry, exhibit design and importance of otters in various positive roles such as flagship wetland species.
record keeping.
• Organize regional otter workshops to promote citizen science and train otter
7.4.4 Develop relevant protocols for sample collection and storage (e.g. researchers and volunteers from the community in the proper field techniques
blood, tissue) for all otter species to contribute to genetic preservation to observe and collect otter data.
and research.
• Develop ongoing relationships with the local communities and other river-users
such as tourism operators to explain the value of otters in their river ecosystem.
8.4 Build the capacity of institutions central to the conservation of otters.

20 — Chapter 2 Vision, Goals and Objectives — 21

Objective 9

Providing a steady stream of funding is essential to ensure the timely delivery of the
Actions described in this Global Otter Conservation Strategy, as well as for those
relevant to individual species conservation action plans The 13 otter species:
status and threats
9.1 Secure funds from a wide variety of sources to facilitate the implementation
of the Global Otter Conservation Strategy and other related strategic otter
conservation plans.
9.1.1 Assist and advise members of the Otter Specialist Group in their efforts to
secure funding for their conservation programs and field research.
9.1.2 Develop and secure funding for student research programs to contribute to
research objectives as outlined by the Global Otter Conservation Strategy.
9.1.3 Develop and secure funding to inspire, train and foster the next generation
of otter conservation leaders.
9.2 Identify, cultivate and maintain a list of funding sources which can address the
different types of Conservation Actions needed in the different regions of the
9.2.1 Meet with specific donors to discuss the special urgency, needs, and
challenges of global and local otter conservation, and develop funding
streams specifically for otters.
9.2.2 Explore funding support for incorporating otter-specific interventions
into extant or proposed effective long-term locality-based conservation
projects (see above).
9.3 Identify and promote collaborative fundraising efforts between the Otter
Specialist Group, the Global Otter Community, Zoological Parks and Aquaria,
other SSC Specialist Groups, and other otter interest groups more efficiently to
secure funding and other resources for otter conservation.
9.3.1 Create awareness campaigns to help raise funding through public donations.

22 – Chapter 2 - Vision, Goals and Objectives


Smooth-coated otter: List of the thirteen extant

Syed Ainul Hussain (, Ruchi Badola, otter species
N. Sivasothi, Sayanti Basak
1. Giant otter
Small-clawed otter: Pteronura brasiliensis
Aadrean (, Jamie Bouhuys, Li Fei, Lyca South America
Sandrea Castro, Camille Coudrat, Lalita Gomez, Anthony *Endangered
Sebastian, Leona Wai, M. Gopakumar, Sanjan Thapa, Nisarg 2. North American River otter
Prakash, Meryl Theng Lontra canadensis
Hairy-nosed otter: North America
Hiroshi Sasaki (, Daniel Willcox, *Least concern
Sokrith Heng, Budsabong Kanchanasaka, Reza Lubis, Sayanti, 3. Neotropical otter
Basak, Aadrean Lontra longicaudis
Eurasian otter: South America
Anna Loy ( *Near threatened
4. Marine otter
North American river otter:
Lontra felina
Thomas L. Serfass (, Emily A. Bricker,
South America
Kelly J. Pearce
Sea otter: 5. Southern river otter
Angela Doroff (, Shawn Larsen Lontra provocax
Giant otter: South America
 aroline Leuchtenberger (, Adi
C *Endangered
Barocas, Benoit de Thoisy, Christina Ward, Emanuela 6. Sea otter
Evangelista, Fernanda Michalski, Fernando Trujillo, George Enhydra lutris
Georgiadis, Guilherme De Miranda Mourao, Guillermo North America
Gil, Jessica Groenendijk, Joel Mendoza Oblitas, Marcelo Lopes *Endangered
Rheingantz, Martín Buschiazzo, Miriam Marmontel, Paul Van 7. Spotted-necked otter
Damme, Rob Wallace, Salvador Boher, Sebastián Di Martino, Hydrictis maculicollis
Thais Suzana Pereira, Victor Utreras Africa
Neotropical otter: *Near threatened
Marcelo Rheingantz (, Alejandro 8. Hairy-nosed otter
Valenzuela, Álvaro Botero-Botero, Benoit de Thoisy, Fernando Lutra sumatrana
Trujillo, Ildemaro González, Juan Pablo Gallo-Reynoso, Miriam Asia
Marmontel, Pablo César Hernández-Romero, Patrícia F. Rosas- *Endangered
Ribeiro, Robert Wallace, Victor Manuel Utreras Bucheli
9. Eurasian otter
Marine otter: Lutra lutra
Juan Valqui (, Joanna Alfaro, Carlos Calvo, Eurasia
Rinaldo Verdi *Near threatened
Southern river otter: 10.African clawless otter
Max Sepúlveda ( Aonyx capensis
Spotted necked-otter: *Near threatened
Jan Reed-Smith (, David Rowe-Rowe, Hélene
11. Congo clawless otter
Jacques, Michael Somers
Aonyx ongicus
African clawless otter: Africa
David Rowe-Rowe (, Hélene Jacques, *Near threatened
Trevor McIntyre, Michael Somers, Jan Reed-Smith 12. Short-clawed otter
Congo clawless otter: Aonyx cinereus
Hélene Jacques (, Jan Reed-Smith Asia
13. Smooth-coated otter
Lutrogale perspicillata

24 — 13 otter species: status and threats — 25

Smooth-coated Otter
Lutrogale perspicillata

The Smooth-coated otter, once common

in the wetlands and low-lying areas of
South Asia and Southeast Asia, is now
restricted to a few protected areas. In
former times, this species was widely
used by fishermen especially in the
Sunderbans of India and Bangladesh,
who trained the otters to herd fish into
their nets.

IUCN Red List Status to wash the salt from their fur. In certain
The Smooth-coated otter is listed as areas, such as Singapore, the species
Vulnerable due to an inferred population uses highly disturbed urban sites, with
decline of more than 30% over the past 30 some populations showing a remarkable
years (Pacifici et al. 2013). CITES Appendix resilience in the presence of human activity
II. (Theng and Sivasothi 2016, Khoo and
Sivasothi 2018).
The Smooth-coated otter is found in In the Indian subcontinent, the species is
Java, Sumatra and Borneo, northward to adapted to live in the semi-arid region of
southwestern China, east through Nepal northwestern India and the Deccan Plateau
and Bhutan and India to Pakistan, excluding (Prater 1971). In the Punjab plains of India,
the Indus Valley. There is an isolated it occurs along some stretches of the
population in the marshes of Iraq (L. p. Beas, Sutlej and Ravi Rivers and the Harike
maxwelli), indicating the range must once wetlands (Khan 2015). In Pakistan, it occurs
have been wider (Pocock 1941, Hussain in the floodplains of Sindh, some parts of
1993). Its presence has been confirmed Pakistan Punjab and a few places in Khyber-
from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakhtunkhwa along the Indus River (Rais
Southwest China, Myanmar, Singapore, 2009, Khan et al. 2010).
Thailand, Singapore, Viet Nam, Malaysia,
Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Indonesia (Mason In Nepal, Smooth-coated otters are found
and Macdonald 1986, Hussain 1993, along the braided channels of Narayani
Melisch et al. 1994) and southern Iraq (Al- River, with its slow current and shallow
Sheikhly, et al. 2015). The Smooth-coated depth (Acharya and Lamsal 2010). Along
otters in Singapore are L. perspicillata, x A. the large rivers in India, the species prefers
cinereus hybrids with A. cinereus mtDNA, rocky stretches, which provide sites for
the first reported case of hybridization denning and resting (Hussain 1993, Hussain
in wild among otters based on molecular and Choudhury 1995, 1997).
studies (Moretti et al. 2017).
In the terai areas of the upper Gangetic
Habitat and Ecology plain, Smooth-coated otters use seasonally
The Smooth-coated otter is an otter of flooded swamps during monsoon season
lowlands and floodplains and uses a wide and early winter. In the winter breeding
variety of habitats (Hussain and Choudhury season, swamps are extensively used as
1997). The species likes large rivers, lakes, natal den sites and nurseries.
peat swamp forests, coastal mangroves,
estuaries and rice fields (Foster-Turley In Southeast Asia, rice fields appear to
1992), provided there is ample riverbank be one of the most suitable habitats
vegetation for cover and escape, and rocky (Foster-Turley 1992, Melisch et al. 1996).
areas or deep soil for digging natal dens. Smooth-coated otters are more abundant
They have been seen swimming out to sea, in mangroves than rainforest rivers in Kuala
but these otters need adequate fresh water Gula, Malaysia (Shariff 1984). In the inner

26 — Otter species by region – Asia — 27

Eurasian otters (Gomez et al. 2016). Otters
are also coveted by the online pet trade,
particularly in Southeast Asia (Gomez and
Bouhuys 2018) and for use in traditional
medicine in some countries of Southeast
Asia and China (Poole 2003).

Wetlands and waterways are polluted

by eutrophication and accumulation
of persistent agricultural pesticides,
such as chlorinated hydrocarbons and
organophosphates. Fortunately, the overall
use of insecticides has decreased since
1996, but chlorinated hydrocarbons are
still indiscriminately used (CPCB 1994).
Increased pesticide use is regarded as a
major obstacle to the development of
rice-fish culture (Koesoemadinata and
Costa-Pierce 1992) and poses a danger to
all predators feeding on affected aquatic
prey (Melisch 1995).
Gulf of Thailand, otters also use the cover species that share its range. It also eats occurs in August and September, and litters
of traditional aquaculture ponds, but not shrimp, crayfish, crabs, frogs, mudskippers, of 2 to 5 are born several months later Across South and Southeast Asia,
agricultural or urban cover. In west Java, and birds (Foster-Turley 1992, Hussain (Desai 1974, Hussain 1993). Dens are dug increased aquaculture activities lead to
Smooth-coated otters prefer mangroves, and Choudhury 1998, Anoop and Hussain under tree roots, between piles of boulders, indiscriminate killing of otters. Small-scale
tidal stretches of the rivers, and rice fields 2005). The percentage of fish in the diet or in dense vegetation (Shariff 1984). fishermen are quite tolerant of otters,
(Melisch et al. 1996). Remaining natural range from 75-100% (Melisch et al.1996, but commercial fishermen kill them as
patches seem to be critical refuges for Hussain and Choudhury 1998, Anoop and Threats pests. The practices of dynamite fishing
otter, allowing them to persist in an Hussain 2005). Foraging mainly occurs The major threat to Asian otters is the in the Nepal foothills (Prakash 2013), and
otherwise heavily transformed landscape. in water near obstructions such as fallen burgeoning human population across electrofishing in Iraq (Al-Sheikhly and Nader
trees, rocks, fishing nets and rapids (Shariff Asia, leading to loss of wetland habitats, 2013) kill otters. Otters entangled in fishing
In urban Singapore, in addition to natural 1984). decline in prey biomass, dam construction, nets drown. And although technically
sites, otters use human-made, concretized pollution, and poaching. In many Asian protected throughout its range, laws are
structures such as reservoirs and canals, In the Periyar Tiger Reserve, India, the countries, the problems of poverty have laxly enforced, with some local authorities
and have adapted to use concrete and exotic European carp constitutes the major not been adequately addressed, forcing even actively encourage otter killing by
grass for grooming. Latrines, resting sites, prey, while in Singapore exotic cichlids are people to be increasingly dependent on fishery interests.
and dens are present in areas with high the major prey in freshwater reservoirs natural resources. Consequently, most
human accessibility such as small gaps (Theng et al. 2016). By consuming large water systems do not have a sufficient There is inadequate data on the trends
and crevices under bridges, and under amounts of exotic fish species, otters may of otter mortality due to road kills, but
metal beams and roads. They have been contribute to the control of their rapid there are records of frequent road kills in the species’ habitat. For the long-term assessments of development projects
observed using stairs and ladders to access expansion in water bodies (Anoop and A priority is the India and Southeast Asian countries. An survival of the species, policy-based near wetlands and rivers of conservation
dry land in concrete canals with steep Hussain 2005). In Singapore, along the identification of specific insufficient reporting system hampers actions, research on factors affecting its importance should also assess impacts on
sloping walls (Khoo and Sivasothi 2018). mangrove habitats, prawn consisted 35% an understanding of the level of otter survival, habitat-based action, expansion otters and other aquatic species.
of their diets (Theng et al. 2016). local threats, so that mortality from vehicles. Captive and wild of protected areas, and communication and
Smooth-coated otters are gregarious. strategies can be designed populations of otters are susceptible to awareness building actions are needed. In areas of conflict, educating and
They often live in large groups of different Smooth-coated otters may compete diseases such as rabies, canine distemper, engagement with fishermen/fishing
age and sex, hunt in groups and defecate for resources with Small-clawed otters for resource canine hepatitis, and parvovirus, which may The creation of a network of Protected communities is needed as it is in urban
in common latrine sites which are used where they co-exist. Small-clawed otters, and habitat protection. be contracted by Smooth-coated otters Areas, including identification of sites as areas with fish ponds. Restoration of
traditionally over many years (Hussain however, mostly forage in rice fields and from feral dogs or other species of otters. wetlands of national and international otter-friendly habitats such as riparian
1996, Hussain and Choudhury 1997). The small muddy streams, eating primarily importance under the Ramsar Convention, vegetation (or even at least the provision
basic family group consists of an adult crabs, whereas Smooth-coated otters prey base for sustaining otter populations. Climate change will take a serious toll on will help to halt the degradation of its of stairs) along urbanised waterways
female and her offspring, the father of mostly use large bodies of water, eating In the last decade, loss of mangroves to otter populations worldwide. Smooth- habitat. instead of vertical slopes will enable clean
the offspring, and older siblings (Lekagul primarily fish (Sabrina 1985). They have aquaculture, reclamation of wetlands, coated otters depend on rivers, lakes and urbanized waterways to become a refuge
and McNeely 1988, Hussain 1996). Along also been observed exhibiting coordinated stone quarrying and sand mining, and other streams, which face dramatic alteration To control the illegal trade in Smooth- for otters.
the Chambal River in central India the group-hunting strategies (Kruuk et al. habitat alterations outside protected areas under a warming scenario, reducing water coated otter pelts, enforcement of laws,
group size ranges from 1 to 9 animals, 1994). The Smooth-coated otter is have increased, leading to reduced habitat levels in long-term droughts and affecting higher rates of conviction and real penalties Further research and standardized surveys
and the home range of otters overlapped also sympatric with the Eurasian otter, for Smooth-coated otters. prey densities. are needed, as well as effective control of will help to clarify the remaining Smooth-
substantially (Hussain and Choudhury which consumes smaller fish and more transborder trafficking. coated otter population trends, distribution
1995); the home range of females with cubs amphibians (Kruuk et al. 1994). The illegal wildlife trade poses a direct Threat mitigation measures and conservation needs. A priority is the
was estimated to be 5.5 km of river, and threat to the Smooth-coated otter. From The creation of networks of Protected Intensified efforts are needed to reduce identification of specific local threats,
about 17 km for adult males. Smooth-coated otter mating takes place 1980 to 2015, 5,881 otter pelts were seized Areas and identification of sites as the use of pesticides, and to control the so that strategies can be designed for
in water, with prolonged playful bouts across 15 countries in Asia, with about half wetlands of national and international discharge of industrial effluent and sewage resource and habitat protection.
The Smooth-coated otter is mainly a fish between partners (Desai 1974, Naidu and of the pelts coming from India and most importance under Ramsar Convention has into wetlands and river ecosystems
eater, taking larger prey than other otter Malhotra 1989). In northern India, mating cases involving the Smooth-coated and to some extent halted the degradation of (Hussain 2000). Environmental impact

28 — Otter species by region – Asia — 29

Captive populations
The Smooth-coated otter breeds in many
zoos across South and Southeast Asia.
Early breeding records are from National
Zoological Garden Delhi and Jaipur Zoo
in India. They are also known to breed in
zoos in Thailand, Cambodia, and Viet Nam.
Few European or American zoos hold or
breed Smooth-coated otters. In 1972, the
Twycross Zoo in the United Kingdom was
the first to breed Smooth-coated otters
in the Western Hemisphere. Breeding for
re-introduction purposes has not been
attempted. There is a need to collate the
existing stocks of Smooth-coated otter for
future ex situ conservation planning.

Site-specific Conservation Locations

The first ever sanctuary dedicated to
otters, the Tungabhadra Otter Reserve
Sanctuary, was created in 2016 in Hospet in
Karnataka State in the south of India. This
refuge must be supported and its success
assessed to see if the model is useful

Singapore, with its thriving and popular

Smooth-coated otter population, is a
conservation location of special interest.
It presents an unusual opportunity to
understand how an urban population of
otters manages to live in close proximity
with people and thrive.

In India, the Smooth-coated otter is given north shore, and in Singapore, especially university students.
protection in the many areas that were in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Pulau
The appearance of created for umbrella species such as tiger, Ubin, and Serangoon Reservoir (Theng In west Asia, the conservation action
Smooth-coated otters elephant, crocodiles and river dolphins. and Sivasothi 2016). The appearance should focus on Iraq where the status of L.
p. maxwelli is still not known. In South Asia
In the Jim Corbett and Dudhwa Tiger of Smooth-coated otters with pups in
with pups in Singapore Reserves in northern India (Nawab and Singapore is a testimony to the efforts the focus on Smooth-coated otters should
is a testimony to Hussain 2012), Periyar, Parambukulum and made by various agencies in the restoration be directed to the foothills of the Himalayas
Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserves of wetland habitats and coastal areas including Nepal and Bhutan, Western Ghats
the efforts made by (Raha and Hussain 2016), Koringa and that suggest that the natural colonization and coastal areas of Gujarat, Maharashtra,
various agencies in the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, and of otters in degraded habitat is possible Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. In Southeast
Kaziranga and Pakke Tiger Reserves, the through effective habitat improvement Asia the focus should Myanmar, Southern
restoration of wetland Smooth-coated otter deserves the same measures. China, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia and
habitats and coastal conservation attention as charismatic Indonesia, covering coastal habitats such
megafauna. Projects and Funding Opportunities as mangrove forests.
areas. The Smooth-coated otter is the most
The species is highly vulnerable and needs studied otter in Asia, but the status Regional
protection in the marshes of southern surveys conducted for this species cover West Asia
Iraq, in India in the Punjab plains, Himalayan only patches scattered across the whole The marshes of southern Iraq are part
foothills, and Northeast India including of its range. Occupancy based surveys of the Palearctic Tigris–Euphrates
Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, in Southern need to be carried out in protected ecoregion covering an area of 15–20,000
China, and in Southeast Asian countries, and unprotected areas to monitor its km2. According to the United Nations
including Myanmar, Thailand (in the Hua population trends. Studies should also Environmental Program, 84-90% of these
Khai Kheng Wildlife Sanctuary), Lao PDR, focus on phylogeography and conservation marshes have been destroyed. These
Cambodia, Viet Nam and Indonesia. genetics, foraging ecology and habitat marshes are the stronghold of both
use. This species has greatly suffered L.p. maxwelli and Lutra lutra, and their
Success Stories due to indiscriminate poaching for its restoration of should be a high priority.
Smooth-coated otter populations in pelt, particularly in South and Southeast Fortunately, the Central Marshes and the
Singapore have increased since the Asia. Sensitization workshops need to be Central, Hawizeh and Hammer Marshes are
1990s with breeding populations in the organized for enforcement agencies such Ramsar sites and are under international
western and eastern Johor Straits on the as custom officials, forest rangers and for conservation management. Occupancy

30 — Otter species by region – Asia — 31

based surveys need to be carried out at the affecting otter populations in South Asia. Southeast Asia Small-clawed Otter Aonyx cinereus
Central and Hawizeh Marshes to determine In view of these, it is imperative to sensitize In Southeast Asia, otters are widely Projects and Funding Opportunities
the status of otters in the region. the law enforcement agencies such as poached for their pelt and for the illegal
border police, custom officials and the staff pet trade. It is imperative to train law
Apart from loss of habitats, otters of the Forest Department by organizing enforcement agencies such as border Region Actions Costs
are indiscriminately killed as they are workshops in collaboration with TRAFFIC, police, custom officials and Forest
considered to be pests in the region. Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, WWF and Department staff by organizing workshops West Asia Full-time researcher position to work on otter $ 60,000
Conservation education and awareness other NGOs in Nepal, Bhutan and India. in collaboration with TRAFFIC, Wildlife conservation in the region $ 1,000/month for 60 months
workshops in this war-torn area will Legal instruments should be put in place Crime Control Bureau, WWF and other Organize five capacity-development $ 50,000
sensitize the people to the value of to protect otters from poaching, trade NGOs. There is strong need for community workshops to train researchers in otter survey,
otters and wetland conservation. A small of pelts and body parts and live animals involvement in otter conservation feeding habit study and wetland conservation
nature interpretation center should be for the pet trade pets. Training programs especially in coastal areas where conflicts strategies
established, close to Central and Hawizeh are needed for species identification and between otters and human are more Support existing labs to confirm subspecies
Marshes, to highlight the role of wetlands filing of cases in court for culprits. Public severe. The conservation action of status in Iraq, Iran and Israel $ 25,000
and its obligate species for human well- awareness programs, especially for the Smooth-coated otter in Southeast Asia
being and sustainable development. fishermen and riverside communities, should be linked with the conservation Iraq Determine status of Lutrogale p. maxwelli in $ 25,000
Capacity building of local researchers in should be undertaken for wetland of Eurasian otter, Hairy-nosed otter and Central marshes and Hawizeh Marshes
otter surveys and wetland conservation conservation by promoting otters as Small-clawed otter wherever they occur Organize five conservation education and $ 25,000
should be conducted in training workshops. ambassador of the wetlands. Community sympatrically. The priority countries for awareness workshops in areas close to Central
The conservation of Smooth-coated involvement in otter conservation is Smooth-coated otter conservation in Marshes and Hawizeh Marshes
otter in West Asia should be linked to the needed, especially in coastal areas where Southeast Asia are Myanmar, Thailand, Lao Establish a nature interpretation centre in $ 25,000
conservation of Eurasian otters. Iraq is the conflicts between otters and human are PDR, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Malaysia and a college, university or institution close to
priority country for conservation actions. more severe. Indonesia. An overall budget of $ 150,000 Central and Hawizeh Marshes to highlight the
An overall budget of $ 150,000 over three over three years should be allocated to the role of otters and wetlands
years should be allocated to a West Asia Smooth-coated otter conservation in Southeast Asia program. South Asia Full-time otter research and conservation $ 60,000
program. South Asia should be linked with the position $1,000/month for 60 months
conservation of the Eurasian otter and
South Asia Small-clawed otter where they occur Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh Monitor population status of Smooth-coated $ 50,000
In most of its range, the Smooth-coated sympatrically. The priority countries for otters in select protected and non-protected
otter occurs sympatrically with the Smooth-coated otter conservation are habitats
Eurasian otter and Small-clawed otter Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. An Support existing labs to analyze samples of $ 30,000
especially in the Western Ghats, Northeast overall budget of $ 100,000 over three each genetic group to confirm subspecies
India, and in Myanmar and eastward to years should be allocated to a South Asia status
southeast Asia. Poaching of otters and program. Organize five workshops for enforcement $ 50,000
habitat loss are the most important factors agencies dealing with otter trade,
conservation education
and awareness
Organize five capacity development $ 50,000
workshops for local researchers for monitoring
otter populations, food habit studies, and
wetland conservation
Southeast Asia Full-time otter research and conservation $ 60,000
position $1,000/month for 60 months
Myanmar, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao Monitor population status of four Southeast $ 40,000
PDR, Viet Nam, Malaysia and Indonesia Asian otter species in select protected and
non-protected habitats.
Support existing labs to confirm subspecies $ 40,000
Organize eight workshops for enforcement $ 80,000
agencies dealing with otter trade,
conservation education and awareness in
Southeast Asian countries
Organize eight capacity-development $ 80,000
workshops for local researchers for monitoring
otter population, food habit studies, and
wetland conservation

32 — Otter species by region – Asia — 33

Small-clawed Otter
Aonyx cinereus

The smallest otter, while widespread in

Southeast Asia, is now declining rapidly
due their wetland habitat loss, poaching,
and, more recently, the pet trade via the

IUCN Red List Status Habitat and Ecology (Lekagul and McNeely 1988). Small-clawed invertebrates makes water contamination
The Asian Small-clawed otter is classified Asian Small-clawed otters use a wide otters in captivity breed year-round and from organochlorides, heavy metals and
as Vulnerable due to an inferred past variety of natural and human-altered mating usually takes place in the water, other pollutants an important concern. The
population decline of more than 30% over habitats, with a preference for slower but also on land. They appear to be common practice of dumping garbage in
the past 30 years, or three generations water bodies, including meandering rivers, monogamous (Wilson and Mittermeier wetlands is also a threat to otters, whose
(Pacifici et al. 2013). CITES Appendix II. streams, peat swamps, mangrove forests, 2009), but little is known of their behavior scat has been observed to contain plastics
tidal pools, rice fields, irrigation ditches, or reproduction outside of captivity. In (Castro and Dolorosa 2006, Egana et al.
Distribution and fish ponds. They also use shallow fast- captivity, a pair will build a nest together 2016). Fishermen are known to kill otters
The Small-clawed otter has a broad flowing mountain creeks narrower than and raise the litter, ranging from 2 to 7 cubs as a competitor for fish. The main threats
distribution range, extending from India in 5 m, particularly when the course of the (Foster-Turley 1986). in Western Ghats occur from fish-kill
South Asia eastwards through Southeast streams includes natural pools, reaching practices -- dynamite fishing, bleach fishing
Asia, including Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, up to 1,000 m elevation in parts of its range The Small-clawed otter coexists in many and electric-rod based fishing and the use
Cambodia, Bangladesh and Indonesia to (Wright et al. 2015). The species is well parts of its range with the Eurasian otter, of pesticides in banana plantations and
Palawan, Philippines, and southern China adapted to agricultural habitats and human the Smooth-coated otter, and the Hairy- rice fields. In China, the construction of
(Mason and Macdonald 1986, Wozencraft habitation. Small-clawed otters prefer nosed otter. Small-clawed diet consists hydropower dams is causing substantial
1993, Hussain 2000, Hussain et al. 2011). moderate and low vegetation structure in of mostly crabs and other invertebrates, habitat loss in hill streams, a habitat of
In India it occurs in West Bengal, Assam, riverine areas (Melisch et al. 1996). rather than fish that other otter species Small-clawed otters (Li Fei pers. comm.).
Himachal Pradesh, and Arunachal Pradesh prefer. Signs of the Small-clawed otter Poaching is still a very significant threat
as well as in southern Indian hill ranges of As their name implies, the Small-clawed have been found wandering further away to Small-clawed otters, and poachers
Coorg (Karnataka), Ashambu, Nilgiri and otter has very reduced claws, and their from rivers than other otter species, rarely differentiate between otter species
Palini Hills (Tamil Nadu) and Kerala (Pocock feet are webbed. They have a brown to between patches of reeds and river debris (Gomez et al. 2016). India, Cambodia, Viet
1941, Prater 1971, Hussain 2000, Hussain light brown pelage, with a pale, sometimes where crabs are more likely to be found Nam, Lao PDR, and Myanmar are source
et al. 2011) and in Odisha in eastern India almost white chest, throat, cheeks and (Kruuk et al. 1994). The recent discovery countries for luxurious otter pelts that then
(Mohapatra et al. 2014). It also inhabits the chin. of small-clawed otter from Eastern Ghats travel to markets in East Asia (Gomez et al.
lowland rivers and wetlands in the foothills of Odisha throws light on its adaptive 2016, Coudrat 2016, Gomez and Bouhuys A population decline of
of the Himalayas in Bhutan and Nepal. The Small-clawed otter is adapted to an radiation to Western Ghats. 2018). Otters are used in traditional
invertebrate diet with a strong preference medicines in Lao PDR, Southeast Asia
more than 30% over
Populations are inferred to be declining for crabs and shellfish, supplemented by Threats and China (Li and Chan 2017, Gomez and the past 30 years.
steeply. The species has undergone a fish and other species opportunistically Throughout its range, the Small-clawed Bouhuys 2018). International criminal
dramatic decline in China with only three (Hussain et al. 2011). The otter forages on otter is threatened by human development networks traffic otter pelts with other
records from 2006 to the present (Li its prey with dextrous fingers and crushes and activities. Widespread human activities valuable species such as tiger and leopard,
and Chan 2017). In India, its distribution the exoskeleton of crabs and other hard- -- aquaculture, swamp reclamation, and most range countries have weak
range has decreased, for example, in the shelled prey with strong teeth (Hussain siltation due to deforestation, pollution control the clandestine trade in otters
Sunderbans (Sanyal 1991) and in Cambodia, 2013). Sometimes, otters leave shellfish by pesticides, mining, quarrying, slash- (Wright et al. 2015).
it is only found near Virachey National Park in the sun so that the heat opens them, and-burn agriculture and loss of habitat to
(Heng et al. 2016). Massive destruction of saving them the effort of crushing them agricultural conversions, including coffee, A growing threat to Small-clawed otters is
wetland forests in Indonesia has reduced (Wilson and Mittermeier 2009). tea and palm oil plantations and rice fields the illegal trade in pets. Small-clawed otters
the species’ habitat (Margono et al. 2014), -- all take their toll on otter habitat. are charismatic and popular attractions
as has habitat conversion to oil palm Small-clawed otters tend to be nocturnal, in zoos and increasingly in Asian pet
plantations in Sabah. or crepuscular near human settlements. Likewise, a common threat to otters is a shops, pet fairs, and even in coffee shops
They are highly social, foraging and reduced prey base from overfishing. The (Gonzalez 2010, Aadrean 2013, Gomez
traveling in groups up to twelve or more species preference for crabs and other and Bouhuys 2018). Much of the pet trade

34 — Otter species by region – Asia — 35

With more information, fish
farmers, poachers, and pet
owners have been known to
change their perspective on
the value and importance of
the species.

has moved online and is difficult to control otter is largely driven by life style and the otter can share human altered habitats if priorities include the establishment of a
(Gomez and Bouhuys 2018.). internet. Community watch groups that not harassed, promotion of clean drainage rescue and rehabilitation facility at Palawan
advocate conservation and protection of of agricultural water and the practice of Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center,
A less significant threat is accidental road- otters in the wild can be useful in helping to organic agriculture can reduce pollution designation of more protected areas, and
kill, which has been recorded in Philippines curb poaching. related threats. Corporations should be better enforcement of environmental and
(Bernardo 2011), Indonesia, and Malaysia. encouraged to use green technologies wildlife laws. Better enforcement of laws
Otters are also occasionally caught in traps Conservation awareness and public to reduce detrimental impacts on the and penalties for illegal trafficking of otters
set for other bushmeat targets and killed by education campaigns can help to reduce environment. Across Asia, improved land are also the priority in Thailand, Myanmar,
feral dog packs. the impacts of human threats to the Small- use planning, maintenance of habitat Cambodia, Viet Nam and Lao PDR.
clawed otter, especially in Southeast Asia mosaics, avoidance of large-scale
Recent modelling research suggests that and China (Li and Chan 2017). With more agricultural monocultures, and promotion Captive populations
climate change will significantly impact information, fish farmers, poachers, and pet of environmentally friendly industries are Small-clawed otters breed well in captivity
Small-clawed otter habitats, forecasting owners have been known to change their key to otter conservation. and are a popular exhibit in over 226 zoos.
up to 40% loss of suitable areas by 2070. perspective on the value and importance No captive breeding for re-introduction
This scenario is made worse for the Small- of the species. Educating internet A regional network among researchers purposes has been attempted. The
clawed otter by the marginality of its citizens using social media may increase should be created in areas with Asian studbook lists over 977 individuals living
climatic niche (Cianfrani et al. 2018). appreciation for otters and promote their Small-clawed otter populations. Small- from 48 founders. Husbandry manuals are
protection. clawed otter research in various countries available in several languages from the
Its western range in the Himalayas is is written in different languages and Otter Specialist Group website.
showing a decreasing trend, shrinking Once common in the streams and wetlands characters. Local information is often
from west to east in Himachal Pradesh, of south and Southeast Asia, the species unavailable among countries, because Site-specific Conservation Locations
attributed to the drying of smaller streams is now increasingly rare. It is crucial that of those language barriers. An otter In the Western Ghats of India, where
that they use. of networks of protected areas, including research network would allow the sharing Eurasian, Smooth-coated, and Small-
wetlands of national and international of knowledge and collaboration among clawed otters live together sympatrically,
Threat Mitigation Measures importance under the Ramsar Convention, researchers and conservationists. the range of all three has shrunk, and the
The legal protection of the Small-clawed be conserved as habitat for this otter area offers an opportunity to protect all
otter must be prioritized, particularly in (Wright et al. 2015). Education and community outreach three species of otters and their habitat at
Indonesia, Cambodia, Brunei Darussalam programs are needed throughout range once.
and Nepal, none of which have regulations In China, systematic surveys should be countries of the Small-clawed otter.
that protect the species. A review of conducted to clarify current distribution In China, priorities include surveys to The Small-clawed otter occurs
legislation in range countries is needed and status, and to safeguard remnant document the status and distribution of sympatrically with Smooth-coated and
to assess the online trade in otters, so populations in protected areas as sources otters, enforcement of wildlife laws, and Eurasian otters in the Western Ghats
that law enforcement agencies can take for future recolonization or expansion. the safeguarding of remnant populations and the Northeast of India, and the
appropriate actions. In some consumer Recent studies of its distribution in China, in protected areas. In Indonesia, priorities Sunderbans of both India and Bangladesh,
countries, Japan for example, loopholes Cambodia, and India shows that the range include control of wildlife trafficking, The iconic Ramsar site of the Sundarbans
allow CITES Appendix II species, like the of the Small-clawed otter is shrinking. improved legal protection, and improved in Bangladesh and India is an extensive
Small-clawed otter, to be traded once wetland conditions. In Malaysia, priorities landscape of waterways that would be
smuggled into the country. In Thailand and Governments throughout the species’ include increased legal protection and a refuge for otters. These sites offer
Indonesia, enforcement efforts should be range must develop policies for more more effective law enforcement. In opportunities to protect all three species
enhanced to match the growing demand environmentally friendly development and Singapore, the priority is research in in south Asia, especially when a network of
for pet otters and illegal captive breeding land-use, and halt or slow the conversion the north-eastern islands as a basis for Protected Areas are in place.
activities. The new fad for keeping pet of wetland forests. Since Small-clawed species recovery plans. In the Philippines,

36 — Otter species by region – Asia — 37

An isolated and threatened population of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous The Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Small-clawed Otter Aonyx cinereus
Small-clawed otters that lives on Palawan Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China. Sabah, is on the second longest river in Projects and Funding Opportunities
Island deserves protection. Camera trap photos of Small-clawed otters Malaysia, and the riparian forest along its
were taken in the area bordering Lao PDR length is a key conservation area for the
An extensive survey for the species in and a rare population may be protected species. The Yayasan Sabah Conservation Region Actions Costs
Cambodia suggests that the population there. Area (Maliau Basin, Imbak Canyon, Danum
in Virachey National Park is vulnerable Valley), Malaysia host significant and viable All countries National surveys to confirm the distribution $20,000 per country
(Heng et al. 2016), but the species is not A cluster of nature reserves with a network populations of both Small-clawed and range of the species every 5 years
protected in Cambodia. of hill streams in southwestern Guangxi Smooth-coated otters. In two or three representative locations Study on home range and habitat use pattern, 5 years
Province, China, near the border with Viet using telemetry $20,000/year per project
Once claimed to be extinct in Pulau Ubin, Nam, is highly suitable habitat for Small- The Sungai Lepar watercourse in Pahang,
Singapore, the population of Small-clawed clawed otters. The species may have been Malaysia, although limited by palm oil Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore Long term program to evaluate status and 5 years
plantations, used to be the only freshwater dynamics of Small-clawed otter in human- $20,000/year per project
otters now appears to be increasing. The extirpated from the area but offers a key
altered wetland habitats
success story of the Smooth-coated otter area for a reintroduction program when site in the Malay Peninsula with Small-
on the main Singapore Island could extend poaching and other threats are controlled. clawed, Smooth-coated and Hairy-nosed All countries Studies to confirm subspecies and inbreeding 5 years
to a Small-clawed otter population on Pulau The presence of Small-clawed otter have otters and remains a good habitat for status Full-time position
Ubin if it is protected. been documented in the U Minh Wetlands otters. $ 20,000 annual salary
$ 100,000 for analyses and support
in Viet Nam, which offers a conservation
The species still exists in mountainous opportunity (Willcox et al. 2017). Small-clawed otter have been documented All countries Training rangers in Key Otter Conservation One full-time research position to train
areas in nature reserves in China, but their in the U Minh Wetlands in Viet Nam, which Areas to conduct surveys for otter presence/ local rangers
population density is very low. Kadoorie There is a large Small-clawed otter offers a conservation opportunity (Willcox absence $ 20,000/year per area
Farm and Botanic Garden, a local nonprofit, population in Nakai-Nam Theun National et al. 2017). All countries Educational programs for local communities $ 5,000/workshop
has provided training and funding for a Protected Area in Lao PDR. Ongoing on the illegal otter trade
monitoring team at Diaoluoshan National management strategies, adequate funding, Success Stories
Social media is thriving in China, and Indonesia, Thailand National workshops to improve conservation $ 25,000/year per educator
Nature Reserve on Hainan Island, which and the current involvement of a non-
status of Small-clawed otter
appears to be a Small-clawed otter profit group makes this site a priority Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden has
hotspot. conservation area. been trying to raise awareness on otter Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh National workshops to improve conservation $ 25,000/workshop
conservation via this channel. The status of Small-clawed otter
A series of camera trap photos of Small- The mountainous western part of Bukit organization posted 12 Weibo (equivalent
Indonesia, China Empower internet communities to appreciate 5 years
clawed otters were taken in Yingjiang Barisan, Sumatra, in Indonesia, a landscape of Twitter in China) about the value of otters
Province, China by Kadoorie Farm patchwork of wetlands and rice fields, and otters in aquatic ecosystems, that have $ 5,000/year per country
and Botanic Garden in 2017. The local rich in streams, offers good habitat for been read by over half a million people All countries Tracking illegal otter trafficking One full-time research position
conservation authority is working with the the species. The several national parks of throughout China. Readers show great $ 20,000/year
organization to step up protection and Sumatra, Java, and Kalimantan, Indonesia, concern and citizen scientists have been International/range countries Workshop on illegal otter trafficking $ 50,000
monitoring of this otter population. contain prime otter habitat, yet Small- providing observation records from
clawed otters are not on protected species areas not covered by researchers or
There is extensive potential habitat lists. conservationists. All countries Books, posters, and kid’s media to promote $ 20,000 per language
available for Small-clawed otters in otters
All countries Create an Asian Otter Network $ 10,000

Malaysia- Study of hybridization between Small-clawed Year 1 $ 26,000

Singapore- and Smooth-coated otters using ecological Year 2 $ 27,000
Indonesia interrelation and genetic studies Year 3 $ 33,000
Year 4 $ 24,000
Year 5 $ 16,000

38 — Otter species by region – Asia — 39

Hairy-nosed Otter
Lutra sumatrana

An otter so shy and elusive, it was declared extinct in

the 1990s. It has now been ‘rediscovered’ in isolated
areas and its presence confirmed with camera traps
in southern Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, Myanmar,
Cambodia and Viet Nam. Research is needed urgently
to develop conservation programs for this rarest Asian
otter species. Populations of the Hairy-nosed otter
are under rapid decline almost across mainland
Southeast Asia, through trade-driven hunting and
habitat degradation.

IUCN Red List Status extant in Myanmar and Lao PDR, but never
The Hairy-nosed otter is classified as reported or collected.
Endangered, due to a decline of at least
50% or more in the past three generations Each of these locations is represented by
or 30 years (Pacifici et al. 2013). CITES a tiny number of observations, though a
Appendix II. few more are reported each year now that
awareness has been raised. Nowhere do
Distribution they appear to be plentiful, and locations
The Hairy-nosed otter is endemic to are isolated from one another by very
Southeast Asia but is so rare that recent long stretches of unsuitable habitat.
records are basically a dispersed set of Populations are therefore regarded as
point localities. We have little idea of highly fragmented with no possibility of
its current status across huge tracts of gene flow between them.
potential range. In Viet Nam, it is reported
from U Minh Thuong Nature Reserve It appears that the animal was regarded as
(Nguyen et al. 2001) and U Minh Ha fairly common during the first half of the
Nature Reserve (Nguyen 2006, Willcox et twentieth century (Wright et al. 2008), in
al. 2017) in Mekong Delta. In Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Borneo, Indochina,
it is reported from flooded forests and Sumatra, Java, Myanmar, and possibly
scrubs around the Tonle Sap Lake, and Lao PDR.
marshlands, coastal mangroves and
Melaleuca forests (Heng et al. 2016). In Habitat and Ecology
Thailand, it is present in the Phru Toa There is very little information on habitat
Daeng Peat Swamp Forest (Kanchanasaka use by Hairy-nosed otters, but most
and Duplaix 2011) and Hala Bala Wildlife recent observations are from low lying
Sanctuary (Sasaki pers. comm.). peat swamps, mangroves and seasonally
flooded forests. They may use other kinds
In Malaysia, it is present in Kelantan, of habitats, such as flooded forest and
Terengganu, Perak, Pahang, Selangor, marshland. Or it may be that they formerly
and Johor (Baker 2013, Tan 2015, Sasaki were more flexible, but human pressure
pers. comm.), Kedah (Salahshour 2016), has led to reliance on habitats not much
and Saba (Wilting et al. 2010, Ishigami et frequented by humans. Peat swamp
al. 2017). In Indonesia, it is reported in forests are assumed to be their preferred
Sumatra (Lubis 2005, Latifiana and Pickles habitats
2013), and an otter was observed in Brunei
in 1997 (Sasaki et al. 2009). In northeast Because of the rarity of the species, little is
Myanmar, a Hairy-nosed otter pelt was understood of Hairy-nosed otter ecology.
reported at Mong La, Shan State (Shepherd It is darker in color than other sympatric
and Nijman 2014). This pelt, along with otters, with a pale throat patch, hairy nose,
a 1939 report from Myanmar indicates a white upper lip, and webbed feet. The
population of some kind 2900 km from species is usually observed alone and is
any other. Perhaps historically they were assumed to be solitary. Reports of sociality

40 — Otter species by region – Asia — 41

range from single animals to groups of 6, ground-living species by snares set near impacts on habitat and illegal exploitation Hairy-nosed otter and the resulting demand on natural constraints of funding and location meant
though group composition is unknown. watercourses. Otters also drown in fish may lead to the extinction of the species populations are expected resources. The natural low density of that water quality and food quality was hard
The mating season of Hairy-nosed otter traps and nets and are killed as pests by unless appropriate conservation measures the species and its dependence on to maintain, the animals were in a totally
appears to be from November and March, fish and prawn famers. are taken. to decline in the future. aquatic ecosystems, often the first to different habitat from the natural peat
with cubs appearing in April (Heng et Populations are now small be converted into agriculture, together forests habitat, and free-roaming dogs,
al. 2016). We also know nothing about In its entire range the Hairy-nosed Threat Mitigation Measures with overexploitation of prey resources, monkeys and birds could have transferred
whether male and female remain together, otter is under increasing pressure from It is imperative to re-examine the range and widely separated, makes the Hairy-nosed otter extremely infections against which the otters had no
or whether males help rear young. The intensive poaching, turning up as pelts in of this species in light of new sighting and local extinctions are vulnerable to extinction. resistance. The other otter species at the
species occurs in low densities and the wildlife seizures or in markets (Shepherd records. To conserve the species, the illegal centre did not suffer the same mortality,
frequency of sightings are very low. and Nijman 2014). In Cambodia, around trade in otters must stop and remaining probably already occurring Captive Populations despite a similar husbandry regime,
the Tonle Sap Lake, poaching of otters habitat must be preserved. There has in areas where presence is So far there have only been a few captive suggesting that Hairy-nosed otters could
Like all otters, Hairy-nosed otters and other wildlife are common practice been some local success as a result of the specimens of Hairy-nosed otters held be particularly delicate.
are semi-aquatic and feed on fish, (Somanak 2007). Otters are hunted in public awareness programs -- encouraging
not yet documented. briefly at the Phnom Tamoa Zoo in
supplementing their diet with water Southeast Asia for pelts, meat, and medical communities to regard otters as part of Cambodia. If ex situ conservation is to be considered,
snakes, frogs, lizards, turtles, crabs, use. Even if only a small proportion are their cultural heritage. An outstanding a detailed examination of habitat is
and occasionally small mammals Lutra sumatrana, such is the fragmentation example was the work done on Tonle Sap The species does not do well in captivity needed – prey, water quality, surrounding
(Kanchanasaka and Duplaix 2011). of their tiny populations that this pressure lake in Cambodia with local fisherfolk by and is extremely difficult to keep alive for environment – along with far more
is effectively far more intense than Conservation International. The few Hairy- a prolonged period. Difficulty in captive knowledge about behavior – are they
Hairy-nosed otters are agile swimmers, for more numerous otter species. For nosed otters in captivity were all animals care may be due to those individuals being social like Asian Small-clawed otters
and there are reports of them herding fish example, the only historical record we caught in nets and surrendered to a wildlife sick or compromised before their arrival or which do not thrive alone? Is keeping
into shallows to make capture easier. They have of this species from Myanmar was a center rather than killed and sold for many having pre-existing issues leading to their them alone contributing to stress? Wild
have been sighted clambering around on misidentified skin from 1939, re-identified months’ income, only because the people rescue/ capture or reason for ending up in a L. sumatrana have never been observed
tree limbs in flooded peat swamp forest, as L. sumatrana by Duckworth and Hills now consider them to be of cultural worth. captive environment. In addition, although sleeping – do they need dens? Do they rest
and even jumping short distances between (2008), until the pelt found in the market There are now increasingly intense efforts Phnom Tamao kept Pursat for eight years, in vegetation? We know very little about
adjacent trunks (Heng et al. 2016). in Mong La in 2014 (Shepherd and Nijman to reduce the demand for wildlife products.
2014). There are, for example, efforts to change
Threats opinions in China, the main destination
Tropical peat swamp forests are under There is a growing demand in Indonesia for pelts, used in coats linings, hats, and
severe threat in recent years due to the and Japan for pet otters. Davidson trimmings on traditional garments like the There are currently no specimens
increasing frequency of fires and other observed a Hairy-nosed otter posted on Tibetan chupa, or as trophies for display in zoos or wildlife parks. Only six
anthropogenic activities such as clearing of the Indonesian pet otter Facebook page during festivals and sporting events. individuals have ever been held in
forest for plantations of oil palm and food (November 2017 pers. comm.). So far, not The sheer quantity of otter skins being captivity:
crops such as rice, corn and soya bean. many Hairy-nosed otters are known to be traded is enormous -- over a period of 1. Taiping Zoo (IZYB 1975) although
Forest is also cleared for fish farming. In kept as pets, but this may change if, as a two years, no fewer than 1800 otter skins this cannot be confirmed by
Viet Nam the entire Mekong Delta has been rare species, they acquire extra value in the were recorded openly on sale in a single Taiping Zoo (Lazarus K 2018)
converted into rice fields, reducing the pet trade. market in Linxia, China (Gomez et al. 2017).
habitat of otters and other wildlife species Increasing public awareness and intensified 2. Bronx Zoo, c.1966, one female,
into a few isolated pockets. In Sabah, Otter populations in Viet Nam are known enforcement of laws will be needed to slow Harris, C.J. 1968 (cause of death,
Malaysia, recent fires reduced 70% of the only from two small national parks under and stop the illegal trade in otters. distemper)
Binsulok Forest Reserve and 10% of the intense pressure from the surrounding
3. 2006/7, Wildlife Alliance Phnom
Klias Forest Reserve. This has affected the dense human population. Though there Conservation measures for the Hairy-
Tamao, male, ‘Dara’, died 2010
surrounding environment and biodiversity. are other areas within the Mekong Delta nosed otter are similar to that of other
(stomach ulcers, lung problems)
In Indonesia over the last 20 years, the that could contain other populations, with otters. Conservation of their natural
ecosystem has been reduced from almost Mui Ca Mau the notable example, most are habitat, especially peat swamp forest, 4. 2006/7, Wildlife Alliance, Phnom
30 million ha to only about 15 million ha, too small in size and suffering from similar together with the prevention of poaching Tamao, female, (died shortly after
and most of what remains has already been problems. and pollution, are the most compelling arrival of ‘stomach infection’)
logged selectively. Such levels of habitat conservation measures.
modification have profound effects on In the large lake of Tonle Sap, in Cambodia, 5. 2008, Wildlife Alliance, Phnom
native biodiversity. forests that flood during the rainy Lack of knowledge is a huge impediment Tamao, Male, ‘Pursat’, died in
season that had been a prime habitat for to determining the factors affecting this 2017
The species is in rapid decline across most Hairy-nosed otter, are now decreased species. Sightings fell off by 1977, it was
of its range due to trade-driven hunting by agricultural encroachment. In coastal considered to be declining in number and
(Duckworth and Hill 2008, Shepherd and areas of Cambodia, habitats have been placed on CITES Appendix II. By 1998,
Nijman 2014) and habitat replacement destroyed by urban development, sand there had been no sightings for ten years.
due to clearance for palm oil plantations mining and agriculture. In Malaysia, rivers In 1999, however, it was rediscovered by
– if indeed they actually are peat forest in oil palm plantations are polluted by Kanchanasaka et al. (2003) in the peat
dependent. Pollution as a result of extensively used herbicides. swamp forest in Narathiwat Province,
human expansion, prey depletion due to southern Thailand. Since then, there have
overfishing, and mining of river beds for Hairy-nosed otter populations are been more sightings, and a handful of tiny
sand and the consequent destruction of expected to decline in the future. populations are now believed to exist,
fish spawning grounds all threaten otter Populations are now small and widely widely separated geographically.
populations. At present, hunters are not separated, and local extinctions are
targeting otters specifically, but they probably already occurring in areas where The principal threat to the Hairy-nosed
are taken as part of the decimation of presence is not yet documented. Human otter is burgeoning human populations,

42 — Otter species by region – Asia — 43

the species and getting it wrong sacrifices Site-specific Conservation Locations them. Despite this, the experience of Hairy-nosed Otter Lutra sumatrana
a scarce and precious otter in poor captive High on the priority list of habits for the Conservation International in a Cambodian Projects and Funding Opportunities
conditions. conservation of the Hairy-nosed otter community showed that involvement
are Southeast Asian peat swamp forests, and commitment to conservation of the
Because of the fragile nature of this animal, especially Phru Toa Daeng in Thailand, species is possible. The people of the local Region Actions Costs
if ex situ conservation is to be attempted, U Minh Nature Reserve in Viet Nam, and fishing villages were aware of how much
it should be set up in range countries, and Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. of their culture had been lost in the past Southeast Asia International symposium in Viet Nam,. 3 days
should be based on the successes such and have embraced otters as part of their Cambodia, Malaysia or Indonesia to develop $15,000 for 15 participants
as the Owston’s palm civet project at In most of the range countries, law heritage. Conservation International also conservation strategy
Cuc Phong, Viet Nam, (‘Save Vietnam’s enforcement and deterrence of the wildlife established a fat pig rearing scheme to Cambodia - Tonle Sap Lake Ecological survey 4 years
Wildlife’) where knowledge and expertise trade is very poor, for many reasons replace the income from otter pelts. On $ 12,000 annual salary
is brought in rather than transferring the including the sheer difficulty in patrolling two occasions, for example, fishermen $ 40,000 for field work
animals out to other countries. This would terrain. Because wildlife crime prevention who found Hairy-nosed otters entangled Total $ 220,000
minimise travel stress and environmental is well enforced in Malaysia, and there are in their nets did not kill them but took them Indonesia Ecological surveys in key habitats in Katingan, Initial funding secured:
shock to the animals. relatively more sightings of the species a long distance to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Memtaya peat swamp forest, Central $ 3,000 materials
in both Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, Center for rehabilitation, even though the Kalimantan and a location in South Sumatra or $ 1,000 travel
The desirability of ex situ conservation this would be a good country in which pelts would have brought them a year’s Riau Province
must be balanced against the fragility of to establish conservation measures. In income. Public awareness campaign $ 1,000/year for development
the animal, but also against the danger of addition, the current ruler of Brunei is Citizen science monitoring of poaching of apps/hosting
extinction in situ, and a decision taken as to environmentally aware and has set aside
Malaysia Ecological survey at Pekan Reserve peat 4 years
whether the risk outweighs the benefits for large areas as reserves. It would therefore
swamp forest and rivers at Phang using fecal $ 60,000
the species as a whole. be expedient to target conservation efforts
DNA analysis and camera traps
for Lutra sumatrana in Malaysia and Brunei.
There will always be individuals that are Ecological survey at Taman Negara National 3 years
Park at Pahang using fecal DNA analysis and $ 60,000
removed in some circumstance from Success Stories
camera traps
the wild where rehabilitation may not be Most people within the range of the
possible. Given the pressure the species is Hairy-nosed otter are unaware of its Necropsy of Hairy-nosed otter/analysis for $ 10,000
under, there should be a captive program existence. Those who do know they exist toxic compounds
set up to pursue the needs of this species, are often only vaguely aware that there Myanmar Preliminary survey of population status $ 5,000
if there is no other option. They are now are different kinds of otters. However, the
sometimes found in the pet trade, so use of traps and snares are indiscriminate. Viet Nam Ecological surveys in U Minh Ha National Park $ 15,000
procedures for seized animals is needed. Most people actively involved in hunting and U Minh Thuong National Park 6 months
At present our knowledge is woefully or trapping wildlife are very poor, and the
Ecological surveys in Mui Ca Mau and sites in $ 15,000
inadequate. cultural value of the animals is far less
Kien Giang and Ca Mau Provinces
than the hard currency earned by selling
Public awareness - integrating otter $ 20,000
awareness into development activities, e.g.
rice growing, aquaculture projects
Habitat and corridor survey for otters in $ 20,000
Mekong Delta from Viet Nam to Cambodia
Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia Hybridization survey of Small-clawed and 5 years
Smooth-coated otters in the wild Year 1 – $26,000
Year 2 – $27,000
Year 3 – $33,000
Year 4 – $24,000
Year 5 – $16,000
Total – $126,000

44 — Otter species by region – Asia — 45

Eurasian Otter
Lutra lutra

The most widespread otter species, the

Eurasian otter inhabits a variety of habitats
and ranges from Western Europe, across
the Palearctic, down to India, Southeast
Asia and North Africa. It is protected in
many countries but remains a target of the
fur trade in the eastern part of its range.

IUCN Red List Status Netherlands, it was declared extinct in 1988 It is rarely found in the Altai, Trans-Urals,
The Eurasian otter has been downgraded but was reintroduced in 2002. Outside southern Transbaikalia, and Central Black
from Vulnerable to Near Threatened due the European Union, it is endangered in Earth regions (Oleynikov and Saveljev
to an ongoing population decline at a rate Bosnia and Herzegovina, vulnerable in 2015). The Caucasian population has fewer
no longer exceeding 30% over the past Norway, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Albania than 600-700 individuals (Oleynikov and
three generations or 23 years (Pacifici et al. (Balestrieri et al. 2016). It is still common in Saveljev 2015). It is considered endangered
2013). This Near Threatened assessment Serbia, and Macedonia. or rare in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and
is a precautionary listing and indicates vulnerable in Afghanistan.
that while the recovery in Western Europe In North Africa, the species is endangered
is genuine, conservation actions for the in Algeria and good populations probably India hosts Eurasian otters in limited
species need to be sustained, particularly in occur only in Tunisia. It was once common numbers, with isolated populations of L. l.
East Asia. CITES: Appendix I. in Morocco but may be facing a dramatic monticola in the Himalayas and L. l. kutab in
decline (Delibes et al. 2012). Jammu and Kashmir, where they are rare
The Eurasian otter has one of the widest in the rivers Indus, Suru and Dras in Ladakh
distributions of all Palearctic mammals, The Eurasian otter is rare or endangered (Jamwal et al. 2016). The subspecies L.
from Europe through North Africa and Asia across the Middle East and Turkey. It is l. nair is present in Tamil Nadu (Meena et
(Hung and Law 2016). Over one-third of critically endangered in Israel and Lebanon. al. 2002) and in central India (Joshi et al.
the range lies in the Russian Federation It is rare and isolated in Syria, Jordan, 2016) and considered rare in Sri Lanka.
(Russia). However, many populations within and is becoming rare in Iraq (Naderi et al. L. l. monticola is critically endangered in
the range are extinct or reduced to small, 2017). It is endangered and declining in Bangladesh; it is rare Pakistan, where both
sometimes isolated enclaves. Turkey (Naderi et al. 2017), but still widely L. l. kutab and L. l. monticola occur. In Nepal,
distributed in Iran (Karami et al. 2006). hosting L.l. aurobrunnea and L. l. monticola,
Compared to the strong decline observed the Eurasian otter is listed as near
in Europe in the 1970s to the 1990s, the Russia and western Central Asia have threatened, and thought to be declining. It
Eurasian otter is now recovering in many the largest part of the species range, is still common in Bhutan (L. l. monticola).
countries, although not in parts of central with an estimated 75,000-80,000 otters,
Europe (Roos et al. 2015). Recent trends most abundant in the Northwestern and Chinese populations belong to the endemic
indicate a strong recovery in western Far Eastern districts (Lomanova 2011). subspecies L. l. hainana, which experienced
Europe, where it is considered near L. lutra is widely distributed in Ukraine a dramatic decline in the 20th century,
threatened. Populations are expanding and Kazakhstan, but likely declining in especially in the North East (Zhang et
in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Belarus. After declining until 2000, it is now al. 2016) and is now very rare. Viable
France, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, increasing in Russia, Ukraine (rare in the populations occur in scattered locations,
Poland, Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovakia, Red Data Book of Ukraine), Mongolia (very including the Pearl River Delta, Guangdong
Slovenia and eastern Germany. Otters are rare), and Kazakhstan (vulnerable in the Province.
still common in Portugal, Finland, Lithuania, Red Data Book of Kazakhstan), likely as a
Estonia and Ireland, and have returned consequence of lower hunting pressure. The Eurasian otter is considered
to Switzerland and the Netherlands. The It is included in the Red Data Book of endangered in Taiwan and vulnerable in
species is extinct in Luxembourg, Belgium, Kyrgyzstan. A subspecies, L. l. meridionalis South Korea. It was considered extinct in
central Germany, central and northwest is rare throughout Russia and is on the Japan, but was recently rediscovered in
Italy, is endangered in Italy and Greece, regional Red Lists of endangered species Tsushima Island, likely returned from Korea.
and declining in Latvia and in Hungary east of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, and is Its current status and trend are unknown in
of the Danube (Roos et al. 2015). In the vulnerable in Georgia and Turkmenistan. North Korea.

46 — Otter species by region – Eurasia — 47

Although Southeast Asian populations, (extremely rare), Azerbaijan (endangered), Threats Organized criminal networks move otter
belonging to the subspecies L. l. barang and Cambodia (endangered). The magnitude of threats to the Eurasian pelts with other valuable wildlife parts, and
are not well assessed, the subspecies otter varies greatly across the range. The enforcement of laws prohibiting the trade is
is considered endangered or rare in Habitat and Ecology aquatic habitats of otters are extremely weak (Gomez et al. 2016).
Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Sumatra Across its exceptionally wide range, the vulnerable to modification by humans.
(Indonesia), and vulnerable or rare in Viet Eurasian otter lives in a wide variety of Canalization of rivers, removal of bankside Where otter populations are increasing,
Nam, Myanmar, and were only historically aquatic habitats, including lakes, reservoirs, vegetation, dam construction, oil spills, major causes of mortality are traffic
recorded and may be extinct in Lao PDR rivers, marshes, swamp forests and coastal draining of wetlands, and aquaculture are accidents and drownings in fishing gear,
(Coudrat, 2016). areas, and from sea level to 3,500 m in the unfavorable to otters (Reuther and Hilton- including fyke nets set for eels or fish and as
Himalayas (Roos et al. 2015, Jamwal et al. Taylor 2004). Declines in fish biomass result creels set for marine crustaceans. A further
Legal Protection 2016). In Southeast Asia its range overlaps from acidification of rivers and lakes and threat is strangulation by transparent,
It is fully protected in China, European with Smooth-coated otter, Asian Small- organic pollution from nitrate fertilizers, monofilament drift nets. Traps set for other
Union, Georgia, India, Iraq, Israel, Nepal, clawed otter, and Hairy-nosed otter. untreated sewage, and farm slurry. species, such as muskrats and beavers,
Thailand, Viet Nam, Myanmar, Switzerland, are a threat to otters. In some European
Turkey, and Lebanon. It is protected in The Eurasian otter is usually territorial, Pollution is a major threat to otters in countries, political pressure, especially by
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Jordan, Sri solitary and nocturnal, but in areas where western and central Europe. The main fishermen, has resulted in granting licenses
Lanka, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Bosnia and little disturbed by human activities, it is pollutants posing a danger are the to kill otters, but the impact on populations
Herzegovina, Mongolia, Taiwan, South active during the day. The otter’s activities organochlorines dieldrin and DDT/DDE, is not clear. Conflict with anglers varies. A
Korea, Serbia, Montenegro, Morocco, and are concentrated in a narrow strip between polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), and the vocal minority suggests that otter impact
some provinces of Pakistan. In Bhutan it is land and water. Resting sites are provided heavy metal mercury. PCB and DDT were on fisheries is everywhere, but most
likely protected although not included in by riparian vegetation and rock crevices banned in most European countries in fisheries are little affected. Roadkill may
schedule I (Totally Protected Wild Animals). along riverbanks. the 1970s. Fifteen years after the bans, have slowed, but not prevented natural
It is protected in Norway and Belarus, otter populations recovered to some recolonization.
but licences can be issued to kill otters Males mate with several females and degree in Sweden and other areas (Roos
at fish farms (Norway), or to trap them territories of individual males usually et al. 2012). New pollution threats include In Russia and Central Asia, exploitation for
(Belarus). Kazakhastan, Turkmenistan, overlap with family groups of mother and Endocrine Disruptive Compounds and the pelt market in the 20th century was
Russia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan protect offspring. Sexual maturity is attained at other pharmaceuticals. Recently, high the main cause of otter decline, especially
the subspecies Lutra l. seistanica. Hunting around eighteen months in males and and increasing concentrations of per and in accessible areas in Far East and Siberia,
is banned in Ukraine, Turkey, Armenia, twenty-four months in females. From one polyfluorinated chemicals have been seen and the harvest rate was as high at 5,000
and in protected areas of Iran and North to 5 cubs are born throughout the year in in otters in Sweden (Roos et al. 2013). individuals per year (Oleynikov and Saveljev
Korea. It is not protected in Lebanon and reproductive dens well hidden in riparian 2015). Illegal hunting is still a problem in this
Sumatra (although is protected in mainland vegetation. Life expectancy is around A significant illegal trade in otter pelts part of the otter’s range.
Indonesia). seventeen years. Fish is the major prey for is largely fueled by demand in East Asia,
the Eurasian otter, but it is an opportunistic particularly in China, and are sourced in Highly endangered otter populations in the
No information is available on legal feeder, and its diet can include crustaceans, South and Southeast Asia. Legal trade Middle East are affected by illegal killing,
protection in Macedonia (still common), amphibians, reptiles, birds and other prey. supports an unknown level of export dam construction, water shortages and
Syria (rare), Japan (extinct), Lao PDR of otter pelts from Russia to East Asia. pollution, marshland drainage, and lack
of legal protection or law enforcement.
Conflict with aquaculture activities is
documented in Iran (Naderi et al. 2017).

Isolation of fragmented populations of

subspecies (L. l. monticola, L. l. kutab,
and L. l. nair), (Hung and Law 2016) might
represent a main threat in India. Illegal
hunting by fishermen occurs in Bangladesh,
where otters are also captured for use
in traditional fishing methods. Habitat
destruction and pollution threaten South
Indian populations. Otters in Sri Lanka
suffer from habitat destruction, dam
construction, and water pesticide pollution.
In China and Taiwan, Eurasian otter
populations have declined steeply due to
habitat loss, illegal hunting for pelts and
medicinal use (Conroy et al. 1998, Zhang et
al. 2016, Li and Chan 2017), water pollution,
reduction of prey biomass, and conflicts
with aquaculture. In Taiwan, otters are
threatened by increased tourism activity.
Pollution by pesticides, fertilizers, heavy
metals, and sewage are major threats to
waterways (Li et al. 2017).

48 — Otter species by region – Eurasia — 49

greatly enhance the conservation of the (Cianfrani et al. 2011).
Illegal hunting for the pelt, pet, and traditional • Laws protecting otters, effective Captive populations
medicine markets, together with habitat enforcement, and penalties for conviction The Eurasian otter, often exhibited in
loss, are the main causes of decline of the would improve the situation for otters in European zoos, did not start breeding in
Eurasian otter in Southeast Asian countries Russia and Asia, as well as in small countries captivity until the 1970s, when husbandry
(Hon et al. 2010, Gomez and Bouhuys 2018), like Lebanon. techniques improved. The Eurasian otter
followed by habitat loss and water pollution, studbook lists 226 individuals currently living
illegal killing by fishermen, and a decrease • Reducing the conflict between otters in 82 zoos from 95 founders. There have
in prey species. The traditional medicine and fish farmers and anglers in Europe been hybrids between Lutra lutra lutra and
market for otters is especially popular in Lao and Middle Eastern countries through Lutra lutra barang reared in captivity and
PDR, Myanmar, Cambodia and Indonesia. In education and use of measures to prevent some of these were reintroduced into the
Viet Nam and Lao PDR, habitat destruction otter damage to fishing gear is important wild in the UK and the Netherlands.
due to the Viet Nam War is still evident. for protecting newly recovered populations. In Italy, captive breeding programs have
Likewise, an analysis of the impact of been established in Penne (WWF Nature
Threat Mitigation Measures road kill is needed, and implementation of Reserve, Abruzzo), Caramanico Terme
As threats and conflicts vary greatly across mitigation measures such as road signs in (Majella National Park), Regional Park Ticino
the range, especially in Europe, North areas of otter density. Lombardia, Regional Park Ticino Piemonte.
Africa and Asia, so do threat mitigation All captive breeding programs were hosting
measures. Legal protection and banning of • An evaluation of the cumulative impact line B otter individuals, not suitable for
water pollutants in the 1990s in Western of mini-hydroelectric power stations is a reintroduction, and have been converted
Europe likely allowed otter recovery in first step in putting mitigation measures in either to education programs (Penne, Ticino)
many countries. A similar effort in Asia place, especially at watershed scale. or to recovery centers for orphaned and
would greatly enhance the situation for wounded otters.
Asian populations. Legal protection and the • An evaluation of the impact of new water
restoration of water quality and forests, for pollutants is a first step to implement Success Stories
example, have been the key for recovery of current regulations. A project in Kyrgyzstan has been promoting
otters in South Korea. environmental education of children and
• The first step in protecting the Eurasian youth through “citizen science” programs.
Although their role is debated, successful otters in countries where the status of it The program, called the Ecosystem-based
reintroduction programs have been is poorly known is systematic surveys in Adaptation to climate change in the high
implemented in Sweden, Spain, the UK, China, Russia, central India, Nepal, Algeria, mountain regions of Central Asia, was
Netherlands, and Czech Republic. They likely Tunisia, Lebanon, North Korea, and some enabled by new wildlife management and
contributed to reinforce the natural recovery non-EU European countries (Serbia, conservation policies, and a 2014 law on
of otter populations. Montenegro, Macedonia), using new "Hunting and Hunting Entities." This new
cost-effective detection techniques like legal framework enables local communities
Recovery centers for orphans and wounded e-DNA. Halting the illegal killing of otters to take control of and manage wildlife
otters have been established in Italy, for pelts and capture of juveniles for the resources in "their" territory. The program
Germany, Scotland, and the UK. Together pet trade is a high priority in South and promotes the improvement of scientific
with otter havens established in the UK, Southeast Asia, but also in Afghanistan. knowledge and monitoring, the basis for the
these initiatives likely contributed to raise Some countries, such as Nepal and India, sustainable management.
public awareness and, to a lesser extent, have made concerted efforts to arrest and
helped otter recovery. prosecute international traffickers, but The recovery of the Eurasian otter in Europe,
the trade remains a significant threat to although slow and not occurring in all parts
Other mitigation measures include the otter populations in the region (Gomez et of the region, is a great success story. Legal
following: al.2016). More actions are needed to reduce protection and banning of water pollutants
the demand in East Asia, and to shift the in the 1990s allowed recovering in many
• Riparian vegetation belts should be cultural norms that encourage exploitation countries. Specifically, full protection is
protected and restored in otter habitats, of otters. guaranteed by the Bern convention (included
especially in areas with intensive in Appendix I) and the Habitat Directive
agricultural activity. • Where isolated small populations 92/43/EEC (otter included in Annex II for
occur, especially those belonging to which its presence imposes the designation
• Remnant populations safeguarded in subspecies with limited ranges, like L. l. of Special Areas of Conservation, and
protected areas can serve as sources of kutab, L. l. monticola, and L.l. nair, analyses Annex IV- the species is given rigorous
otters for future recolonization programs of ecological requirements, habitat protection). The Directive established 4,189
and natural expansion, as witnessed in fragmentation and population viability are Special Areas of Conservation and Special
Southern Italy, where two National Parks needed to prioritize conservation plans and Protection Areas hosting otters in the
(Pollino and Cilento, Vallo di Diano e Alburni) areas of intervention. Natura 2000 Network (
contributed to safeguard and recovering of environment/nature/natura2000/index_
the small remnant Italian population. • A deeper evaluation of climate change en.htm).
impacts on otters is required, especially in
• In Asia, particularly in India and China, the Mediterranean countries, the Middle East Obligations by the European Habitat
creation of more and connected protected and South Asia, where more extreme and Directive include periodic (every six years)
areas in good Eurasian otter habitat would frequent drought events are expected reporting by Member States on otter

50 — Otter species by region – Eurasia — 51

distribution, population trend, threats funding to establish an otter research team Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra
and mitigation measures. Most important at Diaoluoshan National Nature Reserve on Projects and Funding Opportunities
conservation measures reported by Hainan Island. KFBG will establish a similar
State Members in the last reporting cycle otter team at Tangjiahe National Nature
(2007-2012) include legal protection, Reserve, Sichuan Province in the future.
Region Actions Costs
restoring and improving water quality and
hydrological regime, establish protected Tangjiahe is keen to use the otter as one of Europe Support existing labs to analyze effects of new $ 30,000
areas, managing water abstraction, their flagship species. KFBG is also working water pollutants through analyses of road kill
regulation/management of hunting and with relevant local government agencies carcasses
fishery in lakes, and management of to protect the population around the Pearl Europe Analyze cumulative impact of mini- 5 years
traffic and energy transport systems. River Delta, which has a small but stable hydroelectric power stations at a river basin $20,000/year per project
(European Environment Agency, 2013). population. An otter sanctuary should be scale
Otter habitat quality in the European Union established at this site, and the aquatic
is also expected to improve following ecosystems of the site protected and Europe Promote online road kill archives in each One professional-level position
country by developing a common free sharing $ 24,000
adoption and implementation of the sustainably managed (Li et al. 2017).
Water Framework Directive 2000/60/CE,
imposing Member States to attain a good Other research teams, from Sun Yat-sen Europe Support existing labs to evaluate road kills Three year PhD position
chemical and ecological status of all EU University, The University of Hong Kong, impact on otter populations and produce $ 36,000
inferential models/maps of collision risk
water bodies. and Beijing Forestry University, are starting
to study otters throughout China, using Albania, Croatia, Bosnia Hercegovina, Country representative to monitor Travel to international meetings
LIFE Projects funded by EU allowed habitat e-DNA, camera-trapping, literature reviews Bulgaria, Serbia, Switzerland populations and raise awareness $ 10,000
restoration, stakeholders involvement and and interviews. The taxonomic status of Croatia, Bosnia Hercegovina, Serbia, Support existing labs for e-DNA monitoring to Three year PhD position
education in many European countries. the Eurasian otter needs to be clarified Macedonia, Montenegro, assess otter occurrence at river basin scale $ 36,000
Successful reintroductions have enhanced throughout this vast country, to identify
otter recovery in UK, Sweden, Spain, and and conserve key populations. Austria, France Organize one conservation education and $ 80,000 for eight workshops
awareness workshop in each province where
the Netherlands. Reintroduction in France
otters have recently returned, near fish
in Alsace has been less successful.
farms, and present measures to prevent otter
Otter action plans have been implemented
in Italy, France, many UK regions, in the Austria, Italy, France, Slovenia, Switzerland Organize two meetings to reach a $ 20,000 per meeting
Czech Republic, Denmark, and in the Hima transboundary agreement among
Anjar-Kfar Zabad in the Beqaa Valley of governmental and regional agencies, local
Lebanon. administrations, and NGOs, to support the
establishment of a viable otter population
China offers a special opportunity for the in the Alpine region
Eurasian otter. Unusually rapid declines Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia Country representatives to monitor Travel for country representatives to
in otter populations have occurred in populations and threats international meetings $ 3,000
China, but a changing social climate and Mediterranean Region - Morocco, Algeria, Collect data on impact of extreme climate Skilled surveyor
social media offer new possibilities for Tunisia, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, change events (droughts, floods) Survey
recovering otters. For example, a non- $ 5,000/area for 17 countries
Albania, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, sample areas before and after extreme
profit organization like Kadoorie Farm and Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Lebanon events Total: $ 85,000
Botanic Garden, has provided training and
North African Region - Morocco, Algeria, Support existing labs for e-DNA monitoring Three year PhD position
Tunisia to assess subspecies occurrence at river $ 36,000
basin scale Field sampling, lab supplies
$ 20,000
Lebanon Steps toward Legal protection: Meetings: $ 10.000
organize meetings involving Ministry of Action Plan: One full-time professional-
Environment, Environmental Agencies, level position for one year $ 30,000
NGOs, IUCN, stakeholders; implement a
National Action Plan

52 — Otter species by region – Eurasia — 53

Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra
Projects and Funding Opportunities Projects and Funding Opportunities
Region Actions Costs Region Actions Costs

Europe Support existing labs to analyze effects of new $ 30,000 Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Israel, Iran Support existing labs to confirm subspecies One-year post-doc fellowship
water pollutants through analyses of road kill status $ 24,000/year
carcasses Travel and lab supplies
Europe Analyze cumulative impact of mini- 5 years $ 10,000
hydroelectric power stations at a river basin $20,000/year per project Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Israel Organize one conservation education and $ 20,000 per meeting
scale awareness workshop with stakeholders
(anglers, restaurants, farmers) in each country,
Europe Promote online road kill archives in each One professional-level position in areas of remnant populations close to fish
country by developing a common free sharing $ 24,000 farms
Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Turkey Country representative to monitor Travel for country representatives to
Europe Support existing labs to evaluate road kills Three year PhD position populations and raise awareness international meetings $ 5,000
impact on otter populations and produce $ 36,000
inferential models/maps of collision risk Central Asian Region - Armenia, Afghanistan, Country representatives to monitor Travel for country representatives to
Albania, Croatia, Bosnia Hercegovina, Country representative to monitor Travel to international meetings Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, populations and threats international meetings $ 10,000
Bulgaria, Serbia, Switzerland populations and raise awareness $ 10,000 Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Belarus,
Croatia, Bosnia Hercegovina, Serbia, Support existing labs for e-DNA monitoring to Three year PhD position
Russia Support existing labs for Population Viability Skilled surveyor $ 5,000/area for 2 areas
Macedonia, Montenegro assess otter occurrence at river basin scale $ 36,000
Analysis to assess impact of pelt hunting on Total: $ 10,000
Austria, France Organize one conservation education and $ 80,000 for eight workshops viability of populations, and set sustainable
awareness workshop in each province where harvest rates
otters have recently returned, near fish Ukraine Collect data on impact of extreme climate Travel to international meetings
farms, and present measures to prevent otter change events (droughts, floods); survey $ 10,000
damage sample areas before and after extreme events
Austria, Italy, France, Slovenia, Switzerland Organize two meetings to reach a $ 20,000 per meeting India Refine e-DNA techniques to detect Three year PhD position
transboundary agreement among subspecies occurrence and species co- $ 36,000
governmental and regional agencies, local occurrence at river basin scale
administrations, and NGOs, to support the India Non-invasive genetic sampling to detect Three year PhD/post doc position
establishment of a viable otter population otter density and population structure of each $ 36,000/45,000
in the Alpine region subspecies in Himalayas, Tamil Nadu, and Field sampling, lab supplies
Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia Country representatives to monitor Travel for country representatives to Central India $ 15,000
populations and threats international meetings $ 3,000
India Population surveys for each subspecies in $ 50,000 for 5 surveys
Mediterranean Region - Morocco, Algeria, Collect data on impact of extreme climate Skilled surveyor Himalayas, Kashmir, Nadu, Central India
Tunisia, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, change events (droughts, floods) Survey $ 5,000/area for 17 countries Bhutan. Bangladesh, Nepal, Planning protected areas in regions likely to One professional-level position
Albania, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, sample areas before and after extreme $ 90,000/year per person
Total: $ 85,000 be impacted by climate change.
Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Lebanon events Travel $ 15,000/year per person
North African Region - Morocco, Algeria, Support existing labs for e-DNA monitoring Three year PhD position
Bangladesh Population survey of the critically One year post doc position
Tunisia to assess subspecies occurrence at river $ 36,000
endangered L. l. monticola, through either $ 24,000
basin scale Field sampling, lab supplies
standard survey or e-DNA Field sampling, travel, lab supplies $ 5,000
$ 20,000
Lebanon Steps toward Legal protection: Meetings: $ 10.000 Pakistan Refine e-DNA techniques to detect One year post doc position
organize meetings involving Ministry of occurrence of L. l. kutab and L. l. monticola $ 24,000
Action Plan: One full-time professional-
Environment, Environmental Agencies, Field sampling, travel, lab supplies
level position for one year $ 30,000
NGOs, IUCN, stakeholders; implement a $ 5,000
National Action Plan Nepal Refine e-DNA techniques to detect One year post doc position
occurrence of L.l. aurobrunnea and L. l. $ 24,000
monticola Field sampling, travel, lab supplies
$ 5,000

54 — Otter species by region – Eurasia — 55

Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra
Projects and Funding Opportunities Projects and Funding Opportunities
Region Actions Costs Region Actions Costs

China Monitor populations in otter hotspots in Delta Two three year PhD positions Japan Surveys to monitor newly established $ 50,000 every two years
of Guangdong Province and Qinghai–Tibetan $ 36,000/each population in Tsushima Island
Plateau through GPS tracking and non- Total: $ 72,000
invasive genetic sampling Italy, India, Morocco, Algeria, China Population Viability Analysis for small and Three year PhD position
Field sampling, lab supplies
isolated populations/subspecies to identify $ 36,000
$ 30,000
critical factors for their long-term survival
China Establish an otter sanctuary in the Pearl River Planning project $ 10,000
Delta Meetings with stakeholders $ 10,000 All Establish a Climate Change working group/ Travel for one meeting/year S10,000/year
task force within IUCN-OSG members
China Modelling distribution and connectivity among Part-time expert research scientist $2,000/
remnant populations month for 12 months $ 24,000
All Explore genetic and morphometric Three year PhD position
variation across the range to detect $ 36,000
Evolutionary Significant Units and priority Travel to museums, lab supplies
China Organize eight workshops for enforcement $ 80,000 Management Units for Conservation, in the
agencies dealing with otter trade, $ 30,000
light of subspecies extensive range
conservation education and awareness in
strategic regions for pelt and traditional
medicine market
China Refine e-DNA techniques to detect Two-year post doc position $ 24,000/year All Explore the degree of niche overlap among One-year post doc position
occurrence of subspecies L. l. chinensis across sympatric otter species and potential $ 24,000
central south China competitive interactions that could affect
China, Viet Nam, Myanmar Collect data on impact of extreme climate Skilled surveyor species survival in areas of range overlap
change events (droughts, floods); survey $ 5,000/area for 3 countries now under climate change shifts
sample areas before and after extreme events All Experimental design and tests of devices to Three year PhD position $ 36,000
Southeast Asia: Myanmar, Cambodia, Support existing labs for e-DNA surveys of L. Three year PhD position avoid otters drowning in nets and devices Travel, lab supplies
Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Thailand, Viet l. barang and detect species co-occurrence at $ 36,000 $ 30,000
Nam, Borneo river basin scale Field sampling, lab supplies
$ 20,000
Thailand, Bhutan, Myanmar, North Korea, Country representative to monitor Travel for country representatives to
Cambodia, Viet Name populations and raise awareness international meetings $20,000
Southeast Asia: Myanmar, Cambodia, Organize eight workshops for enforcement $ 80,000
Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Thailand, Viet agencies dealing with otter trade,
Nam conservation education and awareness
Sumatra Steps toward legal protection: Meetings: $ 10.000
Organize meetings involving Ministry of Action Plan: One full-time professional-level
Environment, Environmental Agencies, position for one year $ 30,000
NGOs, IUCN, stakeholders
Implement an Action Plan
Lao PDR Survey to assess occurrence of L. l. barang $ 10,000

56 — Otter species by region – Eurasia — 57

North America
North American River Otter
Lontra canadensis

Excessive trapping and pollution

took a heavy toll on river otters in
North America until the 1970s.
In 2015, thanks to the Clean Water Act, new
environmental regulations, and successful
reintroduction programs in 22 states returned
the river otter to its former range in the lower
48 states.

IUCN Red List Status et al. 1994, Stearns et al. 2011). Typically, aquatic environments will adversely affect
The North American river otter is classified the slowest moving and most abundant fish populations. River otters travel, forage,
as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, (e.g., members of the sucker and minnow scent mark, and are otherwise most active
since it is not currently declining at a rate families) species are preyed upon most during nocturnal and crepuscular periods
sufficient for a threat category. CITES: (Serfass et al. 1990, Stearns et al. 2011). (Melquist and Hornocker 1983, Stevens
Appendix II. Depending on availability, crayfish in some and Serfass 2008) The extent of travel is
areas exceed the importance of fish in the influence by gender, region, season, and
Distribution river otter diet (Serfass et al. 1990). River habitat conditions (Spinola et al. 2008).
The historic range of the North American otters prefer undisturbed riparian with Males occupy larger home ranges than
river otter included much of the North adequate cover to serve as denning and females (Melquist and Hornocker 1983,
American continent, from arctic Alaska and resting sites (Swimley et al. 1998, Stevens Reid et al. 1994, Melquist et al. 2003, Spinola
northern Canada to the USA (Hall 1981, et al. 2011). Both diet and riparian habitat et al. 2008). Home ranges for river otters
Melquist et al. 2003). However, overharvest use vary based on regional differences in occupying riverine habitats in Idaho ranged
and perturbations to aquatic environments aquatic systems and associated conditions. from 8 to 78 km2 (Melquist and Hornocker
contributed to the decline and, in some 1983).
cases, the extirpation of river otter Adult North American river otters weigh
populations through substantial portions from about 5 to 15 kg. Size varies among River otters generally maintain low
of the species’ former range (Bricker et geographic areas, with males are typically population densities (e.g., about 1 otter
al. in press). The river otter has recovered larger than females. River otters display per 3.58 km of riparian habitat in Idaho;
in many areas and now occupies at least delayed implantation, resulting in a period Melquist and Hornocker 1983), apparently
portions of its historic range in each USA of almost one year from time of breeding without the need for overt (aggressive)
state (except Hawaii, where the species until giving birth. Young are typically born in displays of territoriality. Although
never occurred), Canadian province or February and March, and breeding occurs considered to be territorial, home ranges of
territory, (except Canada’s Prince Edward shortly thereafter, well before the young adjacent individuals may overlap to varying
Island), with populations currently reported are independent (Liers 1951, Hamilton and degrees based on gender and season
as stable, expanding, or a combination of Eadie 1964). Males and females are sexually (Melquist and Hornocker 1983, Spinola et al.
both. mature at two years of age, but variation 2008). River otters likely avoid aggressive
in the reproductive age has been reported interactions by practicing mutual avoidance
Habitat and Ecology (Hamilton and Eadie 1964, Docktor et al. through olfactory communication
The North American river otter is an 1987). Litter sizes typically are comprised facilitated by scent marking at latrines.
aquatic-habitat generalist, capable of of one to three young (Hamilton and Eadie
exploiting virtually all freshwater systems, 1964, Tabor and Wight 1977, Docktor et al. Threats
estuaries, and some coastal marine areas 1987). Maximum life expectancy is typically Fur trapping
depending on the availability of adequate about 10 years of age in the wild and up to The river otter has transitioned from a
prey and riparian cover (Melquist et 20 years of age in captivity (Stephenson species of conservation concern in many
al. 2003). The diet of the river otter is 1977, Melquist et al. 2003). areas of NA to one that is now widely
comprised mostly of fish, but amphibians trapped for fur, including states where
(mostly frogs) and crustaceans (mainly Ultimately, river otter populations the species was reintroduced. Trapping
crayfish), and birds may also be eaten are limited by the distribution of of river otters has been demonstrated to
depending on region and season (Sheldon suitable aquatic and riparian habitats. be sustainable in many states. However,
and Toll 1964, Knudsen and Hale 1968, Consequently, any factors that reduce increases in river otter harvest have
Stenson et al. 1984, Serfass et al. 1990, Reid the quantity or degrade the quality of furthered the need for implementing

58 — Otter species by region – North America — 59

reliable approaches for monitoring the Wildlife agencies responsible for managing areas where river otters are trapped. Basic approach for such large-scale monitoring play as predators in aquatic ecosystems
long-term status of populations, which trapping of river otters in some cases natural history information is particularly and should be used as a foundation for must be communicated to the public,
is currently lacking throughout most of have been complicit in fostering negative lacking for river otters inhabiting coastal future monitoring. In addition, the CITES and methods for disseminating such
NA where river otters are trapped for portrayals about river otter predation to environments. process being followed for river otters information must be defined.
fur. Bricker et al. (In press) showed that gain public support for trapping seasons. in NA should be evaluated to determine
relatively few USA states or Canadian Such negative portrayals have potential Sub-optimal habitat use the adequacy of reporting by public Likewise, in cases where river otters are
provinces and territories that harvest river to contribute long-term deleterious Expansion of reintroduced and, in some conservation agencies in NA. Formal creating depredation problems (e.g., at fish
otters have formal monitoring protocols consequences regarding public attitudes cases, native river otter populations has protocols for field surveys should be rearing facilities), appropriate remedies for
for assessing either the density or the towards river otters. resulted in the species now sometimes developed for monitoring river otter resolving the problem must be determined
distribution of populations, except for inhabiting areas formerly considered populations. Latrine and other activity-sign and refined, along with approaches for
recording annual harvest levels. River otter genetics sub-optional habitats. Consequently, surveys generally are considered reliable implementing such remedies.
River otters from Louisiana have most there is the potential for the paradigm to for detecting the presence of river otters
River otter–human conflicts commonly been used as a source for develop that river otters are tolerant of (Swimley et al., 1998, Melquist et al., 2003, Methods for evaluating the extent of such
The reintroduction of river otters in reintroduction projects in the US –about perturbations to aquatic environments, Stevens and Serfass 2008), and can form problems likewise must also be developed
many states has in some cases been 64% of river otters reintroduced in the in lieu of long-term supporting evidence. an important basis for monitoring river and implemented. Such evaluations are
negatively depicted in the media because US were obtained from this state. Serfass Current optimism about river otters being otter populations. Such monitoring should critical in forming a basis for developing
of the species’ predatory (i.e., fish eating) et al. (1998) and Brandt et al. (2014) able to tolerate a wider range of aquatic especially be encouraged in states where remedial approaches from problems
habits. The successful reintroduction discussed genetic implications for river habitat disturbances may be misleading reintroduced river otter populations are caused by river otters. Pearce et al.
of river otters in the states of Missouri, otter reintroductions in NA. Ultimately, and unfounded in that such disturbed harvested. (2017) conducted research at fish-rearing
Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois was followed how reintroduced populations and their areas could represent sink habitats, where facilities in Pennsylvania, demonstrating
by strikingly similar patterns of negative expansion will influence the genetic populations are sustained by dispersing River otter–human conflicts that the extent of river otter depredations
media messages suggesting that river structure and subspecies delineations of individuals and not through adequate levels Portrayals of complaints about river was often exaggerated and of limited
otter predation was having widespread river otter populations in NA is unknown of reproduction and survival by individuals otter predation have seldom been consequence to most operators of fish-
negative impacts on commercially-reared and should be the focus of future occupying the area. corroborated with formal evaluations rearing facilities. The approaches followed
fish and game fish important to anglers investigations. and appear to have been exaggerated in by Pearce et al. (2017) should be applied
(Serfass et al. 2014). Management actions, Threat Mitigation Measures some cases (Serfass et al. 2014, Bricker elsewhere to assess the actual extent of
including opening trapping seasons, Limited research on native populations Fur trapping et al., In press). Assessments of attitudes depredations contributed by river otters at
subsequently were implemented in these The majority of research on river otters Monitoring annual harvest records for towards river otters should be conducted fish rearing facilities.
states partly to alleviate the public concern has been conducted on reintroduced river otters in NA should be an ongoing through sociological surveys conducted
and animosity portrayed in the media about populations. Information about native role of the North American Coordinator by objective social scientists trained to River otter genetics
river otters. populations has been derived largely from of the Otter Specialist Group. Bricker et assess human-wildlife conflicts. Factual A through, large-scale, genetic assessment
examination of carcasses obtained in al. (In press) demonstrate an excellent information about the role river otters should be initiated to determine the

60 — Otter species by region – North America — 61

genetic composition of remnant and be of particular interest and value. Studies Factual information not reinforced by immigrants from higher water pollutants could inhibit long-term
reintroduced river otter populations. on most aspects of river otters inhabiting quality habitats. Such studies should recovery of expanding populations); 3)
Particularly important will be the coastal areas are lacking and need to be about the role river otters include assessment of the bioaccumulation areas that could serve as ideal locations
development of a genetic profile of native undertaken. Radio-telemetry studies play as predators in of toxic substances in river otter tissue in for educational and citizen-science
populations as basis for future long-term should be considered as a basis for studies relation to impacts on reproduction. programs based on river otter ecology and
comparisons to assess the level of genetic designed to gain insight on movement aquatic ecosystems conservation; 4) identification of locations
introgression that occurs as reintroduced patterns of river otters. However, non- must be communicated Captive Populations where river otters can easily be viewed
populations expand and interact with invasive studies including sign surveys, North American river otters breed well in and appreciated by the public, especially in
remnant/native populations. remote-camera surveys at latrines, and
to the public, and methods captivity and are a popular exhibit in zoos in protected areas such as national parks; and
genetic studies based on extraction of DNA for disseminating such North America and Europe; the studbook 5) identification of zoos and aquaria that
Limited research on native otter population from scats can provide enormous insight lists 332 individuals currently living in house river otter populations of particular
investigations should be undertaken to on various aspects of river otter ecology
information must be 130 zoos from 160 founders. Husbandry value for educating the public (i.e., those
better understand populations dynamics and should be encouraged. Research on defined. manuals are available in several languages that have well developed educational
of remnant (not reintroduced) populations river otters is particularly limited in many from the Otter Specialist Group website. programs, excellent displays for viewing
of river otters. Of particular values would areas of the river otters' historic range in and photographing river otters).
be assessments to better elucidate Canada. Site-specific Conservation Locations   
reasons that native river otter populations The river otter is widely distributed A large portion of research associated with
expanded slowly in comparison to rapid Sub-optimal habitat use among a variety of aquatic habitats in NA. river otters has been conducted as part
expansion of reintroduced populations. The implementation of long-term Hence, there generally are no specific of reintroduction projects. In contrast,
Inherent to such an assessment would systematic monitoring in areas now areas in need of conservation attention remnant populations have received little
be determining if legal harvest was the occupied by river otters that previously based on the imperilment of the species. research attention, especially in coastal
primary factor inhibiting more rapid would have been considered suboptimal However, there are issues for which specific areas and throughout Canada. Research
expansion of native river otter populations habitat should be implemented throughout locations could be identified for particular projects in these regions should be
and if reintroduction projects would the range of the river otter where aquatic conservation actions, including: 1) areas encouraged and supported. Site-specific
have been necessary if factors limiting and riparian habitats are degraded. These where river otters remain extirpated and conservation locations should represent
expansion of native populations were investigations should be designed to could potentially recover; 2) areas where a variety of aquatic landscapes. Both
removed. Comparison of population assess population characteristics related river otter populations are recovering Canada and the United States have an
dynamics between populations trapped to source-sink dynamics to determine if but should be monitored to assess extensive system of protected areas,
for fur to those in areas where fur-trapping river otter populations in presumed lower the long-term impacts of persistent including National Parks, which could
is prohibited (e.g., National Parks) would quality habitats would be self-sustaining if environmental threats (e.g., areas where be a focal point of some site-specific

62 — Otter species by region – North America — 63

conservation locations. Areas that could habitats through the mid-1900s. River North American River Otter Lontra canadensis
serve as prototypes for developing a otter declines were particularly severe in Projects and Funding Opportunities
network of site-specific conservation areas the USA, where, by 1980, populations were
for river otters should include: 1) coastal considered completely extirpated from 11
areas of northern California where river states and endangered in 9 others (Bricker Region Actions Costs
otters are recovering and being studied et al., In press). However, populations
through The River Otter Ecology Project have since expanded to occupy at least All states, provinces, and territories where Encourage wildlife agencies to develop and Communication of message
(; 2) portions of the river otter’s historic range river otters are harvested implement ongoing, formal, field-based $10,000 over 2 years
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem; 3) in all USA states and Canadian Provinces, monitoring of populations
Isle Royal National Park; 4) Acadia National except Prince Edwards Island. This increase Canada Otter Conference, emphasis on promoting $ 50,000
Park; 5) the Chesapeake Bay; 6) Everglades in river otter distribution and abundance research in Canada and site-specific
National Park; and 7) Newfoundland and was facilitated by a combination of conservation areas and highlight threat
Canadian Maritime Provinces. These reintroduction projects implemented mitigation measures
recommended areas represent a variety in 22 states, improvements in aquatic Coastal northern California Citizen science-based conservation initiative $10,000/year for 5 years
of aquatic conditions inhabited by river habitat quality, and the natural expansion to monitor recovering river otter population $ 50,000
otters, are well known and receive of native populations range (Bricker et
Pilot project to promote river otters as a $ 50,000/year for 2 years
considerable public attention, and have al., In press). The conservation status of Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
focus for environmental education and citizen $100,000
established infrastructure for developing river otter populations in NA has improved science-based monitoring of aquatic habitat
and sustaining long-term conservation considerably, constituting a substantial conditions
initiates. conservation success story.
All states, provinces, and territories with Establish a genetic profile of extant river $ 50,000/year for 5 years
remnant (not reintroduced) river otter otter population throughout NA as a basis for $ 250,000
Success Stories populations assessing long-term consequences of genetic
River otters experienced substantial introgression contributed by reintroduction
declines caused by unregulated fur harvest projects
in the 1800s and degradation of aquatic
Continent-wide Develop a web page to portray up-to-date $ 5,000
management status of river otters in all
geopolitical conservation jurisdictions and
provide reliable information that portrays the
value of river otters in aquatic ecosystems.
Isle Royale National Park, New Brunswick, and Pilot projects to develop of long-term $ 80,000/year for 2 years for 2 projects
Nova Scotia monitoring protocols, including use of genetic $ 320,000
techniques to develop population estimates
using scats, including assessments of
potential model bias associated with seasonal
variation in river otter marking and group
Chesapeake Bay, Everglades National Park, Pilot projects to evaluate the presence and $ 60,000/year for 2 years for 3 projects
Columbia River drainage bioaccumulation of toxic substances in river $ 360,000

64 — Otter species by region – North America — 65

North America
Sea Otter
Enhydra lutris

The Sea otter, with the thickest fur of

all mammals, was prized by fur traders
worldwide and came close to extinction in
the mid-19th century. Active management
and translocation programs in the Pacific
Northwest and California, and strict
protection measures, have allowed Sea otters
to return to their former habitats.

IUCN Red List Status keystone species in the habitat. Moderate (Riedman and Estes 1990). Throughout and attempt to keep other adult males in prey availability.
The Sea otter is classified as Endangered densities are found from Castle Cape their range, Sea otters use a variety of from the area. Females move freely among Oil spills from the marine shipping of
based on a past large-scale population to Kamishak Bay (including the Kodiak nearshore marine environments and most male territories. Sea otter annual home petroleum products are the greatest
decline exceeding 50% over the past 45 Archipelago) and numbers are stable or Sea otters forage in water less than 30 m ranges can be up to 0.8 km² and extend anthropogenic threat to Sea otters (Geraci
years, or three generations (Pacifici et slightly increasing. There is no evidence of in depth (Bodkin et al. 2004). In much of along sixteen km of coastline (Kenyon and St. Aubin 1999). Sea otters become
al. 2013). CITES: Enhydra lutris nereis - further population decline or recovery in their range, foraging occurs within a km of 1969, Loughlin 1977). Typically, female Sea hypothermic when oiled because their
Appendix I; all other subpopulations are on the central Aleutian Islands. In Southeast the shore. They forage in rocky substrates otter home ranges are about twice as large fur loses its insulative property. They
Appendix II. Alaska 25,712 otters (E. l. kenyoni) were that support kelp beds, but also frequent as adult males during the breeding season also ingest oil while grooming, leading
reported in 2000-2012, and population soft-sediment areas where kelp is absent but have smaller annual or lifetime home to gastrointestinal disorders. Volatile
Distribution range expansion is expected to continue in (Riedman and Estes 1990, Burn and Doroff ranges than males (Riedman and Estes components of oil are caustic and can
Sea otters are distributed in a wide arc from this region, but more slowly than originally 2005). They are often found in areas with 1990). cause eye and lung damage and eventual
northern Hokkaido, Japan, northward up predicted. A report for Southcentral Alaska protection from the most severe ocean death (Garrott et al. 1993, DeGange et al.
the western Pacific coast and southward included 18,297 otters in 2000-2010 and winds, such as rocky coastlines, thick kelp Sea urchins, abalones and rock crabs are 1994). Toxins linger in the water column
down the eastern Pacific coast as far as this population is also expected to continue forests, and barrier reefs. the main prey of Sea otters in the newly and bioaccumulate in prey, and otters are
Baja, Mexico. Seventy three percent of the an increasing abundance trend. re-occupied habitats of central California exposed to negative impacts for years.
world population of Sea otters live in the The species has unusually dense and (Vandevere 1969). Clams and crab make up
US state of Alaska, followed by Russia, with In the US state of Washington 1,806 waterproof underfur, which protects it the diet in soft-sediment habitats (Kvitek Population declines in California’s
20%. The world population estimate for otters (E. l. kenyoni) were reported in 2016. from the cold marine environment. It is et al. 1992, Doroff and DeGange 1994). In Sea otters may be related to summer
the Sea otter is approximately 136,000. Population growth is expected to continue known for its use of tools, such as rocks, to the Aleutian archipelago, fish may comprise commercial fisheries. Significant numbers
Approximate regional population numbers: in this region. In the US State of California, dislodge and open shells of hard-shelled up to half of their diet. They regularly eat of Sea otters drowned in gill and trammel
Russia (E. l. lutris): Populations have not 3,272 otters (E. l. nereis) were reported in prey species. bottom-dwelling fish, but also crab, clam, nets in California and Alaska from the
been systematically surveyed for this 2016. The population has been numerically mussels, turban snails, sea cucumbers, mid-1970s to the early 1980s (Estes 1990).
population. Kuril Islands was inhabited by stable for the past 5-6 years with a low Sea otters apparently are polygynous, squid, octopus, chitons, tubeworms, large Higher levels of mortality in the summer
19,000 otters in 2004 but reports from annual growth rate of less than 1% per year. although the nature of the mating system barnacles, scallops, and sea stars (Wild and months is correlated with commercial fin
biologists indicate a 40 to 50% decline in In Canada, 6,754 otters (E. l. kenyoni) may vary. Male Sea otters reach sexual Ames 1974, Riedman and Estes 1990). fish landings in the coastal live trap fishery
populations in portions of the islands. were reported in 2013. Population range maturity around age 5 or 6, but probably (Estes et al. 2005). There are heightened
expansion is expected to continue in this do not become territorial or reproductively Threats conflicts in this region with commercial dive
Kamchatka Peninsula was inhabited by region. successful for two or three more years The historical maritime fur trade resulted fisheries, cited as a factor in limiting range
3,000 otters in 2004, but with a population (Riedman and Estes 1990). Females in the worldwide reduction of Sea otter expansion. Otters are also affected by the
decline in the Cape Lapotka area (S. Single animals have been sighted in several normally give birth at the age of 5 or 6 to populations to fewer than 2,000 animals depletion of commercially harvested prey
Kornev 2004 pers. comm.). There were places: in Hokkaido, Japan (Enhydra l. lutris) a single pup at a time (Riedman and Estes in widely dispersed remnant populations species, sea cucumber, crab, and urchin in
5,500 otters reported in the Commander in 2005, in Mexico (E. l. nereis) in 2014. In 1990), and pups are dependent on their (Kenyon 1969). Sea otters were reduced southeast Alaska. In Alaska, there is a push
Islands in 2004, a population considered at the outer coast of the US state of Oregon mothers for about six months (Jameson to just 1-2% of their original number to remove Sea otters from the protection
equilibrium density or possibly increasing. (probably E. l. kenyoni) there have been 28 and Johnson 1993). Longevity in Sea otters scattered throughout their range, resulting of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and
single Sea otters sighted. is estimated to be fifteen to twenty years in a halving of their original genetic diversity to transfer management from the Federal
United States (US) (E. l. kenyoni and E. l. for females and ten to fifteen years for (Kenyon 1969, Ralls et al. 1983, Larson et al. to State authority, potentially weakening
nereis): In Southwest Alaska (E. l. kenyoni) Habitat and Ecology males (Riedman and Estes 1990). 2002a). This low genetic diversity reduces protection. Interactions with commercial
54,771 otters were reported in 2000-2008. The Sea otter forages, sleeps and give birth the Sea otter’s ability to successfully shell fisheries have been an issue in
There are low densities of Sea otters from in the sea, and is the largest and heaviest Sea otters generally occupy a home range respond to climate change factors, such northern Hokkaido.
Castle Cape (south Alaska Peninsula) to of the otter species. Kelp beds are an of a few kilometres and remain there year- as ocean acidification, biotoxin events,
Attu Island (Aleutian Island chain) and important habitat component for the Sea round. Male Sea otters are weakly territorial and the frequency and intensity of storm Recent studies have found infectious
the population no longer functions as a otter, used for both foraging and resting (Kenyon 1969), patrol territorial boundaries events, as well as new pathogens and shifts disease to be an important mortality

66 — Otter species by region – North America — 67

factor in California Sea otter populations. southern part of the range is currently the ready equipment for containment of spills. help to mitigate the threat of predators, in
Around 280 Sea otters found dead have primary known cause of mortality. Plans should also be put in place for rescue particular great white sharks in California
been linked to a pair of protozoan parasites, A global market still exists for Sea otter, and rehabilitation of otters exposed to and killer whales in Alaska. Canopy-forming
Toxoplasma gondii and Sacrocystis neurona, and management must take care to oil and include training for the care and kelp beds within the Sea otter range should
which are spread to the nearshore marine prevent an illegal trade in pelts. In Russia, handling of oiled otters. be identified and mapped, and connected
environment by land hosts such as cats and poaching and the illegal trade are still a with marine sanctuaries and protected
opossums (Conrad et al. 2005, Johnson conservation concern for Sea otters, and in Otter mortality from gill and trammel areas that may have ongoing monitoring
et al. 2009). In Alaska, Streptococcal southeast Alaska, legal harvest by Native net and pot commercial fisheries can be programs for canopy-forming kelp.
endocarditis, encephalitis and septicemia Americans and poaching may also be mitigated by fisheries observers. Such
has been identified in necropsies of contributing factors to the slow growth of programs can document encounters and Strict legal protections in the US have
northern Sea otters (Unusual Mortality the population. In southeast Alaska, there implement mitigation strategies. In the allowed successful resurgence of some
Event Working Group 2006). Northern Sea are strong industry pressures to increase US, there must be regular reporting in the otter populations. All US Sea otter
otters from the Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak levels of legal Sea otter hunting and Species Stock Assessment Reports of the populations are protected under the
and Kachemak Bay area are infected with marketing of pelts in order to decrease the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972,
phocine distemper (Goldstein et al. 2009). otter population. Any such actions should and the Marine Mammal Commission. From which has a cultural exemption allowing for
be considered very carefully in light of 2010 to the present, Sea otter foraging the harvest of Sea otters by coastal Alaska
Marine biotoxins, such as domotic acid, climate change stressors, fishing conflicts, ecology studies continue to examine the Native people. For all populations in Alaska,
saxitoxin, and microcystin, are changing oil spills, and historic population patterns. It impacts on Sea otters of commercial the reported take is below the Potential
with warming ocean temperatures, nutrient was the commercial value of Sea otter pelts Biological Removal level, but establishing
loads, and longer and more frequent algal that led to a near extinction of the species. A global market still a harvest limit would ensure that the take
blooms. Pathways will vary by biotoxin, but Past history dramatically illustrates the stays below that level in the future.
bivalves that accumulate toxins in their vulnerability of Sea otters to exploitation. exists for Sea otter, and
tissues will affect Sea otters. Domoic acid management must take The subspecies E. l. kenyoni in southwest
is a neurotoxin that causes seizures and is Severe weather and periodic climatic Alaska, and the subspecies E. l. nereis in
linked to heart conditions (Kreuder 2005) events such as El Nino can disrupt foraging
care to prevent an illegal California, are listed as Threatened under
and saxitoxin causes respiratory arrest. In behaviour and food availability, harm kelp trade in pelts. the Federal Endangered Species Act. In America displaying 53 Sea otters (Casson
California, microcystin has been implicated canopy, and increase pup loss through the States of Washington and California, Human conflict with Sea otters includes 2016). The North American aquariums
in 40 Sea otter deaths from 1999-2007. separation from the mother. harvests of sea cucumber and urchin. Sea otters are afforded additional levels of illegal and legal take (only in Alaska in the are as follows: Seattle Aquarium, Point
For the transport of new or emerging land- protection by State laws. In Canada, the US). In the US, enforcement of the Marine Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Oregon
Killer whales, great white sharks, bald Ocean acidification, a component of global sourced pathogens, long-term monitoring subspecies E. l. kenyoni is listed as a Special Mammal Protection Act should help Coast Aquarium, Oregon Zoo, Monterey
eagles, coyotes, and brown bears prey climate change, disrupts marine food webs through forensic-level necropsy programs Concern species under Canada’s Species- mitigate mortality from illegal take. The Bay Aquarium, Sea World of California,
on Sea otters (Riedman and Estes to an unknown degree. Many of Sea otter can address sources of pathogens and their at-Risk Act. Such protections should be US Marine Mammal Stranding Program Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach,
1990). Predation by killer whales is one prey items form shells, a process that is impacts on Sea otters. adopted in the Asian range of the Sea otter. documents and mitigates other forms Minnesota Zoo, John G. Shedd Aquarium,
factor thought to have caused Sea otter disrupted by acidification, potentially affect of conflict mortality. In Russia, better Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, New
population declines across the Western prey availability. In Washington State, To address the very low genetic diversity of In places where climate-forced changes monitoring and documentation of poaching York Aquarium, Aquarium of the Americas,
Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands (Doroff acidification events have already affected the species, all source populations should in food availability, mapping areas that will help to protect the species. Georgia Aquarium, and The Vancouver
et al. 2003, Estes et al. 1998, Hatfield et al. oyster farms and have changed farming be protected. Natural range expansion are resource limited and those where Marine Science Center. There were 2
1998). Significant declines in preferred killer practices. should be allowed, and restrictions that the population can expand may help. The potential threat of ocean acidification facilities in North America that house
whale prey, e.g. northern fur seals harbour keep the subspecies distinct should be Population trends of Sea otters and key is difficult to mitigate. Monitoring Sea otters for research purposes only;
seals, and Steller sea lions are believed Threat Mitigation Measures lightened. prey should be monitored and resource- acidification levels in the nearshore habitat University of California, Santa Cruz and
to have caused killer whales to switch to Oil spills can be mitigated by measures rich areas should be mapped to enable where Sea otters forage would add to Marine Wildlife and Veterinary Care and
consuming Sea otters (Estes et al. 1998). In put in place to cope with these events, Protecting and preserving refuge habitats, otter expansion. the limited baseline data on trends and Research Center.
California, shark related mortalities in the including prevention drills and response- such as lagoons and dense kelp forests, can variability in acidification.
Success Stories
Captive Populations Decades of collaborative effort have
The first Sea otters to be exhibited were reestablished Sea otter populations
from the Alaskan populations. The first in regions of the US where they were
attempt occurred in February 1954 when extirpated by past trapping. Sea otters
several were transported from Alaska to were restored to their former habitat
the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. They in Canada and the US states of Alaska,
were then transferred to Washington, DC Washington and Oregon from remnant
but died soon afterward. The following year population centers in the Aleutian Islands
came the first success in a public facility, and Prince William Sound, Alaska by the
when one was housed for six years at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and
Woodland Park Zoo beginning in 1955. the California Department of Fish and
California Sea otters were first exhibited Game. Enlarging the range of the species
in captivity in 1969. Sea otters do well in has also meant reducing the risk of events
captivity in that they exhibit all their life that can limit the population, such as oil
history traits and live typically longer than spills, disease events and predation.
their wild counterparts. Since 1979 there Monterey Bay Aquarium in central
have been several successful otters born in California has played an important role in
captivity. the recovery of the Sea otter. Their Sea
Otter Research and Conservation program
As of 2017, there were 14 facilities in North has been working to understand and

68 — Otter species by region – North America — 69

reduce the impacts on wild populations been of great concern in California. As indices, primary and secondary production,
since 1984. The Aquarium research and human population densities increase in and Sea otter mortality, can help us
husbandry teams, in collaboration with coastal areas, pathogens enter the marine understand the Sea otters’ relationship
the California Department of Fish and environment. Humans, pets, and other to their ecosystem. Other important
WIldlife, the University of California Santa animals can shed pathogens that flow to relationships needing study include
Cruz, Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine the sea through runoff and stormwater. estuary functional processes such as land
Research Reserve, and other partners Since the threat was identified, there have to sea transport of pathogens, eelgrass
have been caring for injured otters, been decades of collaborative research habitat; nearshore marine ecology; marine
raising and releasing orphaned pups, and by California Department of Fish and invasive species, and harmful algal blooms.
training students with research projects Wildlife, US Geological Survey, Monterey Monterey Bay, Moss Landing, and Elkhorn
on topic such as Sea otters' survival and Bay Aquarium, the Marine Mammal Center, Slough in California and Kachemak Bay,
movements, aquatic eutrophication, and University of California at Santa Cruz and Glacier Bay and potentially South Slough in
marine invasive trends. The Aquarium Davis, to develop the tools and knowledge Alaska are good examples of such data-rich
programs are publicized to the general needed to mitigate this threat. sites.
public through educational activities and a
popular television program. Site-specific Conservation Locations Canopy-forming kelp beds within the
The present-day Sea otter founding Sea otter population range are important
Under the Marine Mammal Protection populations should be protected and conservation locations and should be
Act (MMPA) the non-wasteful harvest of monitored in order to preserve maximum identified and mapped. Kelp beds provide
Sea otters by Alaska Natives is allowed genetic diversity. These founding protection and shelter during storm
for subsistence and handicraft purposes. populations reside in 11 remnant events, cover from predators such as
The harvest is monitored by the US Fish population centers in the Central Kuril sharks and killer whales, protective habitats
and Wildlife Service through a Marking, Islands, Kamchatka Peninsula, Bering for pup rearing, and diverse prey.
Tagging, and Reporting regulation that Island, Aleutian Islands, Alaska Peninsula,
requires hunters to report their harvest Kodiak Archipelago, Prince William Sound,
and have the hides and skulls tagged and California. Increased frequency of
within 30 days of the harvest. If a stock population surveys to detect trends in
is considered depleted under the MMPA, abundance is needed for these sites.
or listed under the Endangered Species
Act, subsistence harvested is still allowed. Lagoons that are protected from storm
However, for depleted or ESA listed stocks, events and non-human predation, and
both laws provide the Fish and Wildlife therefore safe habitats for rearing pups,
Service the ability to regulate the harvest, if should receive special attention. Clam
it is determined that it is necessary for the Lagoon in Alaska and Elkhorn Slough and
conservation or recovery of the stock. Drakes Estero in California are examples.

The impact of disease-causing pathogens Sites that have long time series of data
carried to southern Sea otter habitat has about Sea otter food supplies, oceanic

70 — Otter species by region – North America — 71

Sea Otter Enhydra lutris Sea Otter Enhydra lutris
Projects and Funding Opportunities Projects and Funding Opportunities

Region Actions Costs Region Actions Costs

United States Species Coordinator position for each of One professional-level position each in Alaska Mexico Local liaison to work with the species One half-time professional-level position
the two subspecies (Enhydra l. kenyoni and and California coordinators and responsible for $ 45,000/year
E. l. nereis); responsible for collaboration, $ 90,000/person/year. communications in regions where Sea otter
communication, education and outreach, populations are expanding
reporting on current and emerging issues (e.g. Travel $ 15,000/person/year
Mexico Coastal surveys along Baja, California, to $ 50,000 every 3-5 years
climate issues) with management agencies
such as US Fish and Wildlife Service, the document population range expansion
Marine Mammal Commission, Native Tribes every three to five years
United States Population surveys for each subspecies California $ 50,000 All Competitive graduate research fellowships $ 100,000/year
Alaska $ 50,000 and undergraduate internships - all population
United States Development of new technologies to track Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California
All Population surveys for each subspecies California $ 50,000
and monitor Sea otters, investigate emerging $100,000/year
Alaska $ 50,000
issues, and further investigate ecosystem
functions of Sea otters All Travel for OSG leadership and species $ 100,000/year
Russia Species Coordinator position for the One professional-level position in either the coordinators to International Meetings, for
subspecies Enhydra l. lutris; responsible for Commander Islands or species coordinators within their regions,
collaboration, communication, education and the Kamchatka Peninsula and to support students and research
outreach, reporting on current and emerging $ 90,000/person/year collaborations
issues to management agencies, population All Competitive husbandry and captive $ 100,000/year
surveys research program support.
Russia Population surveys for each subspecies in $ 50,000
all remnant population areas, Commander
Islands, Kamchatka Peninsula, Kuril Islands
Russia Development of new technologies to track $ 100,000/year
and monitor Sea otters, investigate emerging
issues and ecosystem functions of Sea otters
in all remnant population areas
Canada Population surveys for each subspecies $ 50,000/year
Canada Development of new technologies to track
$ 50,000/year
and monitor Sea otters, investigate emerging
issues, and further develop ecosystem
functions of Sea otters, in their range in British
Species coordinator responsible for One half-time professional-level position
communications in regions where Sea otter $ 45,000/year
populations are expanding

Japan Coastal surveys to document population $ 50,000 every 3-5 years

range expansion every three – five years
along Hokkaido and southern Kuril Islands

72 — Otter species by region – North America — 73

South America
Giant Otter
Pteronura brasiliensis

The largest otter was once the most

endangered in the mid-1970s when the fur
trade decimated its numbers over most of its
South American range. The implementation of
CITES, strong national protection legislation,
and ongoing conservation programs in the
range countries allowed the Giant otter to
make a comeback.

IUCN Red List Status now known in some parts of the Pantanal
The Giant otter is classified as Endangered. (Leuchtenberger and Mourão 2008, Ribas et
A future reduction in population size of 50% al. 2012, Tomás et al. 2015) and the Amazon
or more is projected over the next 25 years, (Rosas et al. 2007, Groenendijk et al. 2015).
or three generation lengths (Pacifici et al. Recently some populations have been
2013). CITES: Appendix I. recovering and or returning to their original
range, for example, the Yavarí-Mirín River
Distribution in Peru (Recharte and Bodmer 2010), the
The Giant otter is endemic to South Madidi and Itenéz and Guaporé Rivers in
America and its historical broad distribution Bolivia (Ayala et al. 2015, Zambrana Rojas et
ranged from east of the Andes in the al. 2012), the Lagarto-Cocha and Cuyabeno
Orinoco and Amazon Basins to northern Rivers in Ecuador (V. Utreras pers. comm.
Venezuela and the river networks of 2018), and the Amanã Reserve in Brazil
the Guianas and to its southern limit (Marmontel et al. 2015) and in the middle
in Argentina, occurring in lowland Içana River, Northwest Amazonia in Brazil
environments no more than 600 m (Pimenta et al. 2018).
elevation. But local extinctions caused
fragmentation of the Giant otter’s range, Habitat and Ecology
due to commercial hunting for most of the The Giant otter inhabits large rivers,
20th century and to habitat destruction. streams, lakes and swamps (Duplaix 1980,
The populations from the Paraná Basin in Carter and Rosas 1997). In Suriname, the
southern Brazil and from Argentina and species seems to prefer black water creeks
Uruguay are considered extinct or nearly and rivers with sandy or rocky bottoms
so. In the Brazilian Cerrado a population (Duplaix 1980). In Peru, large lowland rivers
persists in the face of intense habitat with gentle flow and oxbow lakes with
modification. Important populations are high fish densities are preferred (Schenck
still found in parts of the Amazon, in the 1999). In Bolivia, both clear and whitewater
Pantanal region and possibly in the Guianas. floodplains are used (Zambrana Rojas et
al. 2012). Since Giant otters build dens and
Hunting for the pelt trade was the greatest use campsites along the banks of water
threat to the Giant otter in the past and bodies, some habitat traits are important
the species came close to extinction in determinants of presence, such as gentle
the early 1970s in Ecuador, Colombia, slopes, vegetation cover and proximity
Venezuela, Bolivia, and Brazilian Pantanal to the water’s edge (Lima et al. 2012). In
(Duplaix 1980). From 1960 to 1969, records seasonally flooded habitats, the availability
indicated a regional harvest of 12,390 of banks and other habitat features may
giant otter skins. In 1973, Giant otters change and induce changes in habitat
were placed on CITES Appendix I, and selection by the otter (Leuchtenberger et
the enforcement of international trade al. 2013).
restrictions on Giant otter skins in 1975
finally ended Giant otter hunting (Recharte During the peak inundation in the southern
and Bodmer 2010). Stable populations are Pantanal, when the banks are flooded,

74 — Otter species by region – South America — 75

Giant otter groups use emerged shrubs as exclusively of fish but may also include
refuges and latrines (Leuchtenberger et caiman and other vertebrates (Ribas et
al. 2015). At such times, when prey is more al. 2012, Rosas-Ribeiro et al. 2012). The
dispersed, Giant otters were observed in species is opportunistic in its diet and
flooded forest, swamps and grasslands adapts its diet according to prey availability.
adjacent to the river (Leuchtenberger et al.
2013). Territoriality and population density Threats
may lead some groups to use unusual The species is threatened by multiple
sites, such as artificial lakes along roads in human activities throughout the species
the southern Pantanal (Leuchtenberg et range, destruction of riparian habitat,
al. 2013). Giant otters also use agricultural overfishing, contamination of water
channels (Laidler 1984) and the reservoirs bodies -- especially by gold mining, fossil
of dams (Palmeirim et al. 2014). The fuel exploration, and the use of pesticides
preferred habitat for Giant otters seem and fertilizers, domestic animal diseases,
to be undisturbed water bodies, with high and mismanaged tourism (Duplaix 1980,
quality vegetation cover and abundant prey Schenck 1999, Utreras and Tirira 2001).
density. Human populations are increasing
and expanding in the region. In the last
Giant otters are one of the most social census, the Amazon region registered
members of the otter family. A Giant otter the highest population growth in Brazil.
group consists of a dominant breeding pair, Illegal settlements, road opening and
non-breeding subadults and offspring. deforestation threaten pristine habitats.
Group size can range from two to sixteen Colonization of new areas are expected,
individuals that may or may not be followed by intensive exploitation of
related (Ribas et al. 2016). Reproduction natural resources. Furthermore, proposed
is related to the capacity of the group to mega-projects in the 2007 Brazilian Growth
defend high quality territories, usually a Acceleration Plan represent a significant
function of group size (Groenendijk et threat to Brazilian Amazonian and Pantanal
al. 2014, Leuchtenberger et al. 2015), habitat.
possibly explaining the advantage of
having non-related individuals in the group The Giant otter remains endangered
(Leuchtenberger and Mourão 2008, Ribas et because of the low recuperation rate of
al. 2016). Giant otters attain sexual maturity relict populations now also under pressure
at around 2 1/2 years old (Oliveira et al. from human activities (Groenendijk et al.
2011), and the earliest breeding may occur 2014). Direct conflict between humans and
at age 3 (Groenendijk et al. 2014). A group otters is an increasing problem. Otters may
usually produces one litter a year, ranging be killed for fun or out of fear, or, more often,
from one to six young but averaging two
(Duplaix 1980, Staib 2005, Groenendijk and
Hajek 2006, Leuchtenberger and Mourão Even a decade after gold
2008). mining stopped, areas
Groups live in well-established territories affected still had depleted
that are constantly defended by scent- fish populations and had
markings at latrines, campsites and
dens along the banks of lakes and rivers not been recolonized by
(Leuchtenberger and Mourão 2009), and otters.
warning vocalizations (Leuchtenberger et
al. 2014, Mumm and Knörnschild 2017).
Conflict encounters are common when an
intruder is detected and may lead to serious
injuries or even death (Schweizer 1992,
Rosas and Mattos 2003, Ribas and Mourão
2004). Territories vary in size from 0.5 km
to 18 km of riverbank in the dry season,
and 8 to 24 km in the wet season (Utreras
et al. 2005, Leuchtenberger et al. 2015)
and appears to be related to group size
(Groenendijk et al. 2014, Leuchtenberger
et al. 2015). The size of neighboring groups
may limit the expansion of territory
(Leuchtenberger et al. 2015).

The diet of Giant otters consists almost

76 — Otter species by region – South America — 77

because they are seen as competitors for and usually only once a year. During the banks with pressure hoses, using mercury from poorly managed tourism, including Threat Mitigation Measures
fish by loggers, miners, and fishermen, years of the pelt trade, these life history to amalgamate gold particles. Gold prices sport fishing. It is important to control Some priority actions include:
who often blame them for depleting fish attributes of the species combined to make are at a record high, whereas mercury is increasing levels of tourism on lakes and
resources used for local consumption and it an easy target for fishermen. In 2017 a inexpensive. Forest conversion to mining rivers both in and outside protected areas
in commercial trading in markets (Gómez Giant otter group was killed by fishermen increased six-fold from the periods 2003- (Groenendijk and Hajek 2006). Research
and Jorgensen 1999, Recharte et al. 2008, in the Pantanal and according to locals, 2006 to 2006-2009 (Swenson et al. 2011). has shown that Giant otter reproductive 1. E
 stablish protected areas in all range 9. P
 romote the value of giant otters
Rosas-Ribeiro et al. 2012, Utreras and Tirira kills occur frequently during the fishing success and sighting success by tourists countries, including fish corridors, to through environmental education
2001). Giant otters can drown, get stuck in season (C. Leuchtenberger, pers. comm.). Even a decade after mining stopped, areas is considerably lower on unmanaged lakes connect fragmented populations and programs in communities that coexist
fishing nets and traps, and are then blamed In 2011-2012, the Kanamari indigenous affected still had depleted fish populations than on managed lakes (Groenendijk and protect stable populations with otters
for damaging them (Rosas-Ribeiro et al. people promoted a massive Giant otter and had not been recolonized by otters. In Hajek 2006). 2. S
 trengthen national, departmental 10. D
 evelop management plans to
2012, Utreras et al. 2013). Fish farming is killing in their territory (Território Indígena areas of gold mining, fish are contaminated and municipal protected area regulate overfishing to reduce
rapidly increasing in the species’ range, for Kanamari), based on their perception that with mercury. Gutleb et al. (1997) found Giant otter cubs held in captivity have died administrations, as well as other key conflicts and protect the prey base
example in parts of the Ecuadorian Amazon, the species was overfishing the river turtle that mercury concentrations in most fish of canine parvovirus, so domestic animal actors, especially with indigenous
and expose otters to retaliation killing (V. population. The community leader bought near Manu National Park were higher than diseases may pose a serious threat to wild 11. I mplement sustainable economic
grassroots organizations
Utreras pers. obs.). Cubs are sometimes 300 cartridges for the hunters, who shot considered tolerable for the Eurasian otter. giant otter populations. Infection can also alternatives for communities that
captured illegally to be kept as pets (M. 64 giant otters (Endo pers. comm. 2012). Migration of contaminated fish and long- occur in remote areas, since transient otters 3.Implement reintroduction programs coexist with giant otters by training
Marmontel pers. obs). Such incidents of targeted killing can lead range atmospheric transport of mercury and people hunting with dogs travel large to recover historical populations in locals to guide otter watchers
to extinction of small populations in a probably increase the area of influence distances with potential for contact and Argentina (Corrientes) and Brazil and strengthen local networks to
Giant otters are highly susceptible to watershed. of such contaminants. Contamination infection of vulnerable otter populations (Paraná Basin) participate in the regional decision-
persecution: they are large, conspicuous, of otters by other heavy metals through (Schenck 1999). making processes
4. E
 stablish national conservation plans
social, and very vocal. They are active in Gold mining, both artisanal and industrial, pesticides and other agrochemicals is throughout the species range 12. C
 reate a map of risk and decision
daytime and occupy open habitats and is a significant threat to the species, still poorly understood. Over the last two Climatic changes are predicted to increase scenarios for stakeholders,
5. F
 oster multinational cooperation
stable territories. Their signs – latrines and particularly in the Guiana Shield region, decades, the Guianas and Peru regions suitable areas for Giant otters (Cianfrani incorporating otter presence and the
(ie, Amapá-Brazil and French
dens – are easily recognizable, making it in southeastern Peru, and the western are facing significant expansions in areas et al. 2018). However, long-term habitat current and future threats
Guiana, Suriname and Guyana,
possible to identify areas of recent activity region of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The subject to gold mining, and consequently and climatic modifications may increase
Southern Amazon and the Pantanal) 13. E
 stablish long-term giant otter
by a group (Groenendijk et al. 2005). main impacts are habitat destruction, in French Guiana populations are still the exposure of some core otter areas to
to coordinate management of conservation programs for key
Individuals and groups often react to people sedimentation of rivers, and pollution considered as decreasing, due to habitat the negative effects of the surrounding
transboundary or connected protected populations in Brazil (Pantanal,
by approaching to investigate. Moreover, (Kimbrough 2014). Gold miners cut swathes threats (Allard et al. 2017). unsuitable areas (Cianfrani et al. 2018).
areas, control of illegal mining and the Amazonia, Cerrado), Bolivia
only the dominant pair produces young, into the floodplain forest and blast river The species also has a high specialized
integrity of continuous otter habitat (Amazonia), Peru (Amazonia), and
The many planned hydroelectric dams in niche, making it more vulnerable to climate
Colombia (Orinoco)
the species’ range are a major threat to change. 6. C
 reate protocols in all range
giant otters. These will alter hydrological countries to regulate mitigation 14. C
 onduct population surveys in
One hundred and eighty-four new dams greater than two regimes of rivers and affect fish populations Captive Populations and compensation for projects like areas with poor or no knowledge
MW capacity are planned or under construction over the and habitat (Latrubesse et al. 2017). Dams There are currently 116 Giant otters in hydroelectric dams, gold mining, about giant otter occurrence in the
disrupt the annual cycles of inundations, captivity in 27 zoos, and more than half of agriculture, deforestation and last decade, especially in Uruguay,
next 20 years in the Amazon. vital for the maintenance of populations of these individuals are in European zoos. The overfishing within the species range Argentina, Brazil (Paraná Basin)
flood dependent species such as the giant comparison of the gene diversity index
7.Implement resilience and recovery 15. D
 ocument the illegal trade in Guyana
otter (Mourão et al. 2010, Alho and Sabino among captive subpopulation is the result
projects in areas of human activities where otters are removed from the
2011). One hundred and eighty-four new of different strategies in Europe and the US.
to help the return of giant otters after wild, either to trade or breed for pets
dams are planned or under construction, In Europe breeding has been kept low, which
threat mitigation
greater than two MW capacity over the results in a lower inbreeding factor and a
next 20 years in the Amazon. These dams higher gene diversity, although the number 8. C
 reate global guidelines for giant otter
would include five of the six major Andean of animals is decreasing. In US breeding watching by ecotourists including
tributaries of the Amazon. Sixty per cent of the program is strong which results in high mandatory responsible behavior
the dams would cause the first major break inbreeding, low gene diversity and stable
in connectivity between protected Andean demographics. Currently, Giant otters are
headwaters and the lowland Amazon. not breeding in the Latin American captive
population. Their collective genetic profile
Giant otters can live in some artificial lakes, is the best (wild born, confiscated animals
such as the shallow Balbina Reservoir in or first or second-generation captive born)
Brazil (Rosas et al. 2007). In other areas, but the total number of individuals is very
hydroelectric dams have depleted Giant low. For a globally sustainable captive
otter populations, as did the Curuá-Una population, exchange programs between
Hydroelectric in the Brazilian Amazonia zoos in Latin America are needed and
(Rosas et al. 2007). Around the Pantanal, collaborative breeding programs must be
there are over 115 projects of small launched.
hydroelectric plants. Other major  
infrastructure projects include the Inter- Site-specific Conservation Locations
oceanic highway in southeastern Peru, The population of Giant otters living in
and the Initiative for the Integration of the the Cerrado biome in Brazil has a high
Regional Infrastructure of South America conservation value. Recent surveys
(V. Utreras pers. comm.). conducted from the Araguaia basin to the
eastern limit of the species’ distribution
Giant otters are vulnerable to disturbance estimate a population size of over 200

78 — Otter species by region – South America — 79

individuals (G. Georgiadis, pers. obs.). A often adjacent to, or overlap, national, underway, the Giant otter is recognized as Giant Otter Pteronura brasiliensis
long-term monitoring program of the state and municipal protected areas which an important umbrella species and there is Projects and Funding Opportunities
Cantão Park in Tocantins State provided the make up another 20% of the Amazon basin. interest among conservation organizations
first information about Giant otter ecology Working with local people in and around the working in the region in protecting this
and behavior in this region (Georgiadis protected areas and indigenous territories species – along with many other rare Region Actions Costs
et al. 2015) but information about this of the Amazon represents the greatest “giants” such as the jaguar, giant anteater,
population’s genetic structure is still opportunity for the conservation of Giant and river turtle. States/provinces/territories where giant Support to national, departmental and Not estimated
lacking. otter population strongholds. otters coexist with traditional communities municipal protected area administrations,
Giant otter populations of the Pantanal and other key actors, especially indigenous
The Paraná Basin, where the otter has not Long-term population monitoring appear to be recovering, with signs of grassroots organizations
been sighted in a decade (Rocha-Mendes et programs have documented Giant otter reaching carrying capacity in some areas States/provinces/territories where there Protected area creation in all range countries, Not estimated
al. 2005, Silvestre 2015) and is considered recovery since early 2000 in: Manu National (Tomás et al. 2015). Specific conservation are relict populations of giant otters including fish corridors, to connect fragmented
extinct or nearly extinct, is a potential Park, Peru, on the Vermelho-Miranda action plans have been developed in Brazil populations and protect stable population
site for a reintroduction program. In Rivers, Brazilian Pantanal, in Balbina Lake (ICMBio 2016), Colombia (Colombia 2016), Argentina Reintroduction programs to recover historical $ 100,000/year for 5 years,
Corrientes, Argentina, a rewilding program and Amanã Sustainable Development Ecuador (Utreras et al. 2013) and Venezuela Iberá Reserve populations in Argentina (Corrientes) and two projects
plans to reintroduce Giant otters to the Reserve in Amazonia, Brazil, in Cantão (Ferrer et al. 2017) to recover and maintain Corrientes Brazil (Paraná Basin)
Iberá Wetlands, where the species was State Park in the Cerrado of Brazil, on the remaining populations. Continuing and Brazil ( Paraná Basin)
eliminated by hunting in the 1980s. The Upper Rupununi River of Guyana – showing effective conservation strategies are All countries lacking a conservation plan for Establishment of national conservation plans Publication of conservation plans
tradeoffs between natural recovery and growing numbers and expanding occupancy needed in these locations. giant otters throughout the species range $ 20,000
reintroductions needs evaluation. area (Georgiadis et al. 2015, Groenendijk et
al. 2014, Leuchtenberger et al. 2015, Lima et Continent-wide Workshop to: Meeting for 50 participants
The Pantanal otter population should al. 2014, Marmontel et al. 2015). 1) foster multinational cooperation to $ 35,000 for 5 days
coordinate management of transboundary
receive special attention because of its
or connected protected areas, control of
low genetic diversity (Pickles et al. 2011), In Brazil and Peru, the Giant otter is seen
illegal mining and integrity of continuous otter
southern distributional limit, and human as a charismatic species for ecotourism,
disturbance (Harris et al. 2005, Alho and attracting tourists interested in wildlife 2) create protocols to regulate mitigation and
Sabino 2011). watching. At the Barranco Alto Lodge compensation for projects like hydroelectric
in the Southern Pantanal, Giant otter dams, gold mining, agriculture, deforestation
Fisheries at the Amapá National Forest watching is conducted in a nonintrusive and and overfishing
(Michalski et al. 2012), the Amanã careful manner. Ecotourism represents an 3) create a map of risk and decision scenarios
Sustainable Development Reserve (Lima important tool to improve human attitudes for stakeholders, incorporate otter presence
et al. 2014), the Orinoco region in Colombia towards the species, creating economic and current and future threats
(Trujillo et al. 2015) and on the Cuiabá River alternatives for local people and reinforcing Guiana Shield Resilience and recovery projects in areas of $ 60,000/year for 10 years in 3 countries
in the north Pantanal (C. Leuchtenberger the conservation of Giant otters. human activities to support giant otter return
pers. obs.) deserve attention. The after threat mitigation
development of otter-based ecotourism A non-profit organization has been working Brazil (Pantanal, Amazonia, Cerrado) Environmental education programs in $ 40,000/year for 2 years
may provide benefits in these areas that at the Jauaperi River, a tributary of the Bolivia (Amazonia) communities that coexist with otters to Four projects in 4 countries
help mitigate losses to fisheries in these Negro River in the Brazilian Amazon, to raise promote the value of giant otters and to
Peru (Amazonia)
areas. international funds to address the threats implement sustainable economic alternatives
of habitat degradation, while offering Colombia (Orinoco) by training locals to guide otter watchers and
Success Stories sustainable economic alternatives to the to strengthen local networks to participate in
Indigenous stories describe a harmonious local community (Evangelista and Tosi regional decision making
relationship between Giant otters and 2015). This organization has reduced the Uruguay (Merin Lagoon Basin) Population surveys in areas with poor or no $ 50,000 each for two projects
humans. In Colombia, some indigenous migration from rural sites to the cities and Brazil and Argentina (Paraná-Paraguay knowledge about giant otter occurrence in the
groups believe that Giant otters guarantee improved the quality of the community. Basin) last ten years
the health of the river, culling contaminated Local residents that were former Giant
Brazil (Pantanal, Amazonia, Cerrado), Long-term population monitoring $ 60,000/year for 5 years,
fish, while others tell a story that Giant otter hunters are today esteemed guides
Bolivia (Amazonia), Peru (Amazonia), programs to evaluate population dynamics, 4 projects
otters became people and fished like for tourists and researchers (Duplaix et al.
Colombia (Orinoco) behavior, health, genetics and ecological
humans (Colombia 2016). While colonization 2015, Evangelista and Tosi 2015).
constraints in pristine habitats as control
and modernization of indigenous peoples
cases in assessing impacts on giant otter
have changed these views, there are still A program was launched in Peru at 2017
populations under high human impacts
examples of indigenous people taking aimed at investigating the effect of mining
steps to protect the species within their and other human activities on Giant otter Brazil (Tapajós River system) "Before-After With Control" monitoring $ 200,000
programs of giant otters in areas of $ 20,000/year for 10 years
territories. populations. The program monitors Giant
hydroelectric power plant projects to evaluate
otter territories in the protected Manu
impact on the species and to develop
In Bolivia, for example, the Tacana people National Park and compares them with the protocols for mitigation/compensation
list the Giant otter as one of the species adjacent mined areas of the lower Madre actions
which should not be hunted within the de Dios River. The program focuses on
Brazil (Pantanal) Creation of global guidelines for giant otter $ 60,000 for 2 years
framework of traditional subsistence demography and behavior of Giant otters watching by ecotourists including mandatory
Peru (Manu National Park) Two projects
hunting (CIPTA 2008). Indigenous territories and samples the local fish communities responsible behavior; conduct training workshops
make up almost 30% of the Amazon basin, to understand their abundance and the with locals to implement guidelines in areas with
and many of these indigenous territories mercury exposure risk for local Giant otters. high ecotourism potential
are large enough to ensure that subsistence
hunting is essentially sustainable, and are In Guyana, where conservation planning is

80 — Otter species by region – South America — 81

South America Public awareness of the
Neotropical Otter ecological role of otters
Lontra longicaudis in aquatic systems and
the impact of otters on
fisheries need attention,
A species closely related to the North American particularly in areas of
river otter, the Neotropical otter is widely conflict.
distributed across Latin America. Often found
in areas inhabited by the Giant otter, the two
species appear to coexist.

Red List Status m (Larivière 1999, Rheingantz et al. 2014).

The Neotropical otter is classified as It has been reported using coastal habitats The Neotropical otter
Near Threatened in the IUCN Red List. It and islands in Brazil (Carvalho-Júnior et
is projected to undergo a decline of 25% al. 2006), as well as intermittent rivers
in the next 27 years, or three generations in seasonally dry tropical forests of the The Neotropical otter has been
(Pacifici et al. 2013). CITES: Appendix I. Brazilian Northeast region (Rosas-Ribeiro et a well-known species since
al. 2017). pre-Hispanic times. Indigenous
Distribution histories report a harmonious
The Neotropical otter is widely distributed The otter has a long, dark brown, heavily relationship between these
throughout north, south and central South built body with fully webbed feet. The otters and humans.
America and Mexico (Sánchez and Gallo- species is flexible in its activity behavior,
Reynoso 2007, Rheingantz and Trinca being more diurnal in the Pantanal and more
The VIII Aztec emperor
2015). The species is present in almost the nocturnal in the Atlantic Forest, perhaps ’Ahuitzotl‘ was named after
entire South American continent except for due to human activities (Rheingantz et al. the Neotropical otter in Nahua
Chile. Across the known distribution, the 2016). language.
Neotropical otter has high genetic diversity Later on, otters were described
based on geographic factors (Trinca et The Neotropical otter is considered to missionaries as a well-
al. 2012, Hernandez-Romero et al. 2018). a solitary species, although pairs are
known species and the subject
Three subspecies are proposed by their observed during reproductive periods, and
of several legends.
present disjunct distribution: L. longicaudis small groups of females and their cubs also
annectens, restricted to Central America occur (Rodrigues et al. 2013). In spite of Nowadays there are many
and northwestern South America; L. l. its high dependence on water, the species place names referring to otters
enudris, distributed across the Amazonian spends a considerable amount of time on in Spanish -- nutria, perro
region, from eastern Venezuela, Colombia, land, especially in activities such as scent de água, lobo de rio, lobito de
Guianas, Suriname, Ecuador and Peru to marking, reproduction and parental care rio, in Portuguese -- lontra,
northwestern Bolivia and northern Brazil; (Rodrigues et al. 2013). Breeding occurs lontrinha, cachorro de água
and L. l. longicaudis, present in the rest of mostly during the dry or low water season
-- in French -- loutre à longue
the range in South America (Larivière 1999, but may occur throughout the year in some
Trinca et al. 2012, Hernandez-Romero et al. places (Parera 1996). Litter size varies from
queue, loutre d'Amérique
2018). one to five cubs (Larivière 1999), with two du Sud -- and in indigenous
or three on average (Parera 1996). languages (Gallo-Reynoso
Habitat and Ecology 2013).
The Neotropical otter is found in aquatic Otters are opportunistic predators that Otters were kept as pets by
environments such as rivers, streams, mainly prey on fish and crustaceans (Gallo- indigenous people throughout
lakes, lagoons, estuaries, mangroves, Reynoso 1997, Pardini 1998, Utreras et al.
their distribution range,
marshes and coastal shorelines 2002, González et al. 2004, Rheingantz et
and even today otters are
(Rheingantz and Trinca 2015, Rheingantz al. 2017a) but also consume amphibians,
et al. 2017a). This otter occurs in a wide mammals, birds, and other prey (Rheingantz sometimes kept as pets by
variety of habitats from rocky shorelines et al. 2017b). As an otter with a wide fishermen and indigenous
to deciduous and evergreen forests, warm distribution range, L. longicaudis has a people.
and cold climate rainforests, and coastal varied diet (Rheingantz et al. 2017b).
savanna swamps, from sea level up to 4000 Detailed data on population size and

82 — Otter species by region – South America — 83

Neotropical otters are held
in a number of zoos in Latin
America but are currently
absent from zoos in the
Northern Hemisphere.
densities for the species are scarce make Neotropical otters more resilient associated with otter mortality in Mexico The protozoans Giardia spp. and across the species’ range (Rheingantz
and limited to small areas but suggest to exploitation than giant otters. Oral (Gallo-Reynoso 1997). Cryptosporidium spp. were recently first and Trinca 2015). With expanding human
that Neotropical otter populations are history and data from historical documents reported for L. longicaudis from northern activities in Latin America, Neotropical
decreasing (Trujillo and Arcila 2006, indicate that Neotropical otter populations Roadkills of Neotropical otters have also and northeastern Brazil. Although clinical otter populations may further decline in
Rheingantz and Trinca 2015). Recently, have persisted at low densities in local and been documented in the Guianas (Duplaix significance of these results is still unclear, the future. The threat is more acute in
efforts by researchers have generated a regional scales (Pimenta et al. 2018). 2004), in southern and southeastern Brazil they raise concerns about transmission to some regions, such as in Northeastern
more complete database on the species (Quintela et al. 2011), and in Costa Rica and other aquatic mammals and even humans, Brazil, where the otter populations are
status at the continental level that changed Neotropical otters are still illegally hunted Mexico (Santiago-Plata pers. comm.). since oocysts and cysts may remain concentrated in lowland rivers which are
the IUCN Red List status from Data and killed in conflicts with fishermen Episodes of intense rainfall are becoming infectious for long periods (LeChevallier et prime locations for agriculture, ranching
Deficient to Near Threatened (Rheingantz and fish hatcheries due to perceived fish more frequent and when combined with al. 1991). Mortality of otters due to diseases and other human activities (Rosas-Ribeiro
and Trinca 2015). depredation (Chehébar 1990, Barbieri et deforestation along riverbanks can cause such as canine distemper (Hernández- 2017).
al. 2012). Although fishermen often have landslides and flooding. According to Romero pers. obs.) is also a threat. The
Threats a negative perception of the otter, many Navarro and Quadros (2017) this can force intensity and effect of the impact of Threat Mitigation Measures
The modification and fragmentation of them report that actual damage from otters to abandon an area, to which they diseases on local otter populations need to Policies need to be adopted to mitigate
of natural habitats by human activities the Neotropical otter is small (Barbieri et return only slowly. be further investigated. the impact of human modification and
represents the main threat to the species al. 2012, Castro et al. 2014, Fonseca and fragmentation of riverine and coastal
by creating isolated populations of otters. Marmontel 2011). Indeed, fishermen from The effect of cattle ranching in the riparian Keeping Neotropical otter cubs as pets has habitats such as dams, gold mining,
The species may occur in areas with some northeastern Mexico showed a positive habitat of some rivers in Mexico has been reported in México (Gallo-Reynoso agriculture, deforestation and overfishing,
human activities and habitat degradation, attitude toward conservation actions devastated the biodiversity of some rivers, 1989), in the Brazilian Amazon (Marmontel as well as regulate the release of domestic
but human density is negatively correlated for the otter (Mayagoitia-González et al. causing significant river bank erosion and et al. 2011, Silva pers. comm.) in Venezuela and toxic waste in riverine systems near
to otter presence (Rheingantz et al. 2014, 2013). Otters also become entangled in turning the river ecosystem into an oxygen (Gonzalez and Utrera 2004), and in north of critical populations of otters.
Rheingantz and Trinca 2015). There fishing nets, as reported in southern Brazil poor environment, thus reduced fish Costa Rica (Santiago-Plata pers. comm.). In
are stable populations in more pristine (Quintela et al. 2011). abundance. There is also a concern that some locations, medicinal use of otters has Throughout their range, Neotropical otters
areas throughout the species’ range, but zoonotic diseases may be transmitted by been documented. In the Brazilian Amazon are present in many protected areas, the
populations are decreasing in more heavily Exposure to and bioaccumulation of toxins cattle to wildlife (J.P. Gallo-Reynoso pers. for example, an infusion of Neotropical centerpiece for the conservation of the
human-modified areas (Rheingantz and is known to harm the species (Josef et al. comm.). otter skins has been said to cure shortness species. Standardized monitoring programs
Trinca 2015). 2008, Ramos-Rosas et al. 2013). Mercury of breath and asthma (Fonseca and should be implemented in protected areas
has been observed in fur and tissues The long-term impacts of dam Marmontel 2011). In Costa Rica, among and data collected from all range countries
The species was severely hunted until the samples of the species from the Pantanal construction on the species are poorly indigenous Bribri in the Talamanca should be combined to compare regional
1970s for the international fur market, (Fonseca et al. 2004), and in otter scat in understood. Dams have the potential to Mountains range, when a family wants one status.
with hundreds of thousands of pelts southeastern Brazil (Josef et al. 2008). degrade the environment by changing of their children in the future to be a good
exported from South American ports Studies show that the Neotropical otter flowing to standing water and by decreasing fisherman, they bring an Awá (Shaman) to National otter conservation plans should
between 1945 and 1975 (Brack Egg 1978, may be exposed to high levels of other functional connectivity for both individuals pass a piece of otter skin over the back of be developed for range countries that
Donadio 1978, Larivière 1999, Antunes et heavy metals such as lead and cadmium and populations. Dams also change the the pregnant mother (Borge and Castillo do not yet have them and implemented
al. 2016). Even this estimate is probably even in protected areas of Mexico (Ramos- local prey community, affecting otter 1997). in countries that do have them. National
low, since official export numbers may be Rosas et al. 2013), and other Persistent diet in unknown ways (Quadros 2012). conservation plans can identify regional
less than 50% of the actual trade (Donadio Organic Pollutants (Latorre-Cárdenas Despite this, the species has been recorded The intensity and effect of these threats on threats and design specific conservation
1978). Despite this heavy demand for fur, 2013). Industrial waste spills increase heavy in hydroelectric reservoirs years after otters is poorly understood, but there is a actions at a country and regional level.
biological and ecological characteristics metal levels in watercourses and have been damming (Cabral et al.2008, Róseo 2010). perception that populations are declining

84 — Otter species by region – South America — 85

protected areas. west and would deserve attention. programs in elementary and high schools,
Surveys to confirm distribution range the programs teach students about the
In northeastern Brazil, otter populations are needed in Mexico, Northeastern entire ecosystem, wildlife, environmental
are concentrated in coastal river basins Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, and in the impacts, and ways to mitigate those
partially or completely covered by Atlantic highlands of Brazil, Mexico, central region impacts. They work together with wildlife
Forest. The northeastern Atlantic Forest is of Venezuela and the Andes of Peru and managers, local leaders and public
the least conserved portion of this biome, Ecuador. authorities to sensitize the riverine and
with high human populations, putting coastal communities in environmental
otters at risk. Here, the São Francisco River Success Stories conservation.
is the largest perennial river crossing the The large conservation landscapes of
Caatinga biome and has been suggested the Amazon Basin provide hope for the
as an important potential dispersal route conservation of the immense biodiversity
connecting coastal river basins with those of the region. The Basin, with its many
located north of the Caatinga (Rosas- large and small rivers, represents a
Ribeiro, 2017). collective opportunity for national, state
and municipal protected areas, together
In coastal areas and islands of the south, with large indigenous territories, to protect
The enforcement of laws protecting otters responsible fishing need to be designed and Other priority areas for Neotropical otter southeast and northeast of Brazil, the Neotropical otter. Almost 50% of the
is usually weak, even though the species is implemented. protection are the headwaters of major Central America and Mexico, otters need Amazon Basin is already designated either
listed on Appendix I of CITES and declared rivers across its wide distribution range. conservation attention. as protected area or indigenous territory.
illegal to kill in several countries. National We recommend that environmental impact Neotropical otter habitat is important in These conservation mosaics are especially
Effective education
legal protections must be more strongly studies be required for all dam projects and the headwater rivers of the highlands of The Choco region, on western slopes important for wide-ranging and naturally programs help change
enforced. legal instruments developed that ensure
compensatory measures for negative
Brazil, Mexico and Andes, where studies
of fish farms can enable an assessment of
of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador,
presents an important opportunity to
scarce species such as the Neotropical
otter. Conservation efforts should continue
the negative perception
Surveys should be conducted in areas with impacts on otters. Monitoring the impact otter interaction with these facilities. We develop regional conservation actions in an to concentrate on securing and supporting of otters by fishermen
little information in Suriname, Guyana, of dams on Neotropical otters before recommend the protection of perennial ecosystem that is highly altered by human these conservation strongholds. in coastal and riverine
Paraguay and most countries of Central and after dam construction is needed to tributaries of the Paraná and Amazon activities.
America. We recommend long-term assess changes in population dynamics Rivers. In Southern Brazil, two long-term projects habitats. Such programs
research on human impacts on otters and genetic structure. We recommend the In Peru, Manu National Park is a case of have focused not only in otter research, already exist in Mexico,
both inside and outside protected areas establishment of long-term Neotropical Protected Areas with suitable habitat, both special concern. Otter presence has been but also in riverine and coastal community
throughout the species range. The otter conservation programs in coastal those with and without otter populations, confirmed there in two southern Peruvian involvement: Projeto Lontra and Instituto Colombia, French Guiana
geographic distribution of the species areas of the Atlantic forest, Mexico, the should be managed for otter, particularly in rivers, but lack clear species identification. de Pesquisas Cananéia. These two and Brazil, and need to be
needs to be better understood, especially Cerrado, Central America, Argentina, and Northeastern Brazil, the Cerrado, Brazilian If the species is the Neotropical otter, programs have identified human-otter
in border areas of its distribution, such as the Amazon Basin. Amazon, Central America, and Mexico. it would be an expansion of known conflicts, otter bycatch, and use of otters
expanded elsewhere in the
Mexico, Argentina, and northeastern Brazil. The Gulf of México Basin includes many distribution range of the species to the as pets in their region. Through educational species range.
This will advance an understanding of which Captive Populations large rivers used for navigation and oil-
climatic and ecological factors influence Neotropical otters are held in a number related industries and heavily used for
limitations on the species range as well of zoos in Latin America but are currently fishing. In the Pacific Basin, including the
as the role of corridors and geographical absent from zoos elsewhere. Gulf of California Basin, two or three rivers
barriers. In Mexico: Zoológico de Guadalajara, are used for port activities and transport
Acuario de Veracruz, Zoológico de la of mineral, agricultural and industrial
Public awareness of the ecological role of Ciudad de México, Zoológico de la Ciudad goods. These lower basins can dry out
otters in aquatic systems and the impact de México, Acuario Michin-Jalisco, seasonally, trapping water in the upper
of otters on fisheries need attention, ZOOMAT-Chiapas, Zoológico de San Juan basin tributaries, which then provide crucial
particularly in areas of conflict. Effective de Aragón. In Colombia: Parco Zoológico habitat for otters.
education programs help change the de Cali. In Brazil: Aquário de São Paulo,
negative perception of fishermen of otters Fundação RioZoo – Zoológico do Rio de In Mexico, the upper parts of the basins of
in coastal and riverine habitats. Such Janeiro, Museu Emilio Goeldi. In Ecuador: the two oceanic slopes are areas with high
programs already exist in Mexico, Colombia, Zoológico Parque Histórico, Zoológico anthropogenic pressure and high degree
French Guiana and Brazil, and need to be Yanacocha. of disturbance and are important areas to
expanded elsewhere in the species range. otter conservation. There are several dams
Training local people to work in the field Site-specific Conservation Locations and lagoons in the interior of the country,
and community involvement generates The vast Amazon Basin represents the where there is still adequate habitat for
empathy for the animal. best opportunity for the conservation otters and are important to be conserved.
of the Neotropical otter. The dozen There are few rivers on the Yucatán
Strategies should be developed to or so conservation mosaics made up Peninsula, but marshes, wells and lagoons
prevent otter predation on fish farms and of neighboring national, state and provide good otter habitat and deserve
damage to fishnets. We recommend the municipal protected areas, together with protection (Ortega-Padilla et al. In press).
adoption of electric fences in fish farms overlapping indigenous territories, are
as used in Europe for Eurasian otters. crucial as strongholds for the conservation Estuarine and coastal habitats and
A baseline evaluation of the economic of Amazonian wildlife, including the islands of southern, southeastern and
impact of otters in fisheries and fish farms Neotropical otter. northeastern Brazil and in Central America
is needed. At indigenous and community and Mexico are key marine habitats for
levels, community agreements for Neotropical otters, both inside and outside

86 — Otter species by region – South America — 87

Neotropical Otter Lontra longicaudis Neotropical Otter Lontra longicaudis
Projects and Funding Opportunities Projects and Funding Opportunities

Region Actions Costs Region Actions Costs

All countries Conduct national surveys to confirm the $ 60,000/year per survey Brazil Implement before and after monitoring of otter $ 30,000/year per study area
distribution range of the species every 5 years population in areas of dam projects
to evaluate possible range contraction or
expansions Brazilian Amazon Investigate human-otter conflicts; feeding 3 years
ecology and prey community At least 6 areas
All countries Create a long-term program to evaluate the 10 years
impacts of otters in fish farms and fisheries; Field trips and analyses $10,000/year per area $ 5,000 /year per area
stable isotopes and feeding ecology research $15,000 total per area
to evaluate actual otter-human conflict
All countries Clarify phylogeography – gather 20 samples $5 years NE Brazil Conduct surveys to document presence One full time research
of each genetic group to confirm subspecies Full-time position and absence of otters south of São position, two assistants,
status $ 20,000/year salary Francisco River; population genetics ten campaigns
Analyses and support surveys throughout Northeastern region $30,000/year for 5 years
$ 100,000 and along São Francisco River Basin to $ 30,000 for genetic analyses
investigate the limits of the subspecies
All countries Train Protected Areas rangers to conduct 10 years L. l enudris and L. l. longicaudis; human-otter
surveys for otter presence/absence One full-time position of a teacher/researcher conflict research
to train rangers Otters in coastal areas and islands of Brazil Conduct population monitoring; Six areas – 5 years
$ 20,000/year per area environmental education; studies on $ 10,000/year per area
feeding ecology and habitat use $50,000 per area
Central America Create full-time researcher position to gather 5 years
information and conduct surveys in areas $ 12,000 annual salary
Urban environments – Rio de Janeiro, Conduct population monitoring 4 years
lacking information Field work/year;
Panambi and Florianópolis, Brazil $ 20,000/year per area
$ 20,000
Southern Brazil Conduct population genetics survey and 4 years
Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Mexico Develop long-term population ecology 10 years human-otter conflicts research $ 20,000/year per area
research (genetics, radiotelemetry) at least in $ 50,000/year per area Paraguay Create full-time research position to study 4 years
one area of each proposed subspecies ecology of Lontra longicaudis and Pteronura $ 20,000 per area per year
Brazil, Colombia, Mexico Create educational programs with riverine brasiliensis; surveys in areas with no
communities that coexist with otters, to $ 30,000/year for 3 years information
portray the otter as wetland ambassador Four projects in 4 countries
Argentina Create baseline for long-term monitoring 5 years
Highlands of Peruvian Andes and Mexico) Conduct surveys to document presence of $ 500,000 program by rangers in Protected Parks One full time and two PhD positions
Neotropical otters in mountainous areas $ 50,000/year for 10 years One survey in each Protected Area/year
$ 40,000/year

88 — Otter species by region – South America — 89

South America
Marine otter
Lontra felina

One of the smallest otter species, the Marine otter is

found along the coastlines of Peru and Chile in a long
and discontinuous distribution. Hunting in tide pools
and in the surf, it comes ashore to eat and rest in
rocky crevices.

IUCN Red List Status abundance and diversity of prey (Castilla

The Marine otter is classified as and Bahamondes 1979). Sandy beaches
Endangered, based on a projected offer marginal habitat (Sielfeld 1989) and
population reduction of at least 30% over typically are used only for resting during
the next three generations, or 30 years long-range traveling, for traveling between
(Pacifici et al. 2013). CITES: Appendix I. dens, and to access dens some distance
from the water’s edge (Ebensperger and
Distribution Castilla 1992). Marine otters are, for the
The Marine otter is found along the most part, restricted to salt water, but may
southern Pacific coast of South America occasionally travel up freshwater rivers in
from Chimbote (9°S) in northern Peru search of prey (Brownell 1978, Cabello 1978,
(Valqui 2012), to Isla Grevy (56°S) at the Redford and Eisenberg 1992). Marine otters
southern tip of Chile (Sielfeld 1997) and only use rocky shores if dens are present,
eastwards to the Isla de los Estados suggesting high ecological requirements for
(54°S) in Argentina (Parera 1996). The breeding space.
species’ distribution in Argentina is
unclear (Cassini 2008). Its habitat is a The Marine otter is one of the smallest
patchwork of disconnected suitable otters and the smallest marine mammal.
habitats, such as rocky shore patches with It has coarse dark brown fur, with a dense
caves or sometimes docks, shipwrecks or insulating underfur, and webbed paws with
abandoned fishing boats, and unsuitable strong claws. They are typically solitary,
habitats such as sandy beaches or rocky with a group size of seldom more than two
shoreline without caves. Marine otters to three individuals. It is generally active
may be absent for several hundreds of during the day, with peaks of activity in early
kilometres of coastline throughout the morning, mid-afternoon, and evenings
species´ long distribution range, resulting in (Medina et al. 2006). Reproductive behavior
highly fragmented populations (Redford and is observed all year long with litter sizes
Eisenberg 1992, Sielfeld 1997, Vianna et al. from two to four cubs (Valqui 2012). Young
2010, Valqui 2012). otters remain with their parents for about
ten months.
Habitat and Ecology
The habitat of the Marine otter is the The Marine otter diet is very variable,
Pacific coast of South America. It prefers regionally and seasonally, and the species
rocky shores with caves that are above the shows an opportunistic feeding behavior
high tide mark. The species primarily uses (Medina-Vogel et al. 2004). The diet
coastlines from about 30 m inland to 100 to is composed mostly of invertebrates,
150 m offshore (Castilla and Bahamondes including shrimp and crabs, molluscs, as well
1979), although several populations have as fish, occasional birds, small mammals,
been observed in freshwater habitats and fruit (Cabello 1978, Brownell 1978,
farther inland in Peru. In southern Peru Castilla and Bahamondes 1979, Ostfeld et
and in Chile, it is present near large
algae communities, which offer a high

90 — Otter species by region – South America — 91

A strategy to protect otter habitats along al. 1989, Sielfeld 1990, Medina 1995). Global natural factors like the El Niño to develop sustainable activities in their
the entire coast, coupled with initiatives to Southern Oscillation (ENSO) also may region.
Threats considerably affect the Marine Otter
create specific regional conservation areas, Historical reports on Marine otters suggest population (Vianna et al. 2010), due to In order to stem further declines, studies
is a challenging but ideal goal for Marine that the species was abundant until the the more or less drastic climatic and should be undertaken to explain why
19th century (Tschudi 1844, Darwin 1859) oceanographic changes that cause the the distribution of the Marine otter is
otter protection. when populations declined steeply due mortality of several marine communities discontinuous along its coastal range.
to hunting for the pelt trade. Thousands from fish to mammals (Apaza and Figari Moreover, both the northern limit and
of otter pelts were exported from Chile 1999, Wang and Fiedler 2006). southern limits of its distribution need to be
in the first half of the 20th century (Iriarte clarified through surveys (Alfaro et al. 2011).
and Jaksic 1986). While hunting was the Threat Mitigation Measures
major threat to the species until the 1980s, An initiative to establish a regional Although not all fishermen consider otters
it has diminished considerably, with only conservation area in southern Peru -- Area to be pests, some do, and may kill them
occasional poaching documented today. In de Conservación Regional Marino Costero “just in case.” Fishermen can be informed
southern Chile, direct hunting was reported Morro Sama, Tacna -- was started around through awareness programs that the
in 2004 at Caleta El Manzano de Pucatrihue 2003, but effective implementation amount of damage otters do has a minor
to ‘control’ the population (Cordova and Rau stopped in 2006 because of a change in economic impact.
2016). government, and the situation has not
progressed since then. The area is the only Reintroduction programs are not
Today, the ever-increasing pressure of otter hotspot on the Peruvian coast (with recommended until more is known about
human populations on coastal habitats about 88 individuals in 55 km of coast) the reasons for the decline of Marine otter
represents the major threat to the Marine (Alfaro and Mangel 2008). Thus the initiative populations. High logistic and economic
otter. The species' preference for coastal of establishing a protected area containing efforts are needed for such programs,
waters that offer an abundance and an otter hot spot should be supported and and efforts should concentrate on habitat
diversity of prey conflicts with growing completed. protection and research for the time being.
small-scale fisheries. Small-scale fishermen
increased 34% from 1995 to 2005, and A strategy to protect otter habitats along Success Stories
fishing boats 54% within the same decade the entire coast, coupled with initiatives Research and environmental education
(Alfaro-Shigueto et al. 2010). Although there to create specific regional conservation programs show that the Marine otter
is no qualitative documentation of bycatch, areas, is a challenging, but ideal goal for has a high recognition factor and a great
there are an increasing number of reports Marine otter protection. Thirty-four potential as a flagship species. The non-
of otters entangled and drowned in fishing existing natural protected areas in Peru profit organization Chinchimen in Chile
nets (Mangel et al. 2011, Pizarro 2008). and another ten in Chile could host artificial uses the species as its logo and reports a
Dynamite fishing, although illegal, is still habitats, such as wave breakers, and high recognition and value to its visitors.
used for fishing along the Peruvian coast. specially designed artificial otter habitats. Fishermen often express sympathy towards
These should be visibly advertised to raise the species despite conflict. In Peru, this is
Urban development conflicts with the awareness of the otter’s presence to local never the case for South American sea lions,
Marine otter’s use of the coastline. Chile is communities. another species with fishermen conflicts.
one of the top ten countries in aquaculture According to Cordova and Rau (2016) about
production, and the deep and long-term A reassessment is needed concerning the 67% of artisanal fishermen from a harbor
impacts of the industry on rivers and marine construction of two hydroelectric power in southern Chile report that otters do not
ecosystem, will expose the species to stations, on the Colca-Majes River and the affect their fishing, while 30% said that they
bacteria, viruses and antibiotics. Releases Cotahuasi-Ocoña River, both in Peru, where do. In another nearby harbor, all fishermen
from mining tailings and sewage into the Marine otters are reported in freshwater had a positive attitude towards the species,
ocean expose Marine otters to heavy since 2012. Specific mitigation measures some stating that the species has potential
metals, pesticides and other toxic elements. for impacts on wildlife should be considered. as a tourist attraction and might benefit
Dam construction should be approved only them indirectly (Cursach et al. 2012).
Urban development within the region if careful and explicit mitigation measures
results in an increase in domestic and feral are put in place. Schoolchildren are often fond of otters and
dogs, cats, and rats, which can displace easily identify the species. In educational
otters from their habitat, attack them An effective program to control invasive workshops children prefer to play with
directly (Mangel et al. 2011, Medina-Vogel feral dogs, cats, and rats should be otter figures and make drawings of this
et al. 2008, 2007, 2006) and introduce developed, and should be paired with charismatic animal. Regional governments
infectious diseases (Mangel et al. 2011). studies on prevalence of transmittable in Tacna, Peru are including Marine otters
diseases, especially in populations near in their environmental policies. The
Laws protect this endangered species human settlements. In Chile, studies on Natural Protected Areas and Natural
in Peru and Chile, but enforcement is disease transmission to otters are already Resources Agency uses the Marine otter
very weak. If an otter is killed or poached, being conducted. as an ambassador for communicating
the perpetrators may be identified, conservation messages to the visitors,
photographed or filmed, and still no legal Environmental education programs should for example, in Paracas National Reserve
action is taken. Rules in natural protected be carried out, such as the one by the or the Reserva Nacional Sistema de Islas
areas such as no hunting, fishing, poaching, NGO Pro Delphinus, aimed at the general and Islotes y Puntas Guaneras. Reserve
or trespassing are not always respected. public and the young people who are the managers in protected areas along the
stakeholders of the future and will help

92 — Otter species by region – South America — 93

Chilean coast also use the Marine otter as in 2010. Studies on otters in the reserve should be documented in a national and/or Marine otter Lontra felina
an ambassador for ecosystem protection. are crucial to understand existing international action plan. Projects and Funding Opportunities
population needs there, as are efforts in
Captive Populations law enforcement and otter protection, as Local governments should be empowered
Currently there are two specimens in the well as in the already established Paracas to take legal action on poaching and other Region Actions Costs
Parque Zoologico, Huachipa, Peru and one National Reserve and San Fernando law infringements affecting otters, such as
in the OBC Chinchimen, Rescue Center in National Reserve. dynamite fishing. Keeping otters as pets National Reserves: Population monitoring One guard per site
Chile. There are no Marine otters in captivity should be illegal. Environmental education is RN Paracas Environmental education $ 5,000/year/site
in the Northern Hemisphere. In two fishing ports in South Peru, Morro needed throughout the Marine otter range. (Ica, Central Peru), Feral animal management $ 62,000/year
Sama and Vila Vila, otters have been RN San Fernando
Site-specific Conservation Locations observed in groups of up to 10, but these A program to control and prevent invasive (Ica, Central Peru)
The characteristics of the Marine otter’s two areas are not included in the new feral animals, such as dogs, cats, and rats, RNSIIPG*
(Peruvian Coast)
habitat makes it hard to design a site- system of Peruvian protected areas. A should be implemented. This should be
specific conservation strategy. Otters are regional protected area was proposed in paired with studies on the prevalence of Morro Sama Create a regional protected area 4 years
distributed in fragmented populations along 2010 but was left aside due to changes transmittable diseases in these animals, (Tacna, South Peru) $ 124,000
the coast of Peru and Chile, over 6,000 km in the political landscape. Including this especially in populations located close to All countries Clarify phylogeography: gather 20 samples $5 years
long. area would be a logical completion of the human settlements. of each genetic group to confirm subspecies Full-time position
protection area system and conserve the status $ 20,000/year salary
Recent discovery of otters in the Colca- only otter hotspot along the Peruvian Constant long-term monitoring should be Analyses and support
Majes-Camana and the Cotahuasi-Ocoña coast. done to understand the development of $ 100,000
Rivers in South Peru, far from the coast, population trends and assess threats. Total $ 200,000
suggests that these populations may Considering the characteristics of the Rivers: Comprehensive study (ecology, genetics, One full time position, two assistants, 6 field
be highly vulnerable. Otters may need Marine otter distribution and the fact that Studies on Marine otters that live in rivers Colca-Majes Camanà anthropogenic threats) of otters in two campaigns, laboratory costs 4 years
protection from conflicts with fishermen, threats will most likely increase in the near have recently been initiated and should be (Arequipa, Peru), Andean rivers $ 335,000
pollution from illegal mining, and and middle future, a stepping-stone model expanded to provide a better knowledge on Cotahuasi-Ocoña
unsustainable tourism development. of conservation areas along the distribution population numbers, ecology and threats. (Arequipa, Peru)
area should be implemented. The model Maitencillo village Improve facilities of the “Chungungo” Equipment and infrastructure
Otter populations in Cotahuasi-Ocoña, should include not only natural protected A National Action Plan for Peru for otters (Valparaiso, Chile) Aquarium, an environmental education project $ 52,000
in the buffer zone of the Cotahuasi areas but also artificial habitat features in marine and “river/Andean” habitats, is with 15,000 visitors per summer.
Reserve, are at risk from poaching by local used by otters (wave breakers, otter-boats, currently being developed. Boyecura-Chungungo Population monitoring Workshops, Citizen science network
shrimp fishermen and the construction etc.). (Central Chilean coast) Environmental education $ 224,000
of a hydroelectric dam and need special
attention. Local and regional action plans should
be developed. Local groups (general
The Reserva Nacional Sistema de Islas, public, politicians, fishermen) should be * Reserva Nacional Sistema de Islas, Islotes y Puntas Guaneras, a natural reserve system
Islotes y Puntas Guaneras, in Peru’s included in the concrete efforts for otter with 10 land points and 24 islands along the Peruvian coast.
protected areas system, was established conservation. The sum of local action plans

94 — Otter species by region – South America — 95

South America
Southern River Otter
Lontra provocax

The endangered Southern river otter from the very tip

of the Southern Hemisphere has a small distribution
in both coastal and freshwater areas of southern Chile
and Argentina. Its small population size make strict
conservation measures a priority.

IUCN Red List Status steppe (Valenzuela et al. 2012). At present,

The southern river otter (Lontra provocax) the freshwater distribution in Argentina
is classified as Endangered and populations is mostly restricted to the Limay River
that use freshwater rivers and lakes are watershed, mainly within Nahuel Huapi
projected to decline by 50% in population National Park (Chehébar 1985, Cassini et al.
size over the next 30 years, or three 2010, Valenzuela et al. 2012).
generations. For populations that use the
marine habitats of fjords and islands of Southern river otters in marine
Chile, a decline by 50% over the next 30 environments are distributed along the
years is expected. Pacific coast of Chile from 46ºS to Tierra del
Fuego in Chile (Cabrera 1958, Redford and
Distribution Eisenberg 1992, Sielfeld 1992, Malmierca
The southern river otter, or huillín as it is et al. 2006). In Argentina, marine otters are
locally named, is distributed in southern present only in the Fuegian Archipelago
Patagonia, South America, including parts in Los Estados Island and the Beagle
of the Valdivian temperate forests, the Channel, mostly restricted to Tierra del
Patagonia steppe, and the Magellanic Fuego National Park (Malmierca et al. 2006,
subpolar forests. This species inhabits Valenzuela et al. 2012, Valenzuela et al.
freshwater bodies in the northern parts 2013).
of its range and marine coasts in the
southern part of its range in both Chile and Otters in the marine environment in
Argentina. It probably occupies one of the Argentina are probably continuous with
smallest geographical areas of all otter those along the Chilean coast (Sielfeld
species (Chehébar 1986). 1992). In the marine environment in
Argentina, there are probably two separate
The species freshwater range was populations, one in Isla de Los Estados,
historically wider in both countries (Figure National and Provincial Reserve, and the
1). In Chile, the otter inhabited rivers and other in Bahia Lapataia, Tierra del Fuego
lakes from Cachapoal River (34ºS) (Gay National Park in the Beagle Channel
1847, Reed 1877) north to the Peninsula (Centrón et al. 2008, Valenzuela et al. 2012).
de Taitao (46ºS) (Medina 1996). The Recently the species has been observed
current freshwater distribution in Chile in Aguirre Bay of the Mitre Peninsula
has been strongly reduced from north to (Valenzuela et al. 2013). Both freshwater
south due to land use change and human and marine populations in Argentina are
colonization (Medina 1996), and otters mostly inside national protected areas.
are now only found to the Imperial River
(38ºS) (Rodríguez-Jorquera and Sepúlveda Habitat and Ecology
2011). In Argentina, freshwater populations In freshwater habitats, the species prefers
historically ranged from the Neuquén rivers with abundant vegetation and
Province (36ºS) to Lake Buenos Aires inhabits diverse types of wetlands including
(46ºS) and were mostly associated with Andean lakes, rivers of different sizes,
water courses in the Andean Range and the ponds and estuaries (Chehébar et al.1986,

96 — Otter species by region – South America — 97

The distribution of the
southern river otter in Chile
has declined drastically due
to combined pressures from
the destruction of habitat,
removal of vegetation, river
and stream canalization, and
extensive dredging.

Medina-Vogel et al. 2003). In the marine Jorquera and Sepúlveda 2011, Franco et on freshwater otter habitats in Chile, Medina-Vogel et al. 2013), but the mink is Threat Mitigation Measures In the freshwater otter habitats of the
range the species uses rocky coastlines al. 2013). The diet in the marine coastal particularly in the coastal range. Likewise, a potential vector of the canine distemper Because of the several agencies involved coastal range and central valley in Chile,
with abundant vegetation cover and low environments is composed of coastal fish agro-industry ranching and farming virus given their behavioral similarities in the management of the southern river the Southern river otter needs protection
exposure to wind and waves (Sielfeld (Sielfeld and Castilla 1999, Valenzuela et activities lead to alteration of habitat (Sepúlveda et al. 2014b). otter, a strong coordination with clear from intensive human activities through
1992, Sielfeld and Castilla 1999). In this al. 2013). In both marine and freshwater by draining watercourses and removing responsibilities and a work agenda is of the creation of protected areas of adequate
environment the southern river otter is environments the species seems to be a riparian vegetation in freshwater habitats in Poaching is a minor problem at present major urgency in the short term. Actions size and suitability. Otter corridors need
sympatric with the marine otter (L. felina), specialized aquatic bottom forager, preying Chile, particularly in the coastal range and but still occurs, particularly south of 43°S recommended for both Chile and Argentina to be established by river restoration
which is segregated by its preference for on slow benthic fish and crustaceans. central valley (Sepúlveda et al. 2009). latitude where control of hunting is difficult are to: projects to improve habitat connectivity.
more wave-exposed coasts (Sielfeld 1992, to implement. From 1910-1954 a total Free-ranging dogs in this region should
Ebensperger and Botto-Mahan 1997). Threats Free-ranging dogs are an important threat of 38,263 otter pelts (Lontra felina and L. •D
 evelop a Conservation Bi-National Plan be controlled through sterilization and
The distribution of the southern river otter to carnivores because of predation and the provocax) were exported from Chile but for the species educational campaigns and vaccinated
Southern river otters tend to be solitary in Chile has declined drastically due to transmission of diseases such as canine pelt export stopped after 1954 due to against canine distemper virus.
and nocturnal. Females with young and combined pressures from the destruction distemper virus, especially in rural and the implementation of country laws and •D
 evelop specific National Conservation
breeding pairs are usually the only social of habitat, removal of vegetation, river protected areas (Vanak and Gompper 2009, international agreements (Iriarte and Jaksic Plans Infrastructure projects, and particularly
groups (Sepúlveda et al. 2007). A low and stream canalization, and extensive Espinosa 2012, Sepúlveda et al. 2014a). 1986). dam projects, should consider the
overlap of home range between individuals dredging (Medina 1996, Medina-Vogel Implementing population dog control •D
 evelop validated Monitoring Programs Southern river otter in the environmental
of same sex suggests intrasexual et al. 2003). In freshwater environments measures and dog vaccination programs in protected and unprotected lands, impact assessment process and mitigate
territoriality (Sepúlveda et al. 2007). of otters, the high demand for water are important measures to mitigate this particularly in Chile where there is no such damaging impacts on the species. The
for agriculture and other human uses threat (Sepúlveda et al. 2014b). activity in any population, and protection of otter habitat, both riparian
The otter dens in rock cavities, hollow is altering watercourses through these and coastal lake vegetation, should be
trees or logs, tree roots (Chehébar and factors, particularly for otter populations in In several parts of the range, hydroelectric •R
 einforce the importance of integrated into zoning processes of
Benoit 1988) or excavates its own den in lowlands, such as the Central Valley and the dams are completed or planned for the environmental impact assessment urban and tourist areas. Studies should
banks (Chehébar 1982). Cubs are born in Coastal Range of Chile (Medina-Vogel et al. near future, but thus far no research has projects in relation to otters in order be conducted in the marine coastal range
September or October in Central Chile, but 2003, Sepúlveda et al. 2009). been conducted on their potential impact to a) adequately determine presence to determine impact of intensive salmon
young can be observed all year round in the on otters. Wild exotic salmon and the of otter population in project areas, industry on otter populations.
southern range (Lariviere 1999). One or two In the case of Andean lakes, where the salmon farming industry may reduce otter and b) appropriately require projects to
cubs are commonly born, but litter size may species occurred historically, high levels of prey, leading to competition between incorporate measures of monitoring, National Action plans are developed by
reach up to four (Lariviere 1999). urbanization and tourism is thought to be otters and salmon (Medina 1996, Aued et mitigation and compensation activities. the Ministerio del Medio Ambiente, but
In freshwater habitats otters feed primarily responsible for its local extinction (Medina al. 2003, Cassini et al. 2009) but no studies no Action Plan exists for this species
on crustaceans, and to a lesser extent 1996). have confirmed this. There appears to There have not been any reintroduction at present, which is the most urgent
on fish and amphibians (Aued et al. 2003, be no competition between the invasive attempts, which could be an appropriate conservation action priority. In Chile, the
Cassini et al. 2009, Sepúlveda et al. 2009, Habitat alteration by agro-industry American Mink (Neovison vison) and river conservation action considering the species is classified as Endangered by the
Medina 1997, Medina-Vogel and Gonzalez- plantations of exotic pine and eucalyptus otters (Medina 1997, Aued et al. 2003, success of such plans with North American Reglamento de Clasificación de Especies
Lagos 2008, Fasola et al. 2009, Rodríguez- species have a detrimental impact Fasola et al. 2009, Valenzuela et al. 2013, and European otter species. (Chile 2011). The Subsecretaria de Pesca

98 — Otter species by region – South America — 99

is the governmental agency responsible programs. National Park, 6) Alacalufes Forest Reserve, Southern River Otter Lontra provocax
of the conservation and management of In the freshwater habitat of Chile, the 7) Alberto D’Agostini National Park, and 8) Projects and Funding Opportunities
the species, and the Corporacion Nacional following protected areas inhabited by Yendegaia National Park.
Forestal is responsible for the conservation otters merit special attention: 1) the
of populations inside protected areas. Natural Sanctuary Carlos Anwandter In the marine coastal environment of Region Actions Costs
Hunting has been prohibited since 1929 and the Ramsar site Los Rios District, 2) Argentina, Isla de los Estados has otter
(Iriarte and Jaksic 1986). Alerce Costero National Park, 3) Vicente populations in most of the fiords and Chile: freshwater distribution Studies on land ownership, legal issues, One professional (part-time) to coordinate
Pérez Rosales National Park, Los Lagos bays of the island (Valenzuela pers. biodiversity conditions and threats to studies for 5 years
In Argentina, the Southern river otter District, and 4) Chiloé National Park, Los comm.). While this island is a National and investigate purchase of otter habitat $ 50,000/year
needs continued high priority protection. Lagos District. In the Chilean freshwater Provincial Protected Area, it still lacks a Chile: freshwater distribution Study to determine technical feasibility and Two professional positions 
The species is classified as Endangered, distribution there are areas with adequate Management Plan, and there is no control costs of a reintroduction project in specific $ 30,000/year per person every 3-4
and the governmental agency responsible otter habitat but no otter presence in the or monitoring of tourist or naval activities. sites years
for its conservation and management is Villarrica Lake, Llanquihue Lake, Rupanco Goats, red deer, and rats are on the island, Chile: freshwater distribution Develop and implement strategic Journalist (part time)
the Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Lake and Pirihueico Lake. invasive species that could harm the otter communication campaign $ 15,000/year
Sustentable de la Nación through population. This Protected Area should be
Chile: freshwater distribution Comprehensive study (ecology, genetics, One full time position, two assistants, 6 field
the Dirección de Fauna Silvestre y These areas should be assessed for better managed for otters and an exotic
anthropogenic threats) of otters in two campaigns, laboratory costs 4 years.
Conservación de la Biodiversidad. The potential otter reintroduction projects. species eradication campaign begun.
Andean rivers $ 335,000
Administración de Parques Nacionales Furthermore, there are some areas Otters have also been sighted at Mitre
(National Parks Administration) is where otters are present in freshwater Peninsula at the tip of Tierra del Fuego
responsible for conservation of populations environments but have no official land Island, and the area should be studied for Argentina: marine and freshwater Develop and implement strategic Journalist (part-time)
inside the national protected areas, where protection, such as the Mahuidanche the possibility of establishing an official distribution communication campaign $ 12,000/year
the species is classified as Special Value and Queule Rivers, swamp-forests in Protected Area. Chile and Argentina Install monitoring capacities in protected Workshop
Species. La Araucania Region, Maullín River in areas: Expert facilitator
Los Lagos Region, and the private park $ 8,000
1) Workshop defining standard methodology
Success Stories Tantauco on Los Lagos Region that could
2) Develop capacity in institutional teams Monitoring specialist
The administration of the Nahuel Huapi have official protection. In the case of the $ 8,000
National Park in Argentina has been Carlos Anwandter Natural Sanctuary in
Los Rios Region an increase the category Workshop attendees travel/housing $ 25,000
implementing systematic monitoring of
otter distribution since 1986. During this of protection and expanded territory of Chile: marine distribution Monitoring survey for all marine distribution 2 professional positions
time, the populations have shown a stable protection are needed for the upper part of $ 25,000/year per person for 2 people, every
status and even expanded their distribution the watershed. 3-4 years
outside the park in the Limay River (Fasola Logistics
2009). Furthermore, in 2002 in another In the freshwater habitat of Argentina,
$ 50,000 every 3-4 years
segment of the Limay River, another the following protected areas inhabited
population was discovered (Carmanchahi by otters merit special attention: 1) Argentina: freshwater distribution Surveys, field and social, throughout past 2 professional positions
et al. 2006). Since 2008, and every year until Nahuel Huapi National Park, 2) Protected distribution of the species especially in $ 25,000/year for 2 people
now, “The Week of the Huillín” is celebrated Landscape of Limay River, 3) Muncipal Northern Neuquén, East Neuquén and
in Vicente Perez Rosales National Park. Park Llao Llao and 4) Morenito-Ezquerra central west Chubut Province to detect
During the second week of October for five Urban Reserve. Some areas where otter isolated populations
days, activities related to environmental habitat is in good condition but otters Argentina: marine distribution Expedition to Penísula Mitre (eastern part 2 professional positions, 30 day expedition,
education, and in particular the Southern are not present are: the North section of Tierra del Fuego) to determine otter $ 4,500 each
river otter, are carried out by local of Limay River Basin and Hua Hum River status Field support
communities, the municipality and the Park Basin (both within Lanín National Park), $ 10,000
administration, CONAF. Futaleufú River Basin (Los Alerces National
Chile and Argentina Travel and meetings for the OSG leadership $ 40,000/year
Park), Chubut River Basin, and Buenos Aires
and species specialists for meetings within
Captive Populations Lake Basin (close to Patagonia National
the region or international travel
To our knowledge there are no ex situ Park). These areas should be assessed for
captive individuals of this species, and no potential otter reintroduction projects. Chile and Argentina: marine and Annual competitive research grants for $ 100,000/year for five grants
historical records exist at zoos or other There is otter presence in areas without freshwater distribution graduate and undergraduate students
captivity centers. official protection in the Limay River Chile and Argentina: marine and Comprehensive genetic study based on $ 50,000
and associated reservoirs: from Nahuel freshwater distribution samples collected during expeditions,
Site-specific Conservation Locations Huapi Lake to Neuquen City (Río Negro surveys and monitoring
In Chile and Argentina there are Southern and Nequén Provinces), and La Plata and
river otter populations within several Fontana Lakes in Senguer River Basin
official protected areas. Outside protected (Chubut Province). Official protected areas
areas there are two kinds of sites with should be created in these areas.
adequate otter habitat: 1) areas with
healthy otter populations, and 2) areas In the marine coastal environment of Chile,
where otters were present in the past but the following protected areas inhabited by
no longer are. For areas with good habitat otters merit special attention: 1) Corcovado
and otter presence, we recommend official National Park, 2) Isla Magdalena National
protection. For areas with good habitat Park, 2) Las Guaitecas National Reserve, 3)
and no otters, we recommend studying Katalalixar National Reserve, 4) Laguna San
the potential for otter reintroduction Rafael National Park, 5) Bernardo O’Higgins

100 — Otter species by region – South America — 101

Spotted-necked Otter
Hydrictis maculicollis

The Spotted-necked otter is similar in

appearance to the Eurasian otter but is
phylogenetically quite distinct and not
closely related to other otter species. Widely
distributed, it remains poorly known in many

IUCN Red List Status Habitat and Ecology and Somers 1998). The home range of
The Spotted-necked otter is listed as The Spotted-necked otter inhabits males is larger than that of females but
Near Threatened and almost qualifies as freshwater systems where water is clear, Spotted-necked otters generally appear to
Threatened. This is a precautionary listing unpolluted and rich in fish. Prime Spotted- be non-territorial with high variability and
given the continued decline in the overall necked otter habitat in Africa includes the large overlap in home ranges. Litter size is
Spotted-necked otter population and a large lakes of central and East Africa as usually one to three cubs, who remain with
projected decline of at least 20% over the well as the open waters of areas like the the mother for up to a year. The species is
next three generations (Pacifici et al. 2013). Okavango Delta (Rowe-Rowe and Somers generally diurnal, and most active in early
CITES: Appendix II. 1998, d’Inzillo Carranza and Rowe-Rowe morning and late afternoon.
2013). Other important areas are year-
Distribution around river systems with dense shoreline Spotted-necked otters feed on fish,
Spotted-necked otters have a large vegetation or rocky outcroppings that crabs and frogs, and occasionally other
distribution in Africa but are restricted provide good cover for resting and denning. food items such as amphibians and birds.
to areas of permanent freshwater, good The species appears to prefer shallow The species generally hunts alone, but
bankside cover and an abundant prey base. to deep waters (d’Inzillo Carranza and sometimes cooperation among individuals
Thus, while the distribution range is large, Rowe-Rowe 2013) but has been observed helps facilitate prey capture.
the spatial size of their occupied habitats is foraging in water greater than 40 m deep
much smaller and generally unknown. The off Rubondo Island National Park in Lake Threats
species is found in sub-Saharan Africa from Victoria (Reed-Smith 2010). Poverty and human activities continues
Guinea-Bissau in the west, to southwest to be a serious pressure in the Spotted-
Ethiopia, east to Kenya and Tanzania and The fur of the Spotted-necked otter is necked otter range. An increased
south to northern Namibia, Botswana reddish to chocolate brown with creamy or dependence by people on fish as a source
and Northwest Zimbabwe, also in Malawi, whitish patches on the throat and chest. of protein has led to overfishing in many
Mozambique and eastern South Africa. It is The head is broad with a short muzzle, small freshwater ecosystems. In Benin, for
not found in marine or estuarine waters. rounded ears, and a hairless nose pad. example, wetland areas have attracted
many important economic activities
Recent studies in West and East Africa Adequate riparian vegetation in the form that generate significant income and
(Djagoun et al. 2011, Reed-Smith et al. of long grass, reeds, bushes, and tree employment, such as salt production,
2010, Reed-Smith pers. comm.) indicate root systems or rock piles are essential to agriculture, and fishing (Akpona et al. 2015).
population declines due to many threats. provide cover during periods of inactivity These same wetlands also provide prime
Unfortunately, beyond these studies there (Reed-Smith 2010, d’Inzillo Carranza and habitat for the otter. Habitat loss from the
are very little data available on presence Rowe-Rowe 2013). Resting places and dens removal of bankside vegetation (Kubheka
or status of this species throughout most are generally on stream or river banks, et al. 2013), draining of wetlands, erosion
of its historic range for the last fifteen islands where there are ledges in banks, due to agriculture, and water pollution
years, and only marginally more for the rock islands, or boulder shorelines with from inputs from agriculture, mining, oil
last 30 years. The Spotted-necked otter is dense vegetation cover (Reed-Smith 2010, drilling and human generated refuse, all put
decreasing throughout its range, mainly as d’Inzillo Carranza and Rowe-Rowe 2013). pressure on otter populations.
a result of degradation of its habitat (Rowe-
Rowe 1995) and unsustainable fishing Spotted-necked otters are primarily Aquaculture activities are in conflict with
practices (LVFO 2008). solitary but may also be found in small otters, including overfishing, drainage of
family groups, and occasionally larger water systems or ponds to increase catch,
groups up to 20 individuals (Rowe-Rowe use of poisons or dynamite to increase

102 — Otter species by region – Africa — 103

Protection outside of parks this occurs is unknown. There have been in South Africa, conservation is hampered working in freshwater ecosystems to share pollution should be strictly enforced and Site-specific Conservation Locations
reports of tribes in southern Tanzania by a lack of knowledge about the status information, identify community problems active policing efforts increased. Tanzania: Rubondo Island National Park.
is lacking in most countries that target the otter as food. An ongoing and biology of the species. Priorities and design collaborative efforts and local, This park has the only actively protected
and licensing requirements study in the area documents that 19% include establishing current population innovative solutions. Captive Populations and patrolled waters in Lake Victoria. The
of respondents report eating otter and status in areas of known historic In the United States and Canada, 25 otter population on the island appears to
are poorly enforced across 37% report traditional uses (Reed-Smith range using rapid survey techniques, Basic surveys to establish presence, status individuals are held in 18 zoos and are be stable, habitat is suitable and the prey
the continent. Killing pers. comm.). A recent study conducted networking of otter researchers and and distribution are needed in virtually currently listed as a Red Species Survival base is satisfactory. The Tanzanian National
by Adande in 2017 in Benin also revealed conservationists,identification of key all the range countries of the Spotted- Programme by the Association of Zoos and Park Authority staff is actively engaged
of otters typically goes the use of the Spotted-necked otter as conservation areas such Central and East necked otter. In addition, in Benin and Aquariums (AZA). This program is at risk of in conservation outreach with the local
unnoticed and is rarely a traditional asset for human nutrition African lakes with strong otter populations Democratic Republic of Congo, conflict being dropped due to low numbers of zoos communities.
(35%) followed by the magico-mystical and suitable habitat where the potential mitigation is needed along with community participating and an inadequate captive
prosecuted. (33%) use and medicinal (32%) in Sô Valley for creating successful refuges exists, conservation education programs. In gene pool to maintain genetic diversity. East African great lakes: Lake Victoria, Lake
in southern Benin. Otters may be hunted and training range-country partners to Kenya, key conservation areas should Tanganyika, Lake Nyasa (a.k.a Lake Malawi).
opportunistically in many other countries conduct community-based outreach be identified and conflict issues with In South Africa the situation is unclear; Otter populations are present on all three
catch, and creation of fish farms that where they are eaten by hunters and their programs. Regional workshops, in both fishermen should be addressed. In South there are rehabilitation centers and lakes but the status of these populations
attract otters (Akpona et al. 2015). Otters families, and do not end up in markets. French and English, can train wildlife Africa, there should be increased efforts resources to advise on this species and needs further study to identify stable
are also killed in fishnets. Although the Increasingly old taboos against eating otter students, college and university staff, park to educate rural people in soil and water some zoos and aquariums may hold a few pockets of habitat with quality vegetation
extent to which this occurs is unknown, it is held by some tribes are breaking down staff, and wetland biologists from range conservation, grassland management, individuals. and viable prey base for the otters.
thought to be increasing due to a growing and they are now viewed as an acceptable countries, A regional meeting can enable and sound agricultural practices. Existing South Africa: Drakensberg Park, KwaZulu-
degree of illegal fish net usage and the source of protein. local biologists and conservation activists legislation relating to industrial and mining Natal. A large protected area, which
length of time nets are left unattended.
Reduction of prey biomass for otters could The bioaccumulation of organochlorines
become an issue in Africa’s great lakes due (Mason and Rowe-Rowe 1992) and acid-rain
to the need for fish protein to feed growing pollution from coal mining (Stuart 1985,
human populations. In addition, the Mason and Rowe-Rowe 1992, Rowe-Rowe
introduction of Nile perch into Lake Victoria 1995) is increasingly having an impact on
is forcing a dietary shift for otters (Kruuk otter habitat (Angelici et al. 2005, Veron
and Goudswaard 1990), with unknown et al. 2008) and potentially on long-term
consequences. survivability of otter populations. The
impact of global climate change is difficult
In parts of Africa, conflict with both fish to assess but models predict that Africa’s
farm owners and recreational anglers otters are at great risk throughout much of
remains a serious threat. Retaliatory their range (Dixon et al. 2003, Cianfrani et
killing of otters takes place based on the al. 2018).
assumption that they are decimating
fish populations although there is no Internal political conflicts and terrorism
evidence to support this (R. Jordaan pers. continue to be issues in many African
comm.). Studies in Benin have proven that nations, putting pressure on all wildlife as
otters take fish from and damage fishing sources of protein. It also makes field work
equipment. It may not be the case that difficult for researchers, such that there is
otters are responsible for the damage, little or no new information on Spotted-
since other predatory species using the necked otters for since 1990. The lack of
same habitat, crocodiles and Nile monitor infrastructure and adequate enforcement
lizards for example (Akpona et al. 2015). means that protection in national parks
or reserves is limited. Protection outside
The traditional uses of otters varies from of parks is lacking in most countries and
country to country. In Tanzania there is licensing requirements are poorly enforced
increasing evidence that killing otters for across the continent. Killing of otters
traditional medicine is increasing. In Benin typically goes unnoticed and is rarely
otters are associated with some cultural prosecuted.
practices including traditional medicine
and mythic uses in the Hlan River complex Threat Mitigation Measures
– Oueme Valley and Sô Valley in Southern In the context of an increasing local human
Benin (Akpona 2004, Adande 2017). Otters population density, safeguarding and
are apparently not utilized in South Africa managing otter populations will depend on
(Ngwenya 2001). The once sustainable the ability to find solutions that reconcile
use of otters for traditional purposes in both nature conservation and sustainable
ceremonies, medicine, and the treatment economic development (Akpona et al.
of sexual impotence is now thought to be 2015).
A lack of knowledge about all African
Legal and possibly illegal hunting for the otters has impeded the effort to prescribe
pelt and bushmeat markets has been conservation action since 1990. While
documented, but the extent to which some progress has been made, particularly

104 — Otter species by region – Africa — 105

includes the catchments of a number of No conflict with fishermen has been and work commenced to support the developed to reduce conflict. The model
major rivers, can ensure the protection and documented in the Maringa Lopori Wamba National Park effort to preserve and restore showed that otter damage increased
future existence of Spotted-necked otter landscape, despite frequent killings of the nearby wetlands. In the south of Tanzania significantly with the number of adult fish
in eastern South Africa (Rowe-Rowe et al. species every year. (Lake Nyasa, Liparamba GR, and Mbinga captured by fisherman. At the same time,
1995). Continued protection of this area is area) a local conservation activist has been otter damage increased with the length
a priority. Outreach education programs Benin: Hlan river, Oueme Valley and Sô working to assess local attitudes towards of time that the fishing equipment was
focusing on the importance of the park Valley. Spotted-necked otter populations otters, visiting local schools with education left unattended. It was suggested that
should be supported and continued have been confirmed, and continued programs, and interfacing with fish pond otter damage could be reduced if fishing
research on the resident otters. awareness and protection are needed to owners to mitigate conflicts with otters. equipment is checked at least twice a day
ensure sustainability of otter populations This program should be expanded and by fishermen, with a maximum interval
Uganda: Kibale National Park and Nile (Akpona et al. 2015). continued for the next 10 years. between checks of 12 hours.
River area. All three African species of In South Africa, Drakensberg Park,
otter are known to occur in Kibale NP. Success Stories KwaZulu-Natal ensures the protection and Long-term sustainable management of
Otter populations should be assessed, Thus far, the otter population on Rubondo future existence of the Spotted-necked these conflicts will require an integrated
monitored, and protected. There are local Island National Park in Lake Victoria, otter in eastern South Africa (Rowe-Rowe approach taking into account socio-
reports of Spotted-necked otter presence Tanzania, appears to be thriving. This et al. 1995). Continued protection of economic, political and environmental
in the Nile area which should be assessed, park includes the only actively protected this area should be fostered. Outreach dimensions. This model has been
monitored and protected. and patrolled waters in Lake Victoria. education programs and research efforts transformed into an awareness program
An outreach program that incorporated should be supported. to educate fishermen on ways to avoid
Democratic Republic of Congo: Akpona information on otters was begun in 2009 or reduce conflicts. Positive results have
(pers. obs.) reported seeing Spotted- with students from nearby communities In Benin, research has led to greater already been recorded on Hlan River.
necked otters on Maringa River and spoke in conjunction with the Park staff and the understanding of the nature and extent of
to seventeen fishermen who confirmed Mwanza area Roots & Shoots Clubs. This otter conflict with fishermen. Mitigation
existence of conflicts with fishermen. project has lapsed but should be restarted strategies have been identified and a model

106 — Otter species by region – Africa — 107

Spotted-necked Otter Hydrictis maculicollis Spotted-necked Otter Hydrictis maculicollis
Projects and Funding Opportunities Projects and Funding Opportunities

Region Actions Costs Region Actions Costs

Africa – all range countries Support biologist network, coordination and Communication, material development, Benin Hlan River area: continue work with $ 20,000/year/3 years
meetings. meeting planning: $ 20,000 otter/fishermen conflicts and habitat
Coordinator : preservation.
Stakeholder workshops in Central and Western $ 1,000/year for 5 years DRC Surveys; create network with local $ 30,000/year/3 years
Africa, 30 participants for 3 days. $ 40,000 each biologists to obtain sightings; investigate
$ 75,000 reports of hunting for food and bushmeat
Continental conference for field biologists,
university professors, wildlife biologists to Conferences: $ 15,000: $ 5,000/year for 3 markets.
develop interest in collaborative wetland years Benin and Democratic Republic of the Promoting South-South cooperation $ 50,000/year/2 years
conservation . Equipment, training surveys and material Congo for Spotted-necked Otter conservation
Collaborate with universities to include otter development and management; create task force
conservation in wetland, fisheries, and wildlife $ 100,000 for physical surveys. to collect information on distribution,
programs and curriculum development. Communication costs where physical survey factors determining habitat selection,
National surveys to confirm presence, status, not possible; $ 2,000 local perception, conflicts; facilitate cross
and priority areas for otter conservation where learning, best practices and experience
this has not been done for 15 years or more. exchange between Benin and DRC
National surveys in priority areas every five
stakeholders; train and encourage the next
years. generation of field biologists.
Tanzania Preservation of habitat and outreach to Five years. Part-time 1 person/location: South Africa Work with fish farmers to minimize fish $ 50,000/year/3 years
fishermen and communities to include loss; monitor old and new sites to assess
$ 5,000
livelihood alternatives. changes in diet, population demographics,
Outreach: $10,000/year threats; work with landowners and fish
Two sites: Rubondo Island NP, Lake Victoria;
shorelines of Lake Nyasa and southern Transport, materials: $ 20,000 per site, farmers to encourage sound water and
Tanzania. soil conservation, grassland management,
sustainable agricultural practices.
Long-term monitoring of Rubondo Island Monitoriing: $25,000/year/5 years
National Park and nearby island populations to Basic surveys: $ 40,000/year/5 years
assess environmental disturbance impact.
Basic surveys of other large lakes, rivers and
water bodies; Lake Tanganyika, Lake Nyasa,
Mtera Dam.
Uganda Research on the status of the three otter Researcher travel, costs: $ 75,000/3 years
species present in Kibale National Park .

Training: $ 30,000
Training programs for wildlife professionals
on otter ecology and identification of human-
otter conflict areas and mitigation actions -
Kibale National Park and Nile River area. Surveys: $ 25,000 over 2 years
Survey of the Nile/northern Lake Victoria.
Ghana Digya National Park: Surveys; training wildlife Surveys: $ 20,000
rangers and other professionals; implement Training rangers to do surveys: $ 30,000
conservation education programs; interview
villagers; country-wide survey. Education/outreach
$ 10,000/year/3 years
Malawi Nyka National Park and Vwaza Marsh Reserve $ 15,000/year/3 years
areas: surveys; establish key conservation
areas; establish outreach and collaborative
projects to address conflict issues.
Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali Surveys: Northern river systems of the $ 30,000/year/5 years
Casamance River in southern Senegal, the
Gambia River, and the Senegal River; training
wildlife professionals; awareness raising .
West Africa Surveys; interviews with community $ 30,000/year/ 3 years
members; training of wildlife officials/staff
on identification of otter sign; awareness

108 — Otter species by region – Africa — 109

African Clawless Otter
Aonyx capensis

This species, found in a wide variety of

habitats, had stable populations in 29 of
35 African countries in 1990, but is now
declining in many countries due to habitat
loss and polluted waters.

IUCN Red List Status Karoo of South Africa, such as the Sak, Vis,
The African Clawless otter is classified as Riet and Gamka Rivers, provided suitable-
Near Threatened and almost qualifies as sized pools persist (Nel and Somers 2007,
Threatened. Populations are projected to Somers and Nel 2013). They have been
decline by at least 20% in the next three recorded up to 3,000 m in Ethiopia (Yalden
generations (Pacifici et al. 2013). CITES: et al. 1996). In Nigeria they are mainly
Appendix II (except for the populations in restricted to brackish water streams with
Nigeria and Cameroon which are CITES mangrove vegetation along the banks, and,
Appendix I) more occasionally, to transitional habitats
between freshwater and brackish water
Distribution environments (Angelici et al. 2005). They
The African Clawless Otter is the most have been found in towns and cities and
widely distributed otter species in Africa, can tolerate rivers with high pollution and
with a range stretching from Senegal and eutrophication levels (Somers and Nel
Mali throughout most of West Africa to 2013).
Sudan and Ethiopia, and then southwards
throughout East Africa to the Western The species is large and heavily built, with a
Cape of South Africa. They are absent from dark brown pelage that grades to white or
the Congo basin, where they are replaced pale gray on the throat, neck and face. This
by the Congo clawless otter (Aonyx species is mostly solitary, but small family
congicus), the two species being sympatric groups of a mother and cubs, or groups of
in Uganda and Rwanda (Somers and Nel males may occur (Wilson and Mittermeier
2013). 2009). They are mainly nocturnal but may
be active in the daytime in remote areas
Habitat and Ecology (Wilson and Mittermeier 2009). The species
African clawless otters are usually found is highly mobile, with a range length from
in tropical forests and lowland swamps. 5 to 55 km, and a core territory of 0.2 to
They are predominantly aquatic and 10 km. The pattern of home-range use
seldom found far from water. Freshwater by females suggests territoriality. Male
is an essential habitat requirement, and clawless otters have overlapping home
they live only in marine habitats where ranges, both with other males and with
there is access to fresh water, preferring females (Somers and Nel 2013). Breeding
rocky shores (Van Niekerk et al. 1998). The can take place year-round, but most births
species is found in diverse habitats, from occur at the start of the rainy season, with
impoundments, estuaries, and mangroves a litter size of around one to three (Wilson
to desert conditions of the upper Doring and Mittermeier 2009).
River in the Western Cape of South Africa
and the Fish River in southern Namibia (Nel African clawless otters are mainly crab
and Somers 2007, Somers and Nel 2013). eaters, but also consume fish, frogs and
other prey (Wilson and Mittermeier 2009),
African clawless otters are also found in while lobsters, octopus and shellfish are
many seasonal or episodic rivers in the consumed along the seacoast. Otter

110 — Otter species by region – Africa — 111

population densities vary with prey into closer contact with humans and their Clawless otters are legally and illegally historic range, networking among active and outreach education in communities
abundance, and prey preference varies disturbances (Rowe-Rowe 1990, Somers hunted for the medicinal trade and for their researchers, identifying key conservation adjacent to healthy otter populations.
widely by location. In shallow or murky and Nel 2013, Jacques et al. 2015, Okes et pelts and body parts in portions of their areas for successful refuges, and training There are a few rehabilitation facilities
water, the otters feel in underwater al. 2016). range (Cunningham and Zondi 1991, De local partners to create more community working with this species in South Africa.
crevices and seize prey with their forefeet, Luca and Mpunga 2005). In Tanzania there conservation outreach and ecotourism
while in deeper water, they dive and can Across Africa, where fishing is an is increasing evidence that killing otters for projects. Site-specific Conservation Locations
remain underwater for up to a minute important source of income for locals in traditional medicine is increasing, without Drakensberg Park, KwaZulu-Natal, in
(Wilson and Mittermeier 2009). rural areas, otters are considered pests regard to species (Cunningham and Zondi We recommend holding regional South Africa, is a 240,000 ha protected
as a competitor for fish. Conflicts with 1991, Ngwenya 2001, DeLuca and Mpunga workshops for wildlife students, college/ area which includes the catchments of a
Threats aquaculture activities include overfishing, 2005, Jacques et al. 2015). university staff, park staff, and wetland number of major rivers. It would ensure
The current status of the African clawless drainage of water bodies and the use of biologists from range countries, as the protection and future existence of the
otter is unclear, except in South Africa, poisons or dynamite to increase catch, The extent to which there is legal and illegal well as meetings of otter researchers, African clawless otter in eastern South
and localized areas in a few countries. All competition with anglers, and fish farms hunting for the pelt and bushmeat markets range country biologists, and wetland Africa (Rowe-Rowe et al.1995). Continued
populations, however, are believed to be that attract otters. Fisheries managers is unknown, but some incidents have conservation activists to share protection of the area and otter research
in decline throughout most of their range of the Kairezi River Protected Area in been documented. In southern Tanzania information, identify local problems and and education programs should be
due to increasing pressures from rapidly Zimbabwe blamed trout declines on otter for example, otters are targeted for local collaboratively design local solutions. In encouraged.
growing human populations. predation, even though analysis revealed consumption and possibly the bushmeat addition, there should be programs to
that only 1% of otter scat contained market (Djagoun et al. 2012, Flesher 2013, educate rural people in soil and water Coastal reserves, such as the Tsitsikamma
The main threat to the clawless otter the remains of trout (Butler and du Toit Jacques et al. 2015). conservation, and sound agricultural, Coastal National Park, the Pondoland
is human degradation of freshwater 1994). Occasionally, otters are caught livestock and grassland management. Marine Protected Area (Mkambati Reserve)
ecosystems across the continent. The and drowned in gill nets and fish traps and Across much of Africa, laws that protect and the Dwesa-Cebe Marine Protected
channelization of rivers, removal of blamed for net damage (Rowe-Rowe 1990). otters are poorly enforced (Jacques et al. Existing legislation relating to industrial Area along the southern and south-
bankside vegetation, draining of wetlands, 2015). Hunting laws are difficult to enforce and mining pollution should be strictly eastern coast of South Africa offer good
coastal and riverbank development, Water pollution, in the form of or ignored except in reserves, national enforced. protection to marine-foraging populations
erosion, water pollution and unsound bioaccumulation of organochlorines, and parks, or other areas of concentrated of African clawless otter.
agricultural and livestock management acid-rain pollution from coal mining, is a enforcement. Internal civil conflicts and Captive Populations
practices all degrade otter habitat (Veron threat to otters (Stuart 1985, Mason and terrorism continue to be issues in many There are no captive breeding programs Success Stories
et al. 2008, d’Inzillo Carranza and Rowe- Rowe-Rowe 1992, Rowe-Rowe 1995), as nations, putting pressure on all wildlife as for this species. One should be encouraged Ecotourism that includes otter
Rowe 2013, Kubheka et al. 2013, Somers well as runoff from agricultural activities sources of needed protein (Hendrix and but is unlikely at this point due to: 1) observations along the Eastern Cape
and Nel 2013, Jacques et al. 2015, Okes et along lakeshores and river banks is Glaser 2007). lack of suitable space in zoos, 2) lack of Wild Coast of South Africa provides
al. 2016). increasingly having an impact on otter interest by zoos, 3) lack of a sustainable an economic boost to the local Dwesa
habitat (Angelici et al. 2005, Veron et Threat Mitigation Measures captive population, and 4) lack of a source community, with tourists stating that they
Human poverty has led to an increased al. 2008) and potentially on long-term A general lack of knowledge about the for ethically caught wild otters to create would be willing to pay specifically to see
dependence on fish as a source of survivability of affected otter populations. presence, status, and in some cases, a genetically viable population. Instead, the otters. The potential for this project
protein and overfishing of freshwater Oil spills are a potential threat to water basic biological knowledge continues to zoos should be encouraged to teach should be followed to gauge its continued
ecosystems. Growing populations are systems, particularly in southern region of be an issue for African clawless otters. their visitors about this otter species and success (Dumalisile et al. 2005).
causing increased development of marine Nigeria (Angelici et al. 2005). Priority needs are similar across most of create programs to generate funds for
and freshwater shorelines, bringing otters its range: establishing presence in areas of in-situ conservation, rehabilitation efforts,

112 — Otter species by region – Africa — 113

African Clawless Otter Aonyx capensis African Clawless Otter Aonyx capensis
Projects and Funding Opportunities Projects and Funding Opportunities

Region Actions Costs Region Actions Costs

Africa – all range countries Support biologist network, coordination and Support network: $ 20,000 South Sudan Contact local authorities to identify freshwater $ 15,000/year/3 years
meetings. Communication, material development, ecosystems and otter presence.
Stakeholder workshops in Central and Western meeting Planning; coordinator:
Africa, 30 participants for 3 days, $ 1,000/year/5 years Tanzania Preserve habitat and educate fishermen $ 30,000/year/5 years
and local communities to include livelihood
Continental conference for field biologists, Conferences: $40,000 each
alternatives; Rubondo Island NP, Lake Victoria;
university professors, wildlife biologists to Conservation/universities: $ 75,000
Shorelines of Lake Nyasa and southern
develop interest in collaborative wetland $ 15,000 for 1st year
conservation, $ 5,000/year/next 3 years
Long-term monitoring of Rubondo Island NP
Collaborate with universities to include otter Equipment, training surveys and material
otters and nearby island populations to assess
conservation in wetland, fisheries, and wildlife development.
environmental disturbance impact.
programs and curriculum development, Communication costs in countries where
Basic surveys of other large lakes and water
National surveys to confirm presence, status, physical survey may not be possible $ 2,000
bodies; e.g. Lake Tanganyika, Lake Nyasa,
and priority areas for otter conservation in all Physical surveys: $ 100,000
Mtera Dam, large rivers.
range countries where this has not been done
for 15 years. Uganda Research on the status of the three otter Researcher, travel, lodging, supplies
National surveys of identified priority areas species present in Kibale NP. $ 75,000 for 3 years
every five years, Training programs for wildlife professionals
Kenya Identify key areas for conservation swamps $ 15,000/year/5 years on otter ecology and identification of $ 30,000
and wetlands, including Nyando Wetland; human-otter conflict areas and mitigation
coordinate with African Otter Network, actions - Kibale NP and Nile River area.
Develop cooperative education and training $ 10,000/year/5 years
programs as well as wetland preservation
actions with the Lake Victoria’s Birder group
working in Nyando wetlands,
Malawi Nyka NP and Vwaza Marsh Reserve areas: $ 15,000/year/ 3 years
surveys; establish key conservation areas;
establish outreach and collaborative projects
to address conflict issues,
South Africa Where sub-populations are found: Surveys: $ 20,000
1. Determine what limits otter populations Training rangers to do surveys: $ 30,000
2. D etermine role of African clawless otters Education/outreach: $ 10,000/year/3 years
on river ecosystem functioning and
requirements of primary prey, crabs
3. D evelop effective long-term monitoring
programs for this species in different habitat
4. D etermine, using genetics, long-term
population density and structure estimates
across various habitats
5. I nvestigate feasibility of using camera-trap
based density estimation models of otter
6. O ngoing survey of fly-fishing estate/
farm managers and owners to understand
perceived threats that otters pose, currently
implemented control measures, and efficacy
assessment of interventions to reduce
otter-human conflicts
7. F ecal glucocorticoid metabolites analysis as
a non-invasive way to assess stress levels in
populations from different environments

114 — Otter species by region – Africa — 115

Africa Although most of Africa’s
Congo Clawless Otter otters are threatened by
Aonyx congicus human conflicts and habitat
degradation, the Congo
An otter with fingerlike digits that clawless otters have been
uses them with great dexterity to somewhat protected by
locate worms, crabs, and grubs in the remoteness of the
muddy swamps. It has not been Congo forest.
studied as well as other African otter
species and its habits remain poorly

IUCN Red List Species Status the Congo (Jacques et al. 2009). They also
The Congo Clawless otter is classified as inhabit some rivers, for example Dji Dji
Near Threatened. It almost qualifies as River in Gabon (Davenport et al. 2011), and
Threatened based on a projected 25% Sanaga River in Cameroon (Jacques 2006).
population decline over the next three
generations (Pacifici et al. 2013). Research on this elusive species living in
equatorial rainforests is challenging, and
Distribution thus far little is known about its ecology.
The distribution of the Congo clawless The Congo clawless otter is mostly
otter is very poorly known due to the nocturnal and solitary. The pelage is dark
remoteness and inaccessibility of the brown, with a silvery frost on the neck and
equatorial rainforest of Central Africa shoulders from white guard hairs. It has a
(Jacques et al. 2009). The species inhabits grey or white chest, white marking on the
the rainforests and lowland swamps of the face, and a distinctive mark of black fur
Congo River basin in parts of Equatorial between the eyes. The animal forages in
Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo, the soft mud with sensitive, dexterous fingers
Democratic Republic of the Congo, that lack claws and webbing, consuming
southern Cameroon, southern Central fish, crabs, frogs, and worms. Reproduction
African Republic, northern Angola, and into takes place throughout the year, and
the forests and the wetlands of Rwanda, cubs are pure white until they attain adult
Burundi and Uganda (Rowe-Rowe 1990, coloration at about 2 months.
Larivière 2001, Jacques et al. 2009). The
limits of the distribution range are still Threats
unclear, partly due to the species’ possible Although most of Africa’s otters are
confusion with the Cape Clawless Otter threatened by human conflicts and habitat
(Jacques et al. 2009). Its distribution degradation, the Congo clawless otters
overlaps in Rwanda and Uganda with the have been somewhat protected by the
African clawless otter. remoteness of the Congo forest. Still, the
species is impacted by similar pressures
Habitat and Ecology of human disturbance as those affecting
Congo clawless otters are thought to be other African otters, habitat loss from
rare to very rare in most of its habitats and accelerating deforestation, removal of
prefer undisturbed equatorial rainforest bankside vegetation, draining of wetlands,
and lowland swamps of the Congo River water pollution and construction of
Basin (Jacques et al. 2009). The use of hydroelectric projects (Jacques et al. 2009,
coastal freshwater lagoons and mangrove 2015). Competition with human use of
swamps has also been reported (M. Vacher fish resources is growing rapidly with the
pers. comm.). They have been observed growing human population.
in swampy forest clearings, for example,
at Langoué Bai in Gabon, and Mbeli Bai These otters are occasionally hunted
in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park and in for bushmeat, although the species has
Odzala National Park in the Republic of a reputation of being difficult to catch

116 — Otter species by region – Africa — 117

(Jacques et al. 2009). Firearms are now Captive Populations Site-specific Conservation Locations
becoming more available, increasing hunter There are no captive breeding programs The Congo clawless otter should receive
success. New roads for timber exploitation for this species which is very seldom conservation attention in the following
make otters more accessible to illegal seen in zoos. It should be encouraged but protected reserves:
hunting. Otters may be increasingly is unlikely at this point due to 1) lack of
targeted as preferred bushmeat species
become rare (Jacques et al. 2015). Congo
suitable space in zoological facilities, 2) lack
of interest by zoological facilities, 3) lack
• Angola - Kwango (Congo)/Cuango
(Angola River) The Illegal Trade
in Otters
clawless otters are occasionally sought of sustainable captive population, 4) lack • Burundi - Monte Allen Conservation Area
after for more unusual uses. Their meat of a source for ethically caught wild otters • Cameroon - Dja Reserve and Campo
has the reputation of being an aphrodisiac (i.e. rescue animals) to create a genetically Reserve
in Central and West Africa, and in some viable population. Instead, zoological • Central African Republic - Dzanga Sangha Melissa Savage
places their fur is believed to possess facilities should be encouraged to teach Protected Area
magical powers, making a wearer invisible their visitors about this unique otter and • Democratic Republic of Congo - Salonga
to an opponent (Jacques et al. 2009). create programs to generate funds for National Park
in-situ conservation, rehabilitation efforts, • Gabon - Lope Faunal Reserve
Threat Mitigation Measures and outreach education in communities • Republic of the Congo - Nouabale Ndoki
Surveys to establish presence, distribution adjacent to healthy otter populations. National Park,
and status are needed in most countries • Odzala National Park, and Lefini Faunal
of the species’ range: Angola, Burundi, Reserve
Cameroon, Central African Republic, • Rwanda - Nyungwe
Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic • Uganda - Kibale Forest National Park
of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon,
Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda. Public awareness
programs and a effort to standardize
adequate legal protections at the national
level are urgently needed.

Congo Clawless Otter Aonyx congicus

Projects and Funding Opportunities

Region Actions Costs

Africa – all range countries Protect habitat and resources in key otter Coordinator: $ 20,000/year for 5 years
areas; network with local freshwater biologists $ 1,000/year for 5 years
to determine otter presence and collaborate 3-day workshops in Central and Western
on ecosystem conservation efforts. Africa, 30 participants : $ 40,000 each
Angola Tunadavala National Park, Kaladula Fall Coordinator: $ 30,000/year for 2 years
National Park, Bicauri National Park, Cameia Training workshop: $ 30,000
National Park, Iona National Park Surveys for
presence, range and status; research on local
use as food and traditional medicine source;
training workshop.
Cameroon South-east Cameroon, Mbam, Djerem $ 30,000/year for 2 years
National Parks, Campo Reserve, Douala-Edéa Training workshop: $ 30,000
Korup National Park Surveys for presence,
range and status; research on local use as food
and traditional medicine source.
Uganda Kibale National Park $ 30,000/year for 2 years
Survey and camera trap work to establish the
presence and range Marine otter Training workshop: $ 30,000
of this species and A. capensis.

118 — Otter species by region – Africa

Consumer demands for wildlife are for their fur in Asia, coveted for use in the Yet, the true scope of illegal trade in Asian
intensifying across the globe, yet fashion industry in clothing and hats, and otters remains unclear. The clandestine
conservation efforts are focused largely on as prestigious gifts and trophies. Otter nature of trafficking means that the scale
high profile species like tigers, elephants, furs are especially popular in the Tibetan is likely far greater than seizure numbers
and rhinos, neglecting smaller, but highly Autonomous Region of China for trim alone reveal (Gomez et al. 2016). Recent
threatened mammals like otters. Otters on traditional garments like the Tibetan assessment of the pet trade in Southeast
have long been at risk from trafficking ‘chupa.’ They are also sought for their body Asia reveals an extensive trade of otters
of their pelts. Their dense, durable and parts, used in traditional medicines, and for on the internet for the pet trade, targeting
luxurious fur has made them valuable in consumption in the meat trade. A new and young animals, particularly in Indonesia
commerce. a growing trend in parts of Asia is the trade and Thailand. Criminal trafficking networks
in young otters for pets. are becoming more sophisticated, and
Several times in the past, trapping has the dynamics of the otter trade appears
brought various otter species around A large portion of the trade in otter pelts shifting toward Southeast Asian countries
the globe to the brink of extinction. Sea is due to consumer demand in China and onto a new trading venue -- the
otters in the Pacific Northwest of North (Ghosh 2005, Duckworth 2013) and other Internet. The otter trade adds another
America in the eighteenth century were countries in East Asia, including Japan, layer of pressure on already declining otter
hunted relentlessly, first by Russian and South Korea and the Russian Federation populations.
then by American trappers, for markets (Kruuk 2006, Duckworth 2013). Much
in Russia, China, Europe and the US. of the trade in otters as pets feeds a The Pelt Trade
Expensive reintroduction programs local demand, with exotic pet industries Three otter species are trafficked in South
in the Eastern Pacific region have now flourishing in countries like Indonesia and Asia: the Eurasian otter, Smooth-coated
brought the species back from scattered, Thailand (Gomez et al. 2018). otter, and Small-clawed otter. The Eurasian
remnant populations. In the mid-twentieth otter is considered Near Threatened,
century, trapping decimated Giant otter Illegal hunting of otters for their pelts and Smooth-coated and Small-clawed
populations in South America, until an poses a threat to regional otter populations otters are considered Vulnerable by the
international treaty and national laws in parts of South Asia, particularly in India International Union for the Conservation
halted the trade, allowing a gradual (Gomez et al. 2016). Early 21st century of Nature (IUCN 2018). Populations of
recovery of the species in many parts of its records suggest that about 50% of the all three species are inferred to have
historical range. South Asian otter trade originates in India decreased in Asia at least 30% over the
(Gomez et al. 2016). A report summarizing past 30 years (Pacifici et al. 2013). Based
Currently, the largest market for otters otter pelt seizures from 1980 to 2015 on a seizure analysis in selected Asian
takes place in Asia, where the trade documented the seizure of nearly 6,000 countries, from 1985-2015, Eurasian and
in otters feeds both domestic and otter pelts in Asia (Gomez et al. 2016). Smooth-coated otters were extensively
international markets. Otters are hunted traded for their pelts, although for a large
number of the seizures (>80%), the species
of otter involved was not identified (Gomez
et al. 2016). A recent assessment of the
otter trade in Southeast Asia shows there
is some poaching of otters for their pelts
in Cambodia and Lao PDR by Vietnamese
poachers, however, this is thought to be
decreasing (Coudrat 2016). The fourth
Asian otter species, the Hairy-nosed otter, with other high-value wildlife products, Otters as Exotic Pets
appears to be too scarce to poach. such as tiger, leopard and elephant skins. Trafficking of young otters for the pet
trade is a new and rapidly escalating
The sheer volume of otter pelts in trade The otter pelt trade is both lucrative and trend, particularly in Southeast Asia
was first revealed in a joint study by the relatively risk free, and in many places, (Krishnasamy and Stoner 2016, Gomez
Environmental Investigation Agency and wildlife poaching is seen as a legitimate and Bouhuys 2018), despite the animal’s
the Wildlife Protection Society of India pursuit. The trade begins with low- unsuitability as a pet. Trade research shows
into the big cat skin trade (Banks et al. income rural people poaching otters that an increasing number of live otters,
2006). A wide-reaching study by Gomez to supplement their incomes (Bhuju et particularly Small-clawed otters, have been
et al. (2016) further detailed the volume, al. 2009). In many communities, wildlife observed for sale in markets or seized by
sources, destination, and geographic poaching is seen as a legitimate pursuit. authorities across the region. Cubs offered
patterns of the Asian trade. Most seizures The pelts then enter the trade and for sale, often taken as newborns from
involved a small number of pelts, often work their way up through middlemen the wild, are in most cases too young to
one or two, but many were larger, and to the international wildlife traffickers, survive.
one notable seizure in Tibet Autonomous for whom the rewards are high, but the
Region in 2003 confiscated 778 otter pelts. risks of detection are low, prosecution In Japan, the display of caged otters in
Trafficking of otter pelts across Asia is unlikely, and penalties light. For local trendy coffee shops is another recent
facilitated by long, porous borders that are, communities, poaching for pelts is mainly development, with guests being
in many cases, weakly patrolled (Wright and a livelihood issue. Solutions then begin encouraged to handle the animals, mostly
Kumar 1997, Savage and Shrestha 2018). with engagement with local communities Small-clawed otters. Their popularity has
Pelts on their way to East Asia are often and programs that provide sustainable led to a boom in demand for otters in the
packaged and transported clandestinely livelihoods (Challender et al. 2015). country, boosted by social networking

120 — The Illegal Trade in Otters — 121

sites and mass media, including a television removed both of these species from its otter and Hairy-nosed otter, are listed on
series that features pet otters with wildlife protection laws in 2007 (Gomez and Appendix II. An Appendix II listing permits
celebrities (Kitade and Naruse 2018). Japan Bouhuys 2018). legal trade in accordance to national
appears to be an end destination for many legislation. The difficulty of identifying the
otters illegally sourced from Southeast The online illegal otter trade, and the species of cured and flattened otter pelts
Asian countries, particularly Indonesia popularity of pet otters, are substantial means that pelts of these three Asian
and Thailand (Gomez and Bouhuys 2018). new threats to otters in Southeast Asia, otter species cannot be distinguished from
Seventy percent of seizures of live otters where an open and generally unfettered those of Eurasian otters, a CITES Appendix
made in Southeast Asia were destined internet operates in defiance of national I protected species. To prevent the illegal
for Japan, with an increasing trend from 2 and international laws (Gomez and and unsustainable international trade in
otters seized in 2007 to 32 otters seized in Bouhuys 2018). A greater long-term Asian otters, an effort is being initiated to
2017 (Kitade and Naruse 2018). This trade concern is that these trends may fuel uplist these three Asian species to CITES
underscores the failure of legal regulations demand for otters, particularly young Appendix I.
in Japan in preventing wildlife laundering otters, from other parts of the world.
and establishing traceability (Kitade and Awareness
Naruse 2018). The increasing popularity of Legal Protections Awareness of the illegal trafficking of
wild otters as exotic domestic pets, coffee Legal protection of otter species varies otters needs to be raised at multiple
shop and travelling zoo exhibits, is yet widely across the globe. In Asia, native levels, starting at the community level. It
another pressure on Asian otters. The true species are generally protected from should begin with programs in villages and
scale of this trade, including the otter café hunting and trade across their range, with fishing communities that offer measures
craze, warrants further investigation. the exception of a few Asian otter species to mitigate fishing and other conflicts.
in some countries. But customs and law Educational programs in communities
A recent shift in the trade, from physical enforcement agents, trained to look for have proven to be highly popular. Otter
markets to online markets, presents high-profile animals like tigers, are not identification cards, posters, programs
another new and troubling trade dynamic familiar with the illegality of trade in otters. with schoolchildren, and other approaches
for otter species (Krishnasamy and Stoner that increase recognition of otters in
2016). The online trade is high-turnover, Even where otter species are protected rural communities have had good results.
growing and difficult to track (Gomez by national legislation, a major challenge Raising awareness of otters has been
and Bouhuys 2018). For example, from for enforcement agencies is the difficulty successful in urban centers as well. For
January to April of 2018, there were at of distinguishing one species of otter example, a huge fan base for the families
least 560 advertisements offering for from another, either the pelts or the living of otters living in the waterways that run
sale a minimum of 734 and a maximum of animals, which calls for more unanimous throughout the city has evolved in the
1,189 otters, most in Indonesia by a high protection of all otter species. green city of Singapore.
margin (Gomez and Bouhuys 2018). Young
otters were offered on numerous websites, The Convention on International Trade Social research on the use of otters
including Facebook, in Indonesia, Thailand, in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and in the practice of traditional medicine
Viet Nam, and Malaysia. Otters are being Flora (CITES) prohibits commercial trade in Southeast Asia would shed light on Awareness of the seriousness of otter A better understanding of what drives the
hunted to supply this demand, with the in species that cannot be sustainably the impacts of cultural uses of otters, trafficking needs to be raised with demand side of the wildlife trade is crucial
species with the least legal protection, hunted on Appendix I. In Asia, only the Sea particularly for the endangered Hairy- national law enforcement agencies such to ending the illegal trade in wildlife -- and
Small-clawed and Smooth-coated otters, otter and the Eurasian otter are listed on nosed otter (Poole 2003). Such local trade as wildlife, forest, and customs agencies otters (Challender et al. 2015).
being targeted (Gomez and Bouhuys 2018). CITES Appendix I. Three Asian species, may be more amenable to intervention as well as the judiciary. The illegal trade
Cambodia, reversing gains in protection, the Smooth-coated otter, Small-clawed than trade on an international scale. in wildlife is driven by the involvement Otters are resilient animals. When
of increasingly sophisticated criminal protected, they can return and flourish in
entities, which threatens the safety of rural a wide range of natural, near-natural and
communities and national security in many human-made habitats. Trapping in the
countries (Gomez and Bouhuys 2018). past reduced otter populations in South
Trafficking routes, and trade hotspots and America and the Pacific Rim, but when it
seizure records need scrutiny. Efforts to was stopped, those populations began
strengthen existing national, regional and to recover. The commercial trade adds
international law enforcement platforms another layer of hazard to the other grave
are needed to raise the profile of otter threats to wild otters -- loss of habitat,
trafficking. conflict with people, climate change and
a suite of other pressures. Trafficking now
People and Demand threatens three otter species in Asia and
Challender et al. (2015) point out that may in the future threaten otter species in
efforts to reduce the illegal wildlife trade other parts of the world. But with a broad
have been mainly regulatory -- protective array of conservation tools, international
The otter pelt trade is both legislation and law enforcement -- on the cooperation, increased public awareness,
supply side of the market. They suggest and diminished consumer demand, we can
lucrative and relatively risk that a more integrated approach should turn the tide of the illegal trade in otters.
free, and in many places, include greater efforts to understand and
change the market itself. What governs
wildlife poaching is seen as the behavior of consumers, and how can
a legitimate pursuit. lifestyles be influenced to reduce demand?

122 — The Illegal Trade in Otters — 123

Otters’ vulnerability
to climate change
Anna Loy and Carmen Cianfrani

vi TRAFFIC Report: Illegal Otter Trade in Southeast Asia

124 — The Illegal Trade in Otters

Climate change is predicted to cause Figure 1 shows the Global Vulnerability Table 1 - Details on climate change vulnerability of species (GVI), range extent, red list assessment, and ecological traits that might
changes in the phenology, ranges, and Index (GVI) for each species, under 2050 expose species to either minor or higher risk of extinction. Global Concern was derived from evaluation of the degree of clomate change
community composition of species (Chen and 2070 representative concentration predicted impact (GVI) and number of concerning factors (in red). L = Large; M = Medium; S= Small; HG= Habitat Generalist; HS= Habitat
et al. 2011). Vulnerability to climate change pathways RCM 8.5, while Table 1 shows Specialist.
depends on species’ extrinsic range a tentative list and evaluation of global
exposure - how suitable climate areas will concern based on GVI and the other
CC GVI 2050 CC GVI 2070 Range Red Diet Climatic Biotic Global
contract, shift, be fragmented or overlap factors that could act to worse or mitigate Habitat Spec
(2.6, 8.5) (2.6, 8.5) Ext List Spec niche Spec interactions Concern
with competing species, and intrinsic overall climate change impacts.
sensitivity and adaptation, which define
the degree to which a species is affected, The Global Vulnerability Index ranges N. American L
river otter -6,39/-4,21 -6.56/-3,69 LC, S No HG -54,8 No LOW
either adversely or beneficially, by climate from -100 to +100, where increasing
L. canadensis
variability or change and their potential positive values indicate an increasing
capability to adjust to climate change, positive effect of climate change and Neotropical -5,96/-1,1
to moderate potential damage, to take increasing negative values indicate an river otter -5,66/-0,19 M/L NT, D No HG -17,7 No LEAST
advantage of opportunities, or to respond increasing negative effect of climate L. longicaudis
to the consequences (Foden and Young, change (Cianfrani et al., 2018). Although
2016; Santini et al. 2016). vulnerability varies greatly among species, EN, D
Giant otter -22,94/- -23,13/-
no otter species is predicted to benefit P. brasiliensis 25,69 25,04
M Yes HG/HS -93,5 No HIGH
Recently Cianfrani et al. (2018) developed a from global warming (Fig. 1).
global index of climate change vulnerability
Southern river EN, D
for the eleven species of freshwater otters, The vulnerability of species to climate -19,27/- -19,58/- Yes?
otter S Yes HS? -73,5 VERY HIGH
by combining their intrinsic sensitivity change might be exacerbated by ecological L. provocax
18,31 17,93 L. felina
(derived from climatic niche width and traits, potential competition, current range
marginality) and extrinsic range exposure extension and conservation status. Table Cape clawless
-22,59/- Yes?
(derived from species distribution models, 1 shows a tentative evaluation of concern otter -23.45/27,12 L NT, D Yes HG -74,5 HIGH
30,37 (H. maculic)
protected areas and human footprint based on combination of GVI and these A. capensis
coverages). Despite uncertainties that factors.
make it essential that the model outputs Congo
-31,94/- -31,95/-
clawless otter M NT, D Yes/No HS -57,3 No HIGH
are carefully interpreted (Thuiller et al. 39,69 37,15
A. congicus
2008), predictive models can help with
species assessments under the Red List Spotted- YES?
categories and criteria (Foden and Young necked otter
-24,31/- -24,38/-
L NT, D Yes HS -75,4 HIGH
2016). 25,92 27,45 (A. capensis)
H. maculicollis

Fig. 1 – Freshwater otters’ species distribution, IUCN RedList assessment and Global Vulnerability Index to climate change (GVI, derived
Eurasian otter YES (A. cin +
from Cianfrani et al. 2018). GVI are reported for predicted climate scenario RCP 8.5 projected in 2050 and 2070. L. Lutra
-4.67/-4,69 -4,75/-2,71 L NT, D No HG -54
L. persp)

Smooth- YES
-20,79/- -20,67/-
coated otter L. M VU, D No HG -91,5 HIGH
23,60 24,09 (L. Lutra)

Small-clawed YES
otter -24,94/-
-25,6/-21,75 M VU, D Yes HG -61,4 (L. Lutra + L. HIGH
A. cinereus 23,66

Hairy-nosed YES?
otter -10,23/-7,63 -10,42/-8,62 S EN, D No? HG/HS -50,7 (A. cin + MED-HIGH
L. sumatrana L. persp)

126 — Otters’ vulnerability to climate change — 127

Fig. 2 – North American river otter Lontra canadaensis
Finally, it should be considered that other See Cianfrani et al. (2018) for details. A Fig. 4 – Giant otter Pteronura brasiliensis
factors could affect otter resilience under consistent increase in suitable climate
climate change scenarios, especially areas is predicted for the North American
frequencies and magnitude of extreme river otter (+10% to +16%), with annual
climate events, notably heavy floods mean temperature being the most
and droughts. Increased frequencies and important factor affecting its distribution.
magnitude of extreme droughts may Suitable habitat will also be less fragmented
exacerbate water shortages already (Fr positive in Fig. 2), protected areas
occurring. Nepal and Bhutan, for example, coverage is predicted to increase (PA
which are warming rapidly, will be highly positive) in Fig. 2, and newly gained areas
vulnerable to extreme floodings. As an will be less impacted by human disturbance
example, Quaglietta et al. (2018) suggested (HF positive in Fig. 2). However, the high
increased frequencies and magnitude of climatic niche specialization (Sp in Fig.
extreme flood and drought events will alter 2) exposes this species to a moderate
the physiology, activity rhythms and life risk (GVI from – 3,69 to -6,59). The large
cycles of Eurasian otters. Climate change range, absence of potential competitors,
is also expected to alter body size of otters opportunistic habitat and diet adaptations,
(Yom-Tov et al. 2006) and promote the and current low concern make this species
spread of parasites (Sherrad Smith et al. of lower concern as to climate change
2013). However, very few data are currently predicted impacts.
available on impacts of extreme droughts
and flooding on otters, and further studies Neotropical river otter
are urgently needed to fill this gap. Lontra longicaudis
Fig. 3 - Predicted effects of climate change
Overall, the projected potential effects of on the Neotropical river otter under two
climate change on otters sensitivity and climate scenarios (RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5)
exposure were unevenly distributed among projected in 2050 and 2070. Left. Trends
species and across continents. African in components contributing to the Global
species showed highest vulnerability, Vulnerability Index (GVI, red bars, one for
with GVI for 2070 ranging from -22,59 for each scenario in 2050 and 2070). Right:
Spotted-necked otter to-39,69 for Cape Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic suitable
clawless otter. In Southeast Asia smooth- Fig. 3 – Neotropical river otter Lontra longicaudis areas in 2050 under scenario RCP 2.6. Fig. 5 – Southern river otter Lontra provocax
coated otter and Small-clawed otter Suitable areas that will remain stable or
are the most vulnerable species (Fig.1). will be gained are shown respectively in
American’s highest vulnerable species pale orange and green (after Cianfrani et al.
are the Giant and Southern river otter. 2018). Acronyms are as in Fig. 2.
Least impacts are forecasted for the North
American river otter, the Neotropical river A consistent increase in suitable climate
otter, and the Eurasian otter. However, for areas is expected for the Neotropical
this latter climate change might severely river otter (RC in Fig. 3, +31% to +52%).
affect subspecies surviving in restricted Precipitation during the wettest quarter is
portions of the range (below). the most important climate factor affecting
the distribution of this species (Cianfrani et
North American river otter al. 2018). Also, future predicted range will
Lontra canadensis be less fragmented (Fr in Fig. 3) and have
Fig. 2 - Predicted effects of climate change an high degree of protection (PA in Fig. 3),
on the North American river otter under which make this species not extrinsically
two climate scenarios (RCP 2.6 and RCP exposed to global warming. However, it
8.5) projected in 2050 and 2070. Left. shows the most marginal climatic niche
Trends in components contributing to the among all species (M in Fig. 3), thus
Global Vulnerability Index (GVI, red bars, resulting in a small negative GVI ( -0,19
one for each scenario in 2050 and 2070). to -5,96). Its wide range, near threatened
Right: Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic status, low specialization of both climatic,
suitable areas in 2050 under scenario RCP habitat, and feeding niches contribute to
2.6. Suitable areas that will remain stable evaluate this species of low least concern
or will be gained are shown respectively among all otters.
in pale orange and green (after Cianfrani
et al. 2018). Acronyms are as follows: S Giant otter
= Sensitivity and its components (Sp = Pteronura brasiliensis
climatic niche specialization; M =climatic Fig. 4 - Predicted effects of climate
niche marginality); Ex = Exposure and its change on the giant otter under two
components (RC = range change; Fr = climate scenarios (RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5)
range fragmentation; PA = protected areas projected in 2050 and 2070. Left. Trends
coverage; HF = Human Footprint). in components contributing to the Global

128 — Otters’ vulnerability to climate change — 129

Vulnerability Index (GVI, red bars, one for Fig. 6 – Congo clawless otter Aonyx congicus Congo clawless otter Fig. 8 – Spotted-necked otter Hydrictis maculicollis
each scenario in 2050 and 2070). Right: Aonyx congicus
Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic suitable Fig. 6 – Predicted effects of climate change
areas in 2050 under scenario RCP 2.6. on the Congo clawless otter under two
Suitable areas that will remain stable or climate scenarios (RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5)
will be gained are shown respectively in projected in 2050 and 2070. Left. Trends
pale orange and green (after Cianfrani et al. in components contributing to the Global
2018). Acronyms are as in Fig. 2. Vulnerability Index (GVI, red bars, one for
each scenario in 2050 and 2070). Right:
The range of the giant otter is predicted Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic suitable
to remain relatively stable over time (RC areas in 2050 under scenario RCP 2.6.
= +3% to -6%, Fig. 4), with annual mean Suitable areas that will remain stable or
temperature the most important climate will be gained are shown respectively in
factor affecting its distribution (Cianfrani pale orange and green (after Cianfrani et al.
et al. 2018). However, the Giant otter 2018). Acronyms are as in Fig. 2.
has one of the most specialized climatic
niches among all species (Sp = -93,7, Fig. For the Congo clawless otter, the most
4), which contributes the most to raise its severe loss of climatically suitable areas
vulnerability (GVI -22,3 to -25,69, Fig. 4). is predicted (RC from -66% in 2050 under
Considering its medium sized range, its RCP 2.6 to -93% in 2070 under RCP 8.5, Fig.
endangered status, and its diet and habitat 6), with precipitation during the wettest
specialization the Giant otter should be quarter as the most important climate
considered of high concern related to the factor affecting its distribution (Cianfrani et
effects of climate change. al. 2018). These factors are accompanied
by a severe increase of fragmentation (FR
Southern river otter in Fig. 6) and human disturbance (HF in Fig.
Lontra provocax 6) in its future range, contributing to make
Fig. 5 – Predicted effects of climate change the Congo clawless otter one of the most
on the Southern river otter under two vulnerable to climate change (GVI = -31,94
climate scenarios (RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5) to -39,69, Fig. 6).
projected in 2050 and 2070. Left. Trends
in components contributing to the Global The only positive prediction is a predicted
Vulnerability Index (GVI, red bars, one for increase in protected areas coverage of
each scenario in 2050 and 2070). Right: the future range (PA in Fig. 6). Although
Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic suitable the species is currently considered near
areas in 2050 under scenario RCP 2.6. Fig. 7 – Cape clawless otter Aonyx capensis threatened and has a medium sized range, Fig. 9 – Eurasian otter Lutra lutra
Suitable areas that will remain stable or its high specialization of habitat, climatic
will be gained are shown respectively in and feeding niches, suggests to consider
pale orange and green (after Cianfrani et al. the Congo clawless otter of high concern
2018). Acronyms are as in Fig. 2. for the impacts of global warming
(Table. 1).
The suitable climatic range of the Southern
river otter is predicted to remain stable Cape clawless otter
or face little decrease (RC from 0 to – 8,3, Aonyx capensis
Fig. 5), with the mean temperature of the Fig. 7 – Predicted effects of climate change
wettest quarter as the most important on the Cape clawless otter under two
climate factor affecting its distribution. climate scenarios (RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5)
Also, newly gained areas will be more projected in 2050 and 2070. Left. Trends
protected and less affected by human in components contributing to the Global
disturbance (PA and HF in Fig. 5). However, Vulnerability Index (GVI, red bars, one for
the high specialization and marginality of each scenario in 2050 and 2070). Right:
its climatic niche (factors M and Sp in Fig. Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic suitable
5) expose this species to quite relevant areas in 2050 under scenario RCP 2.6.
predicted impact of global warming (GVI Suitable areas that will remain stable or
from -17,93 to -19,58). This factor, coupled will be gained are shown respectively in
with its endangered status, its small range, pale orange and green (after Cianfrani et al.
the highly specialized diet and likely habitat, 2018). Acronyms are as in Fig. 2.
the potential competition with Lontra
ferina in coastal areas, make this species of An important decrease in climatically
highest concern among all otters (Table 1). suitable areas is expected for the Cape
clawless otter (RC -7% to -35%, Fig. 7),
with annual mean temperature the most
important climate factor affecting its
distribution. All other components of

130 — Otters’ vulnerability to climate change — 131

extrinsic exposure (Fr, PA, HF in Fig. 7) Suitable areas that will remain stable or
will be negatively affected. These factors, will be gained are shown respectively in
coupled with a high specialization and pale orange and green (after Cianfrani et al.
marginality of the climatic niche, contribute 2018). Acronyms are as in Fig. 2.
to a high global vulnerability (GVI -22,59
to – 30,37, Fig. 7). Loss is widespread A consistent increase in suitable climate
across the range, while gained areas are areas is predicted for the Eurasian otter
mainly concentrated within the range of the (RC +10 to +11, Fig. 9), with annual mean
Congo clawless otter, suggesting potential temperature the most relevant climate
future impacts of competitive interactions. factor affecting its distribution (Cianfrani
In spite of its wide range and current low et al. 2018). Climatic suitable areas will
conservation concern, this evidence, mainly be gained in the northern portion
together with its specialized feeding and, of the range of the nominal subspecies L. l.
likely, habitat adaptations, pose high Fig. 10. lutra. The impacts of global climate change
concern on the fate of this species (Table 1). on otter populations is less imminent
(GVI – 2,71 to -4,75, Fig. 9), as this species
Spotted-necked otter will benefit for all factors related to range
Hydrictis maculicollis exposure (RC, Fr, PA, HF in Fig. 9), has
Fig. 8 – Predicted effects of climate change a wide range, it is an opportunistic and
on the Spotted-necked otter under two habitat generalist, and it is currently near
climate scenarios (RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5) threatened (Table 1). However, consistent
projected in 2050 and 2070. Left. Trends losses are predicted for the southern
in components contributing to the Global portion of the range, hosting most Fig. 13.
Vulnerability Index (GVI, red bars, one for subspecies with restricted ranges. Losses
each scenario in 2050 and 2070). Right. are especially concerning in North Africa,
Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic suitable Middle East, Central Asia, eastern Himalaya,
areas in 2050 under scenario RCP 2.6. China, and South East Asia (Figs. 10-14),
Suitable areas that will remain stable or
will be gained are shown respectively in Climate changes will likely create more
pale orange and green (after Cianfrani et al. harsh conditions in in Algeria and Morocco,
2018). Acronyms are as in Fig. 2. where the subspecies L. l. meridionalis
is already rare and endangered (Fig. 10),
A relevant decrease in climatically suitable and in Middle East, where heavy droughts
area is also expected for the Spotted- and losses of suitable otter habitat are
necked otter (RC -16 to -35, Fig. 8), with expected especially in Iran, Israel, Lebanon,
annual mean temperature is the most and Palestine, hosting L. l. seistanica
important climate factor affecting the Fig. 11. (Fig. 11). Extensive losses of suitable
distribution of the species (Cianfrani et al climatic areas are expected in central Asia,
2018). Habitat loss is mainly concentrated especially in Ukraine and Kazhakstan (Fig.
in south central Africa. Similar to Cape 12). Range loss and habitat fragmentation
clawless otter, all components of are also expected in the eastern Himalaya
extrinsic exposure (RC, PA, HF in Fig. 8) (mainly Bhutan and Bangladesh, Fig. 13),
but fragmentation (Fr in Fig. 8) will be hosting L.l.monticola, and in south east
negatively affected, which, coupled with a Russia (L. l. lutra), China (L. l. chinensis), and
high specialization and marginality of the for the island of Taiwan, hosting the highly
climatic niche contribute to a GVI ranging isolated and small ranging L. l. hinana in
from -24,31 to – 27,45 (Table 1). All this (Fig. 14).
evidence, together with its specialized
feeding and likely habitat adaptations pose Fig. 10. Forecasted loss (in red) and
high concern on the fate of this species, fragmentation of climatic suitable for
in spite of its wide range and current low otters in 2050 in North Africa following
conservation concern. climate change under scenario RCP 2.6. Fig. 14.
Suitable areas that will remain stable or will
Eurasian otter be gained are shown respectively in orange
Lutra lutra and green (after Cianfrani et al. 2018).
Fig. 9 – Predicted effects of climate
change on the Eurasian otter under two Fig. 11. Forecasted loss (in red) of
climate scenarios (RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5) climatic suitable areas in 2050 in Middle
projected in 2050 and 2070. Left. Trends East following climate change under
in components contributing to the Global scenario RCP 2.6. Suitable areas that will
Vulnerability Index (GVI, red bars, one for remain stable or will be gained are shown
each scenario in 2050 and 2070). Right: respectively in orange and green (after
Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic suitable Cianfrani et al. 2018).
areas in 2050 under scenario RCP 2.6.
Fig. 12.
132 — Otters’ vulnerability to climate change — 133
Fig. 12. Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic Fig. 15. gained areas will be higher and human Fig 17 – Smooth-coated otter Lutrogale perspicillata
suitable areas in 2050 in Ukraine (above), disturbance will decrease, this species has
southern Russia and Kazakhstan following one of the two most specialized climatic
climate change under scenario RCP 2.6. niches (Sp = -91,5, Fig. 17) and a quite
Suitable areas that will remain stable or will relevant marginality M in Fig. 17 and Table.
be gained are shown respectively in orange 1), which contribute to a quite high degree
and green (after Cianfrani et al. 2018). of vulnerability (GVI -20,67 to -24,09,
Fig. 17). This evidence, coupled with a
Fig.13. - Forecasted loss (in red) of medium sized range, its current vulnerable
climatic suitable areas in 2050 in the conservation status, and the potential
Himalaya following climate change under competition with the Eurasian otter,
scenario RCP 2.6. Suitable areas that will suggest that it should be considered of high
remain stable or will be gained are shown concern (Table 1).
respectively in orange and green (after
Cianfrani et al. 2018). Fig. 18. Predicted effects of climate change
on the Small-clawed otter under two
Fig. 14. Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic climate scenarios (RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5)
suitable areas in 2050 in Southern China, projected in 2050 and 2070. Left. Trends
North and south Korea, and eastern Russia in components contributing to the Global
following climate change under scenario Vulnerability Index (GVI, red bars, one for
RCP 2.6 (Cianfrani et al. 2018). Suitable each scenario projected in 2050 and 2070).
areas that will remain stable or will be Right. Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic
gained are shown respectively in orange suitable areas in 2050 under scenario RCP
and green (after Cianfrani et al. 2018). 2.6. Suitable areas that will remain stable
or will be gained are shown respectively in
Climate change will likely not affect most of pale orange and green (after Cianfrani et al.
Europe in terms of loss of climatic suitable 2018). Acronyms are as in Fig. 2.
areas, but increasing drought (Figs. 15
and 16) will likely affect food resources An important decrease in climatically
Fig. 16.
availability for the nominal subspecies L. l. suitable area is expected for the small Fig 18 – Small-clawed otter Aonyx cinereus
lutra. clawed otter (RC -17% to – 41%, Fig. 18),
with mean diurnal temperature range the
Fig. 15. Projected changes in minimum most important climate factor affecting
river flow in EU countries (Source: https:// its distribution (Cianfrani et al. 2018). Losses are widespread, affecting large
figures/mapping-of-drought-conditions- parts of southern China, Malaysia, as well
in-europe) Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and southern
India. Severe losses are also predicted
Fig. 16. Drought events in 2003, 2011, for Sri Lanka, Giava and Sumatra islands,
and 2012 in the European Union (Source: where range shrinking represents a higher threat due to the stochastic effects acting
maps/figures/mapping-of-drought- on small and isolated populations. High
conditions-in-europe) climatic niche specialization (Sp, Fig. 18),
and its relative marginality (M, Fig. 18), and
Fig. 17. Predicted effects of climate change increase of range fragmentation (Fr, Fig.
on the smooth-coated otter under two 18) contribute to a high global vulnerability
climate scenarios (RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5) (GVI - 21,75 to - 25,6, Fig. 18 and Table 1),
projected in 2050 and 2070. Left. which, coupled with its current vulnerable
Trends in components contributing to the conservation status, its medium sized
Global Vulnerability Index (GVI, red bars, range, feeding specialization, and potential
one for each scenario in 2050 and 2070). interactions with both Eurasian a Smooth-
Right: Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic coated otters lead to consider also this
suitable areas in 2050 under scenario RCP species of high concern (Table1).
2.6. Suitable areas that will remain stable
or will be gained are shown respectively in Fig. 19. – Predicted effects of climate
pale orange and green (after Cianfrani et al. change on the Hairy-nosed otter under
2018). Acronyms are as in Fig. 2. two climate scenarios (RCP 2.6 and RCP
8.5) projected in 2050 and 2070. Left.
Only a slight decrease in climatically Trends in components contributing to the
suitable area is predicted for the smooth- Global Vulnerability Index (GVI, red bars,
coated otter (RC -5 to -20, Fig. 17), with one for each scenario in 2050 and 2070).
annual mean temperature the most Right. Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic
important climate factor affecting its suitable areas in 2050 under scenario RCP
distribution. Although protection of future 2.6. Suitable areas that will remain stable

134 — Otters’ vulnerability to climate change — 135

or will be gained are shown respectively in Fig 19. – Hairy-nosed otter Lutra sumatrana
pale orange and green (after Cianfrani et al.
2018). Acronyms are as in Fig. 2.

A consistent increase in suitable climate

areas is expected for the Hairy-nosed
otter (RC +13% to +18%, Fig. 19), with How Captive Otter
Populations Contribute to
precipitation during the wettest quarter is
the most important climate factor affecting
its distribution (Cianfrani et al. 2018). This
species will likely be the least affected
by global warming among South-East Otter Conservation
Asian otters (GVI -7,63 to -10,42, Fig. 19
and Table 1), as all components of range Sonja Luz
exposure in future range (Eg, Fig. 19) but
human footprint (HF) will benefit from
global warming (Fig. 19). Also, and the
hairy-nosed otter is characterized by a
relative low specialization and marginality
of climate niche. However, its small
range, endangered status and potential
overlapping with three other species of
otters distributed in South East Asia (Lutra
lutra, L. perspicillata, and Aonyx cinereus) Fig 20. – Forecasted loss
suggest a medium-high concern on climate
change impact.

Fig. 20. reports climate change impacts

on otter diversity hotspots, shown as
predicted changes in overlapping ranges of

Fig. 20. Forecasted loss (in red) of climatic

suitable areas hosting two (light red) or
three (dark red) otter species, projected
in 2050 under scenario RCP 2.6. Suitable
areas that will remain stable or will be
gained are shown respectively in yellow
(light: two species, dark: three species),
and green (light: two species, dark: three
species) (after Cianfrani et al. 2018).

Higher losses are predicted for hotspots

in Africa and South East Asia, especially in
Java, where most of three species suitable
areas will likely be lost.

Prioritites in facing the impacts of climate

change on otters include establishing
protected areas in future suitable climate
zones, and guaranteeing connectivity
among fragmented suitable areas,
especially for species of high concern,
subspecies ranges of Eurasian otter, and
species’ hotspots. Also, collecting data
on effects of extreme weather events, and
adopting mitigation measures will likely
allow lower their negative impacts
on species.

136 — Otters’ vulnerability to climate change

As otters become increasingly displaced Apart from the potential of directly animals and a greater control of research
by threats such as illegal trade, human- contributing to the maintenance of robust parameters, studies conducted on captive
animal conflicts and habitat destruction, population numbers in the wild through populations provide valuable insights
more animals require immediate rescue, captive breeding, rehabilitation and into the environmental and veterinary
rehabilitation and release (RRR) efforts. reintroduction, ex situ populations can be needs and behaviour of a species, and
In this regard, contributions from ex-situ used as a conservation tool to introduce, can complement the research findings
institutions such as modern zoos and create awareness, as well as garner public on wild otter populations. In this way,
rescue centers add significant value to support for in situ conservation efforts. otter husbandry manuals and guidelines
comprehensive conservation plans. While can be kept up to date, and welfare and
many of these institutions also contribute Over the years, the role of many zoos management standards, advanced.
through funding and in-kind support to has evolved from one which exists for
conduct RRR programs alongside in situ entertainment purposes to one which Considering the wide distribution of
organizations, a sound ex-situ population serves to conserve, educate and inculcate otters and the many threats to their
management strategy could be the key to the love for wildlife and biodiversity in their populations, collaboration among
ensuring species survival in the long run, visitors. The educational goals placed numerous stakeholders from community
should wild otter populations continue to on modern zoos do not just encompass to international bodies is required for
decline. basic information and knowledge on effective otter conservation. Institutions
animals but spans broader topics such that are better equipped or have more
Maintaining genetically healthy assurance as biodiversity, conservation, ecology resources can be platforms for national,
colonies is vital to otter conservation. and environmental sustainability. Ex regional and global collaborations and also
Captive populations should be integrated situ institutions can further explore the extend their resources to build capacity in
into established management programs ambassadorship potential of these highly holding institutions with less experience
with the capacity to ensure the upkeep charismatic animals in wildlife education and fewer resources, especially those in
of genetically healthy colonies, including and conservation. range countries.
differentiation at sub-species level.
Well-managed ex situ otter conservation Publications and research conducted in ex-
programs and institutions have already situ programs also contribute to education
contributed substantial input in databases in a broader scope that is not confined
such as Species 360 (see below). Such to the walls of institutions. Captive
data, when kept up to date, allows for populations can offer unique research
informed breeding and management opportunities not possible otherwise in
recommendations. wild populations. With better access to the

Fig.1. Status of otters in the wild and captive population programs

Red List Captive Managed Number in

Scientific name CITES Ex Situ TAG Stud Books
Status Population Program (s) captivity
Aonyx cinereus VU 2 Y Excellent Y Y 960
Lutrogale perspicillata VU 2 Y Increasing N None N 68

Lutra sumatrana EN 2 N None N None N 0

Lutra lutra NT 1 Y Good Y SSP, EEP Y 225

Aonyx capensis NT 2 N Few N None N Few

Aonyx congicus NT 2 N None N None N 0

Hydrictis maculicollis NT 2 Y Few Y SSP Y 25

Lontra canadensis LC 2 Y Good Y SSP Y 332

Enhydra lutris EN 1 Y Few N None N 18

Pteronura brasiliensis EN 1 Y Good Y SSP, EEP Y 99

Lontra longicaudis NT 1 N Very Few N None N <5

Lontra felina EN 1 N Very Few N None N <5

Lontra provocax EN 1 N None N None N ?

138 — The Global Otter Conservation Strategy — 139

Conclusions Stepping stones of Otter
conservation success
In this Global Conservation Strategy we have emphasized
that otters are resilient, that given protection,
community involvement, and good habitat quality they
will return to their former habitats. We have witnessed
this in North America, Europe, and South America. Good
otter conservation programs can succeed, and can be Draft regional
duplicated widely. and local otter
We have provided the guidelines and proposed the
projects to create regional and local otter conservation
programs to guide and stimulate the efforts required to
improve the conservation status of all 13 otter species.
clean rivers
and wetlands
Next Steps

The Strategy provides a global overview of the status

of otters and sets the goals and actions required to
reverse their current decline. It is a first and important Engage
step. Developing strong regional capacity, drafting support and
detailed local conservation strategies and training a develop
new generation of otter biologists is the next step. for otters
The members of the IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group
are here to help and support these new initiatives.
Visit our website: Promote
protection and law
at the
national level

End the
illegal trade
in otter pelts
and pets

140 — The Global Otter Conservation Strategy — Conclusion and next steps — 141
Legal protection by
species and country
Smooth-coated otter Lutrogale perspicillata
Short-clawed otter Aonyx cinereus
Hairy-nosed otter Lutra sumatrana

Eurasian otter Lutra lutra

North America
North American river otter Lontra canadensis
Sea otter Enhydra lutris

South America
Giant otter Pteronura brasiliensis
Neotropical otter Lontra longicaudis
Marine otter Lontra felina
Southern river otter Lontra provocax

Spotted-necked otter Hydrictis maculicollis
African clawless otter Aonyx capensis
Congo clawless otter Aonyx congicus

142 — The Global Otter Conservation Strategy

Smooth-coated otter Small-clawed Otter

Country Legal protection Legislation Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks

Viet Nam Decree No.32/2006/ND-CP; Decree

Bangladesh Not protected Unknown
Protected No.59/2005/ND-CP; Decree
Bhutan Not protected Unknown
Protection of Wildlife and Wild
Myanmar Protected Plants and Conservation of
Cambodia Not protected Unknown
Natural Areas Law, 1994
China Protected Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Wildlife, 1989 Wildlife (Conservation and
Bangladesh Protected
Security) Act, 2012
India Protected Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 The Indian Wildlife (Protection)
India Protected
Act 1972, Schedule I and II
Indonesia Protected Ministry of Environment and Forestry Decree No. P.20/MENLHK/SETJEN/KUM.1/6/2018 Aquatic Life Protection Act,
Only Eurasian and Smooth-coated otter within
Nepal Not protected 1961; National Parks and Wildlife
protected areas
Lao PDR Protected Wildlife and Aquatic Law, 2007 Conservation Act, 1973
Listed as Category II species
Nepal Protected Aquatic Life Protection Act 1961, National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973 China Protected under China's State Key All three otter species in China are protected
Wildlife Conservation Act, 2010; Wild Life Protection Ordinance, 1998; Wildlife
Protected Animal List, 1989
Malaysia Protected
Conservation Enactment, 1997

Myanmar Protected Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, 1992 Hairy-nosed Otter
Punjab Wildlife Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management Act, 1974.
Pakistan Protected Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks
The North Western Frontier Province Wild-Life (Protection, Preservation, Conservation
and Management) Act, 1975 Cambodia
Protected Law on Forestry, 2002
Singapore Protected Wild Animals and Birds Act, 1965
Indonesia Protected Law Number 7, 1999
Thailand Protected Wild Animals Preservation and Protection Act, 1992
Sabah: Protected; Wildlife Conservation
Decree No.32/2006/ND-CP, Decree No.59/2005/ND-CP; Decree 157/2013/ND- Malaysia Protected Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 Enactment, 1997; Sarawak: Wildlife Protection
Viet Nam Protected
CP Ordinance, 1998
The Indian Wildlife (Protection)
Myanmar Not Protected
Act 1972, Schedule I and II
Small-clawed Otter
Wildlife Preservation and
Thailand Protected
Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks Protection Act, 1961

Act No. 5, 990; Government Only Eurasian otter and Hairy-nosed otter are Viet Nam Protected Government Decree 32, 2006
Indonesia Not protected
Regulation no. 7, 1999 protected
Wildlife Conservation Act,
2010 (Peninsular Malaysia and
Labuan); Wild Life Protection Protected only in the States of Sabah and
Malaysia Partially protected
Ordinance, 1998 (Sarawak); Wildlife Sarawak
Conservation Enactment, 1997

Singapore Protected Wild Animals and Birds Act, 1965

Brunei Darussalam Partially protected Wild Life Protection Act, 1978 Only in Wildlife Sanctuaries
Wildlife Resources Conservation
and Protection Act RA 9147, 2001; Classified as Endangered in the list of
Philippines Protected
Strategic Environmental Plan for threatened species in Palawan, 2014
Palawan RA 7611, 1992
Wild Animals Preservation and
Thailand Protected
Protection Act, 1992
Under Fisheries Administration management,
Cambodia Not protected Forestry Law, 2002 which has not yet produced a list of threatened

Lao PDR Protected Wildlife and Aquatic Law, 2007

144 — The Global Otter Conservation Strategy — Legal protection — 145

Eurasian Otter North American River otter
The river otter is categorized as a fur bearing animal in North America (NA), reflecting historic and current use of its pelt in the fur industry.
Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks
Management of the river otter is overseen within geopolitical boundaries (i.e., at the state level in the United States of America (USA) and
Russia Hunting and trapping regulated on a Provincial province/territory levels in Canada) by wildlife agencies representing those jurisdictions. Legal trapping is permitted if populations are
Partially protected considered able to be sustainably harvested. However, wildlife agencies may categorize otters with a protected status (e.g., endangered,
basis; harvesting intensity is low
threatened, species of special concern) within their jurisdictions if populations are considered unable to sustain a harvest. The river
Uzbekistan Protected Law Number 7, 1999 Protected as L.l. seistanica otter is a trapped furbearer in 37 states and all provinces/territories, except Prince Edward Island. Wildlife agencies report harvested and
protected populations as stable, expanding, or a combination of both within their jurisdictions (see Bricker et al. In press) for a complete
L.l. seistanica is in the Red Data Books of review of the current status of river otter populations in NA).
Kazakhstan Protected Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan,
Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan
Sea Otter
Protected as L.l. seistanica in the Amudariynsky
and Kelifsky Preserves, Amudariya River,
The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks
Turkmenistan Protected Amudariya River Islands, Karakumsky Canal,
Act 1972, Schedule I and II
Amudariynsky Reserve; possibly in Lebapsky Japan–Hokkaido Hunting and trapping regulated on a Provincial
Velayat Partially protected
(Enhydra lutris lutris) basis; harvesting intensity is low
Tajikistan Protected Protected as L.l. seistanica Russia (E. l. lutris) Protected Law Number 7, 1999 Protected as L.l. seistanica

Kyrgyzstan Protected Protected as L.l. seistanica L.l. seistanica is in the Red Data Books of
Russia: Commander
Protected Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan,
Listed in the Red Data Book of Islands
Mongolia Protected Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan
Mongolia, 1987 Protected as L.l. seistanica in the Amudariynsky
India Protected Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and Kelifsky Preserves, Amudariya River,
Russia: Kamchatka The Indian Wildlife (Protection)
Protected Amudariya River Islands, Karakumsky Canal,
Peninsula Act 1972, Schedule I and II
Fauna and Flora Protection Act, Amudariynsky Reserve; possibly in Lebapsky
Sri Lanka Protected 1937; amended to cover L. lutra, Velayat
No. 22, Schedule 2, 2009
Russia: Kuril Islands Protected Protected as L.l. seistanica
Aquatic Life Protection Act,
Nepal Protected 1961, National Parks and Wildlife United States: (E. l.
Conservation Act, 1973 Protected Protected as L.l. seistanica
kenyoni & E. l. nereis)
Law of the People’s Republic Heavily harvested; species has undergone a United States: Listed in the Red Data Book of
of China on the Protection of Protected
dramatic decline throughout the 20th century, Southwest Alaska Mongolia, 1987
China Protected Wildlife, 1989; Class II Schedules especially in the North East United States: South Marine Mammal Protection
of Nationally Protected Fauna and Protected
Central Alaska Act, 1972
Flora in China
United States: Marine Mammal Protection Act, Translocated from Alaskan population stocks;
Act No. 5, 1990; Government Reg. Protected
Indonesia Protected L. lutra occurs in Sumatra and Borneo Southeast Alaska 1972 Not a MMPA strategic stock (2000-2010)
No. 7 of 1999
Marine Mammal Protection Act,
Listed on Schedule 1 of the 1972; “State endangered” under Translocated from population stocks in Alaska;
Thailand Protected Wild Animals Preservation and United States: Nationally and State
Revised Code of Washington not a MMPA strategic stock (2000-2010);
Protection Act 1961 Washington State protected
77.12.020 and Washington protected by State of Washington laws
Species range may be restricted to north of the Administrative Code 232.12.014
Viet Nam Not protected
17th Parallel United States: State Marine Mammal Protection Act, Extirpated in 1911; translocations from Alaska
National Treasure, No. 330 Protected
Korea, South Protected of Oregon 1972 1970 - 1971 failed to establish a population
(Cultural Heritage Administration) Marine Mammal Protection Act,
Japan Extinct 1972; Endangered Species Act
United States: State Nationally and State
(42 FR 2965), as amended (16 USC L. lutra occurs in Sumatra and Borneo
of California protected
Israel Protected 1531 et seq.); California Fish and
Game Code (§4700)
Hunting banned by a law in 1995, but the law is Species of Special Concern under
Lebanese Law on the Protection
Lebanon Not Protected almost totally ignored; Lebanon signed CITES Canada’s Species-at-Risk Act;
of the Environment No. 444, 2002 Canada Protected Translocated from Alaska population stocks
in 2013 Canada’s Fisheries Act; British
Habitat Directive protects species and their Columbia’s Wildlife Act
Habitat Directive EC/43/92
habitats; EC/6/2000 protects all freshwater
– Appendix II and IV; Water Mexico Not protected No species- specific legislation EN Listed as “probably extinct”
European Union Protected ecosystems in the EU; legally protected by
Framework Directive EC/6/2000;
country laws in Italy (157/1992) and Greece,
Water Framework Directive
P.D. 67/1981

The legal protection status of the Eurasian otter in the following countries is unknown: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Bosnia, Bulgaria,
Cambodia, Croatia, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Korea PDR, Laos, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Norway, Pakistan, Serbia, Syria, Switzerland, Tunisia,
Turkey, Ukraine.

146 — The Global Otter Conservation Strategy — Legal protection — 147

South America – Giant otter Neotropical otter

Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks

National Law No. 22.344, 22.421, Argentina

24.375; National Decree No. Protected Resolution 1030, 2007

Argentina 522/1997, 666/1997; Resol.

Wildlife Protection Act Chapter
Protected SAyDS n.91/2003, 1030/2004; Bolivia
220, 2010
Provincial Law XVI-Nº 11, XVI-Nº
29, XVI-Nº 44, Provincial Decree Law 1255. 1991; Supreme Decree
No. 2.874/1988 Brazil Protected 3048/2017, Indigenous Council of
the Takana People (CIPTA), 2008
Decree No. 22641 (8/
Bolivia Ordinance 64, 13/4/1963; Law
November/1990) Colombia Protected
5197/1967; Decree 76623, 1975
Brazil Protected Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 Law No. 5197/1967; Decreto No.76623,1975 Wildlife Conservation Law No.
Costa Rica Protected
Decree No. 2811, 1974; Decree 1608, 1978, 7317, 2005
Law 17 (1981 CITES in Colombia); Law 84 for Official Register No. 2, 31
Animal Protection, 1989; Resolution 192, 2014 March 2003; Article 247 -
The Indian Wildlife (Protection)
Colombia Protected for endangered species including Pteronura; Comprehensive Organic Penal
Act 1972, Schedule I and II Ecuador Protected
Resolution 2064, 2010 for post-confiscation Code, 2014;
management of confiscated terrestrial and Article 31 – Organic Code on the
aquatic species Environment, 2017
Official Register No. 2 (31 March Biodiversity Law No. 844/1994;
2003) El Salvador Protected
Agreement 74, 2015
Article 247 - Comprehensive
Ecuador Protected
Organic Penal Code, 2014 French Guiana Protected Ministerial Decree May, 15, 1986
Article 31 – Organic Code on the
Red List Endangered Species of
Environment, 2017 Guatemala Protected
Guatemala, 2000
French Guiana Protected Arrêté Ministériel du 15 Mai, 1986
Guyana Unknown Wildlife Regulation No. 6, 2013
Guyana Unknown Listed in the Red Data Book, 1987
Honduras Protected Species of Special Concern, 2000
Paraguay Unknown Official Mexican Rule NOM-059-
Mexico Protected
Peru Protected Decree No. 004-2014-MINAGRI Endangered Species Red List,
Nicaragua Protected
In Wildlife Reserves and National 2013
Suriname Protected
Parks Panama Protected Wildlife Law 24, 1995
Heavily harvested; species has undergone a
Ley No. 9.481, Law of Indigenous dramatic decline throughout the 20th century, Paraguay Unknown Law 96, 1992
Uruguay Protected especially in the North East
Peru Protected Decree No. 004-2014-MINAGRI
Act No. 5, 1990; Government Reg. Decree No. 1485, 1996 In Wildlife Reserves and National
Venezuela Protected Suriname Unknown
No. 7 of 1999 Decree No. 1486, 1996 Parks

Trinidad Tobago Protected EMA, 2001

Indigenous Wildlife Law 9.481,

Uruguay Protected
Marine otter Decree 1.486, 1996, Wildlife
Venezuela Protected
Protection Law 4.925, 1995
Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks

Protected DS 004-2014-MINAGRI, 2014 Peruvian law follows IUCN standards

Wildlife Protection Act Chapter

Chile Protected Chilean law follows IUCN standards
220, 2010
Resolución SAyDS 1030/2004,
Argentina Protected

148 — The Global Otter Conservation Strategy — Legal protection — 149

Southern river otter
Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks
In Chile, the conservation status is listed by the Reglamento de Clasificación de Especies as Endangered (2011). The Subsecretaria Law No. 4883, Conservation and Protected in some parks and faunal reserves
Republic of Congo Partially protected
de Pesca is the governmental agency responsible for their conservation and management, prohibiting trapping until 2025. In those Exploitation of Wildlife 1983 but distribution is not known
populations inside official protected areas, the Corporacion Nacional Forestal is responsible for their conservation. National Action Plans Loi No. 65-255, 4 August 1965,
in Chile are developed by the Ministerio del Medio Ambiente, but despite the conservation status of the otter, no Action Plan exists for relative à la protection de la
Protected in National Parks; partially protected
this species at present, an urgent conservation action priority. Hunting has been prohibited since 1929 in Chile (Iriarte and Jaksic 1986) Cote d’Ivoire Partially protected faune et à l’exercice de la chasse
and the governmental agency responsible for hunting permits and enforcement is the Servicio Agricola y Ganadero. modifiée et complétée par la loi
Argentina No. 94-442, 16 August 1994
In Argentina the conservation status is Endangered (Valenzuela et al. 2012). At the national level, the governmental agency responsible Law No. 8/1988, Regulatory
for native wildlife conservation and management is the Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable de la Nación through Equatorial Guinea Partially protected Wildlife Hunting and Protected
the Dirección de Fauna Silvestre y Conservación de la Biodiversidad. The Administración de Parques Nacionales (National Parks Areas
Administration) is responsible for conservation of those populations inside national protected areas, where the species is classified Wildlife Development and
as Special Value Species (APN 1994). The two populations in Argentina from freshwater and marine habitats are mainly inside national Conservation Authority
Ethiopia Partially protected Protected in National Parks
protected areas. Establishment Proclamation No.
5752008, 2008
Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks Decree No. 115/PR/MAEFDR
Gabon Partially protected
Decreto Supremo 225/1995 Hunting prohibited for 30 years, from 1995 to Wild Animals Preservation Act,
Chile Hunting prohibited
Ministerio de Economía 2025 1961, Act 43; Wildlife Reserves
Ley Nacional 22421 de Ghana Partially protected Regulations 1971, L.I. 710 and National Parks and reserves if present
Argentina Hunting prohibited
Conservación de la Fauna Wildlife Conservation Regulations
1971, L.I. 685
Africa Spotted-necked otter is not protected (Aonyx
Guinea-Bissau Not protected
capensis is protected)
Spotted-necked otter
Conservation of Biological
Due to the lack of infrastructure and adequate enforcement, protection in national parks or reserves is limited and not well enforced. License required to capture or kill; The Wildlife
Diversity and Resources, Access
Their protected status outside of parks and licensing requirements, if they exist, are poorly enforced across the continent. For most Kenya Protected (Conservation and Management) Act 1985
to Genetic Resources and Benefit
countries there is no new information since 1990. However, there are increasing reports of conflicts with fishermen resulting in (Revised 2009)
Sharing, 2006
intentional persecution of otters
Game Preservation Proclamation, The Red List of Mammals of South Africa,
Lesotho Possibly extirpated
1951 Lesotho and Swaziland 2016
Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks Environmental Protection and
Liberia Partially protected Protected in national park; partially elsewhere
Law No 6/17 Forest and Wildlife Due to Civil war in recent years any pertinent Management Law, 2002
Angola Not protected National Parks and Wildlife Act
Basic Legislation, 2017 laws probably have not been enforced. Malawi Protected
Signatory to the African No. 11, 1992
Convention on the Conservation Mali Partially protected Law No. 95031 Establishing the
Benin Partially protected
Conditions for Management of
of Nature and Natural Resources,
March 07, 2017 Wildlife and Its Habitat, 1995
Wildlife Conservation and Mozambique Partially protected The Forestry and Wildlife Law Protected in National Parks and reserves;
Botswana Protected Protected in National Parks
National Parks Act, 1992 (Law 10/1999) hunting controlled by legislation elsewhere
Regulation of Forestry and Wildlife
Burkina Faso Partially protected Protected in National Parks
Decree No. 12/2002
Loi No. 1/010 du 30 Juin 2000 Namibia Protected Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962 Protected in National Parks and reserves
Burundi Not protected Portant Code de l’Environnement
Nature Conservation Ordinance,
de la République du Burundi
Law No. 94/01, January 20, 1994;
Nature Conservation General
Decree No. 95/466, July 20,
Cameroon Not protected Amendment Act No. 31, 1990
1995; Order No. 0648/ MINFOF,
December 18, 2006 Niger Protected Law No. 98-07 of 29 April 1998
Concerning the Regime of
Central African Ordinance No. 84.045, 27 July
Partially protected Protected in Nature Reserves Hunting and Wildlife Protection
Republic 1984
Rwanda Partially protected Wildlife Ordinance No 41/222 Protected in two National Parks
Chad Unknown Nature conservation ordinance only 1948
Law No 11-009, 9 July 2011. Ministerial Order No. 004/16.01
Democratic Republic Arrêté ministériel No. 102 /CAB Protected in National Parks; permit required 2010 Export of Wildlife
Partially protected
of Congo MIN/ECN-T/15/JEB/16 June for take elsewhere Sierra Leone Partially protected Wildlife Conservation Act 1972 Protected in nature reserve; hunting
2009 regulations elsewhere

150 — The Global Otter Conservation Strategy — Legal protection — 151

Spotted-necked otter, continued African clawless otter

Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks

National Environmental Law No. 6/17 Forest and Wildlife

Protected in National Parks and game Angola Unknown No information since 1989
Management: Biodiversity Act 10 Basic Legislation 2017
reserves; skin or live animals cannot be sold
South Africa Partially protected of 2004; GNR.152 of 23 February Signatory to the African
elsewhere; The Red List of Mammals of South
2007: Threatened or Protected Convention on the Conservation Protected in National Parks
Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, 2016 Benin Partial protection
Species Regulation of Nature and Natural Resources,
Protected in National Parks and areas outside March 07, 2017
South Sudan Partially protected Unknown
reserves in former Sudan, 1990, 1993 Wildlife Conservation and
Botswana Protected
The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, National Parks Act, 1992
Swaziland Partially protected The Game Act, 1991
Lesotho and Swaziland 2016 Law No. 94/01, January 20, 1994;
The Wildlife Conservation Act, Protected in National Parks; illegal to hunt or Decree No. 95/466, July 20, 1995
Tanzania Partially protected
2009 capture elsewhere without permit. Cameroon Unknown wildlife legislation; Order No.
Ordinance 4 /16, 1968 Wildlife Possibly extirpated; protected nationally if 0648/ MINFOF, December 18,
Togo Partially protected 2006
Protection and Hunting present
The Uganda Wildlife Statute 1996; Central African Ordinance No. 84.045, 27 July, Protected in reserves, illegal to hunt elsewhere;
Partially protected
Uganda Partially protected National Biodiversity Strategy Protected in National Parks Republic 1984 presence unknown
Chad Partially protected Unknown Nature Conservation Ordinance only
Protected in National Parks; license required to
The Zambia Wildlife No.14, Act, hunt elsewhere Law No. 65-255 du 4 août 1965
Zambia Partially protected
2015 relative à la protection de la
Protected in National Parks; partially protected
Côte d’Ivoire Partially protected faune et à l’exercice de la chasse
Parks and Wildlife Act 14/1975; elsewhere
Protected in National Parks; landowners may modifiée et complétée par la loi
Zimbabwe Partially protected Protection of Wild Life (Indemnity) hunt but wildlife regulations in place n°94-442 du 16 août, 1994
Act 21/1989 Law No 11-009, 9 July 2011,
Democratic Republic Arrêté ministériel n° 102 /CAB Protected in National Parks; permit required
Partially protected
of Congo MIN/ECN-T/15/JEB/16 June elsewhere

Eritrea Unknown

Wildlife Development and

Conservation Authority Protected in National Parks; partial protection
Ethiopia Partially protected
Establishment Proclamation No. elsewhere
5752008, 2008

The Gambia Unknown

Wild Animals Preservation Act,

1961, Act 43; Wildlife Reserves Protected in National Parks and reserves
Ghana Partially protected Regulations 1971, L.I. 710 and
Wildlife Conservation Regulations
1971, L.I. 685
Protected in National Parks and reserves;
Guinea Partially protected
permit needed to hunt

Guinea-Bissau Not protected

Conservation of Biological
Diversity and Resources, Access
to Genetic Resources and Benefit
Kenya Protected License required to capture or kill
Sharing 2006; The Wildlife
(Conservation and Management)
Act 1985 (Revised 2009)
Game Preservation Proclamation Protected in one National Park (Near
Lesotho Protected
1951 Threatened)
Environmental Protection and Protected in the one National Park; partial
Liberia Partially protected
Management Law, 2002 protection elsewhere
National Parks and Wildlife Act
Malawi Protected
No. 11, 1992

152 — The Global Otter Conservation Strategy — Legal protection — 153

African clawless otter Congo clawless otter
Due to the lack of infrastructure and adequate enforcement, protection in national parks or reserves is limited, if they exist, and not well
enforced. Their protected status outside of parks and licensing requirements are poorly enforced across the continent. Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks

Law No. 6/17 on Forest and Very low wildlife protection due to long-term
Country Legal protection Legislation Remarks Angola Not protected
Wildlife Basic Legislation civil strife and poaching
Law No. 95031 Establishing the Loi No. 1/010 du 30 Juin 2000
Mali Unknown Conditions for Management of Presence unknown Burundi Not protected Portant Code de l’Environnement
Wildlife and Its Habitat, 1995 de la République du Burundi
The Forestry and Wildlife Law Law No. 94/01, January 20, 1994
Protected in National Parks and reserves;
(Law 10/1999); Regulation of Cameroon Not protected Decree No. 95/466, 1995; Order
Mozambique Partial protection hunting elsewhere controlled by legislation
Forestry and Wildlife Decree No. No. 0648/ MINFOF, 2006
12, 2002 Central African Nature reserves; may not be hunted elsewhere
Partially protected Ordinance No. 84.045, 1984
Animals Protection Act 71 of Republic unless accidentally caught in fish traps or nets
1962; Nature Conservation Protected in National Parks and reserves Law No. 11-009, 9 July 2011;
Namibia Protected Ordinance, 1975; Nature Democratic Republic Arrêté ministériel n° 102 /CAB National parks; permit needed for hunting
Conservation General Partially protected
of the Congo MIN/ECN-T/15/JEB/16, June elsewhere; protracted civil war
Amendment Act No. 31, 1990 2009
Law No. 98-07 of 29 April 1998, Law No. 4883 Conservation and
Niger Protected Concerning the Regime of Republic of Congo Partially protected National Parks and nature reserves
Exploitation of Wildlife, 1983
Hunting and Wildlife Protection
Law No. 8/1988 Regulatory
Nigeria Fully Protected Endangered Species Act, 1985 Equatorial Guinea Partially protected Wildlife Hunting and Protected
Wildlife Ordinance No 41/222
Decree No. 115/PR/MAEFDR,
Rwanda Partially protected 1948; Ministerial Order No. Protected in two National Parks Gabon Partially protected Protected in conservation areas
004/16.01 2010, Export of Wildlife
All 3 otter species protected; hunting
Decree No. 87-1044 Establishing Nigeria Protected Endangered Species Act, 1985
Senegal Protected the List of Protected Animals,
1987 Rwanda Partially protected Wildlife Policy, 2013 Protection in two National Parks
Protected in nature reserves; hunting permits
Sierra Leone Partially protected Wildlife Conservation Act, 1972 Wildlife Statute No. 14, 1996;
needed elsewhere
Uganda Partially protected Game Preservation and Control Otters are generally covered by wildlife laws
National Environmental Act, 1959
Management: Biodiversity Act 10
Protected in five Game Reserves; unprotected
South Africa Partially protected of 2004; GNR.152 of 23 February
2007: Threatened or Protected
Species Regulation

South Sudan Unknown

Protected in five Game Reserves; no

Swaziland Protected The Game Act, 1991
protection elsewhere
The Wildlife Conservation Act, Protected in National Parks; permit needed to
Tanzania Partially protected
2009 hunt or capture elsewhere
Ordinance 4 /16 1968, Wildlife
Togo Protected Protection and Hunting Presence unknown

Ordinance 4 /16 1968, Wildlife

Uganda Partially protected Presence unknown
Protection and Hunting
The Zambia Wildlife No.14, Act, Protected in National Parks where they occur;
Zambia Partially protected
2015 permit needed to hunt elsewhere
Parks and Wildlife Act Act
Protected in National Parks; landowners may
Zimbabwe Partially protected 14/1975; Protection of Wild Life
hunt but wildlife regulations in place
(Indemnity) Act 21/1989

154 — The Global Otter Conservation Strategy — Legal protection — 155

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