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Short-Clawed Otter (Aonyx cinerea)

Short Clawed 

The Short-Clawed Otter

The Short-Clawed Otter (Aonyx cinerea), also known as the Oriental Small Claw Otter, is currently listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This small mammal is the smallest of the otters, but, unfortunately, they remain somewhat of a mystery because of lack of research and study.

The Short-Clawed Otter is found most often in shallow water at the mouths of rivers, near the coast, or in marshy swamps. They are found in southern India and China, Indonesia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. They make their homes on riverbanks and will move in to an abandoned den if possible, or they will dig their own. They tend to travel in groups, sometimes up to 12 otters, that usually consist of a mated pair and their offspring.

As its name suggests, the Short-Clawed Otter has claws that are much smaller than other otters’. Also unlike other otters, their paws are almost like hands, very slightly webbed, and they are capable and dexterous when using them. They are very sensitive, much like our own, and they can use them to dig food out of the sand, dirt, or out from under rocks. These otters are very small, only growing to about 2 feet (65 cm) long, which includes the 8 inch (20 cm) tail. At full maturity, the Short-Clawed Otter weighs only 6-12 pounds (2-6 kg). Their fur is a dark brown color, which verges to a lighter tan on their undersides, and they sometimes have whiter spots on their faces, chests, and throats. Their fur is very water-resistant on top with a layer of softer fur underneath that keeps the otter from getting chilled in cold water.

Interesting Fact: Short-Clawed Otters can close their nostrils and ears to keep water from getting in when they are swimming.

Short-Clawed Otters’ teeth are built for hard-shelled animals, and the main part of their diet includes crabs, mollusks, and snails. The teeth are wide and flat and are used for crushing the shell so that the otter can get to the meat inside. They are also known to eat frogs and smaller fish, but, unlike other otters, they don’t snag their food out of the water with their mouths but instead use their “hands” to grab it and can find hidden food in the mud and rocks.

Short-Clawed Otters reach sexual maturity when they are about two or three years old. Most of these otters will keep the same mate for life, and they keep their offspring with them, with both of the parents caring for them. The female of the species is the dominant partner, and the male will hunt for and bring her food as she nurses the young. The gestational period in these otters is about 60-64 days, and they can have litters of as many as six pups at a time, although the average appears to be only one or two. They will often mate twice a year. When the pups are born, they are blind and need constant care. They don’t even learn to swim until they are nine weeks old, and they will nurse constantly until they are 10 or 11 weeks old, at which time they will start to eat solid food. The maximum life span for a Short-Clawed Otter in the wild is 10 years.

Short-Clawed Otters are very swift little animals, swimming extremely fast. They are also known to communicate with different vocal sounds - there is recorded evidence of at least 12 different vocalizations that they use with one another.

Further Information on the Short-Clawed Otter:

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Otter. Encarta Encyclopedia, © 2000.
Short-Clawed Otter 2. Accessed on August 13, 2004 at http://www.sch.im/wlp/pages/short-clawed%20otter%202.htm.
TibetNet. Asian (Oriental) Small-Clawed Otter. Accessed on August 13, 2004 at http://www.tibet.net/diir/eng/enviro/species/database/otter/.
Asian Small-Clawed Otter. Accessed on August 13, 2004 at http://www.lpzoo.com/tour/factsheets/mammals/s_c_otter.html.

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