Lutrogale perspicillata (*)
Lutrogale perspicillata (I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1826)
Type locality: "Sumatra" [Indonesia].
* Geoffroy St.-Hilaire, I. 1826. In Bory de Saint-Vincent Loutre. Dictionnaire classique d’Histoire Naturelle 9:515–520.
Distribution and habitat
Smooth-coated otters occur throughout much of southern Asia, in the Indomalaya ecozone, from India eastward. There is also an isolated population of the species found in the marshes of Iraq. Smooth-coated otters are found in areas where water is plentiful — peat swamp forests, freshwater wetlands, large forested rivers, lakes, and rice paddies. Smooth-coated otters have adapted to life in an aqueous biome, but are nonetheless comfortable on land, and may travel long distances overland in search of suitable habitat. Their holts are within shallow burrows, rock heaps or driftwood piles. Some may construct permanent holts near water, in a layout similar to the of a beaver dam, with an underwater entrance and a tunnel that leads to a nest above the water.
The Smooth-coated Otter is listed as a vulnerable species. The range and population of smooth-coated otters are shrinking due to loss of wetland habitat and contamination of waterways by pesticides. Most range countries are not able to control the clandestine trade leading to extensive poaching. Smooth-coated otters are protected in India under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and are listed as endangered.
Smooth-coated otters are the largest otters in southeast Asia, from 7–11 kg (15.4-24.2 lbs) in weight and 1-1.3 m (3.3-4.1 ft) in length as adults, including a 45 cm (18 in) tail. Smooth-coated otters may be distinguished from other species of otter by a more rounded head and a hairless nose in the shape of a distorted diamond. The tail is flattened, in contrast to the more rounded tails of other species, and may be up to 60 percent of the total body length. Like other otters, smooth-coated otters have webbed toes and strong paws with sharp claws.
The coat of smooth-coated otters is shorter and smoother than that of other otters species. The fur is light to dark brown along the back, while the underside is light brown to almost gray in color.
Smooth-coated otters, like many carnivorous mammals, use scent to communicate both within the otter species, and with other animals. Each otter possesses a pair of scent glands at the base of the tail which are uses to mark land or objects, such as rocks or vegetation, near feeding areas in a behavior called sprainting.
Smooth-coated otters eat insects, earthworms, crustaceans, frogs, rodents, birds, but prefer fish and reptiles. Fish comprise between 75 to 100% of the otter's diet. Smooth-coated otters frequently hunt in groups, herding schools of fish together for easier feeding. A group of otters can have a feeding range of 7 to 12 square kilometers. A single adult consumes about 1 kg of food per day in captivity.
Smooth-coated otters form strong monogamous pairs. The specific mating times of the smooth-coated otter are unknown, but when otters are dependent on monsoons for precipitation, breeding occurs between August and December. Once mating has occurred, the gestation period is 61–65 days. Smooth-coated otters give birth to and raise their young in a burrow near water, which they may construct themselves or may assume an abandoned one. Two to five cubs are produced per litter. At birth, the cubs are blind and helpless, but after thirty days their eyes open, and after sixty days, the cubs can swim. They are weaned at about 130 days, and leave their parents at about 1 year of age. Sexual maturity is reached at two years of age.
Depiction in recent popular media
The Smooth-coated Otter was featured on the BBC documentary, Planet Earth, in the episode entitled "Fresh Water" (aired in the UK on March 19, 2006 and in the US on April 15, 2007). In this episode, it is shown openly pestering an adult crocodile.
Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell describes how the author brought a smooth-coated otter from Iraq to Scotland.
^ a b c Hussain, S.A., de Silva, P.K. & Mostafa Feeroz, M. (2008). Lutrogale perspicillata. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 02 January 2009.
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License