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Hairy-Nosed Otter: Habitat, Breeding & Population

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

Out of the 13 major otter species, the least is known about the hairy-nosed otter. In this lesson, you'll look at what is known about this otter's habitat, breeding and population.

The Lone Otter

The last time you went to a zoo or wildlife park, were there any otters? River otters are a common exhibit to have. When you see them, how many are there? Usually at least two, right? Otters are social creatures, and typically there are at least two in an exhibit. However, this is not true for Pursat, the only hairy-nosed otter in captivity.

Pursat lives in the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He was brought there by fishermen as a baby and has grown up in captivity because there is no good place for him to be released into the wild. Hairy-nosed otters are extremely rare, and very little is known about them. In fact, we know the least about them of any otter species. Their scientific name is Lutra sumatrana.

Much about the lives of hairy-nosed otters is a mystery to scientists
Hairy-nosed otter

Habitat

The hairy-nosed otter lives in several small areas spread throughout Southeast Asia. This includes Sumatra (an island in Indonesia), which is where the sumatrana portion of its scientific name comes from. It has also been seen in Malaysia, Vietnam, and, of course, Pursat's home of Cambodia.

Hairy-nosed otters live in very wet areas, such as flooded forests, mangroves, and reed meadows. Reed meadows are a watery type of meadow filled with tall reeds. These otters also live in peat swamps. Peat is a wet ground covering made of decaying plants. In addition, there are hairy-nosed otter populations along the coast. What all these areas have in common is that they are waterlogged, or at least near water, either salt or freshwater.

Hairy-nosed otters are spread throughout much of Southeast Asia
Hairy-nosed otter range

Breeding

Given how rare the species is, and the fact that there is only one in captivity, it is not surprising how little we know about hairy-nosed otter breeding habits. After all, there can't be any breeding programs in captivity with only Pursat, and they are hard to find and observe in the wild.

Some observations have been made though, from scientists in the field and from movement-triggered cameras placed in otter habitats. Based on information from these, scientists think the otters breed sometime between November and March. Their gestation period, or the amount of time the baby is carried by the mother before being born, is about two months. That's similar to other otter species.

In addition, scientists think the otters live in small family groups, based on the pictures they've taken. These groups are made up of the parents and baby. This information is based on a single group that was photographed, which had only one baby.

Population

The exact total population of hairy-nosed otters is unknown. In fact, in 1998 they were thought to be entirely extinct. However, just two years later, new baby otters were seen in the wild, which confirmed that they were, in fact, still around.

They are still rare. They are listed as endangered, and protected from hunting and trading by endangered species acts in several different countries. Of course, poachers, illegal hunters, are still an issue.

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