Otters are animals you never knew you needed to know about

Otters are members of the Mustelid family of animals which also includes badgers, martens and weasels. They are riparian mammals that are well suited to a semi-aquatic way of life.

Otters are the apex predator in their ecosystem and feed primarily on fish and crustaceans. Their diet varies seasonally and occasionally they indulge on small birds and mammals, water snakes and amphibians.

Their bodies are elongated, with muscular tails that help them swim. They have webbed feet, the degree of webbing vary with each species. They also have a thick coat with high hair/sq. inch of skin ratio that keeps them well insulated. Their sensitive whiskers detect movement of prey in water and thus help them hunt even in murky or deep waters. Otters are also equipped with sharp canines that help them bite into their prey.

Otters are distributed across the globe except Antarctica, Australia and some oceanic islands. Very little is known about most otter species in the wild and this demands more research work to be carried out to support their conservation. Nine out of thirteen otter species are now threatened to extinction as per the IUCN Red List.


# Scientific name Common name Distribution IUCN Red List Status
1 Aonyx cinerea Asian Small-clawed Otter Asia Vulnerable
2 Lutrogale perspicillata Smooth-coated otter Asia Vulnerable
3 Lutra sumatrana Hairy-nosed otter Asia Endangered
4 Lutra lutra Eurasian otter Asia, Europe, Africa Near Threatened
5 Enhydra lutris Sea otter Asia, North America Endangered
6 Aonyx capensis Cape clawless otter Africa Least Concern
7 Aonyx congicus Congo clawless otter Africa Least Concern
8 Lutra maculicollis Spotted-necked otter Africa Least Concern
9 Lontra canadensis North American Otter North America Least Concern
10 Lontra felina Marine otter South America Endangered
11 Lutra longicaudis Neotropical otter South America Near Threatened
12 Lutra provocax Southern river otter South America Endangered
13 Pteronura brasiliensis Giant Otter South America Endangered


  • Being an indicators of the health of a freshwater ecosystem otters serve an important ecological role
  • As otters tend to feed on slow moving diseased fish, presence of otters prevents fish diseases from spreading
  • Increasing levels of pollution in water bodies, poaching and habitat loss have made most otter species threatened to extinctions
  • Timely conservation actions are needed to ensure their survival


Different otter species vary in size. Asian Small-clawed Otter being the smallest and Giant Otter being the largest. Below is the generic otter-human size comparison. Human - otter size