Namiko, Asian Small-clawed Otter

December 1, 2022

Please come by to help us welcome a new addition! Namiko, a 2-year-old Asian small-clawed otter, is currently settling into her new habitat at Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House.

Asian small-clawed otters are the smallest of the 13 otter species, weighing under 10 pounds and measuring up to 2 feet long. Their tails make up 10­–14 inches of their body length!

This otter species is the one that spends the most time on land, although individuals are still well adapted to water. They have webbed feet, but the webbing is incomplete between their toes to provide extra manual dexterity. They have small claws and use their forepaws to locate and capture prey, rather than their mouths.

Small-clawed otters are also very vocal—they use at least 12 different types of calls for making contact, summoning, greeting, conveying threats, and sounding alarms. They have scent glands for marking, which is another important form of communication for them.

Because they rely heavily on wetland habitats across Southeast Asia that are quickly being destroyed by human activity, Asian small-clawed otter populations are declining in the wild even though they have a relatively large range. This decline is being exacerbated by poaching for the pet trade and by “otter cafes,” which are prevalent in Japan and Thailand. The otters are also affected by loss of prey (like crustaceans, mollusks, and fish), which is often a result of water pollution. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes them as Vulnerable.

Namiko is still displaying a bit of shyness as she gets used to a newly redone habitat, which includes a den, a “playground” with dirt and grass, and a pool next door. While otters hunt alone, they are social animals and Namiko will have a companion joining her soon, so stay tuned!

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