Smooth-coated Otter


Conservation status:  VULNERABLE
Common name: Smooth-coated otter
Scientific name: Lutrogale perspicillata
Type: mammal
Diet: fish, frogs, insects
Length: 59 – 64 cm in head-body, 37 – 43 cm tail
Weight: 7-11 Kg

The smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) is a species of otter, the only extant representative of the genus Lutrogale. The species is found in most of the Indian subcontinent and eastwards to Southeast Asia, with a disjunct population in Iraq.  As its name indicates, the fur of this species is smoother and shorter than that of other otter species.

Smooth-coated otters are relatively large for otters, from 7 to 11 kg (15 to 24 lb) in weight and 59 to 64 cm (23 to 25 in) in head-body length, with a tail 37 to 43 cm (15 to 17 in) long. They may be distinguished from other species of otters 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. The legs are short and strong, with large webbed feet bearing strong claws. As their name suggests, they have unusually short and sleek fur; this is dark to reddish brown along the back, while the underside is light brown to almost grey in color.

The smooth-coated otter has been recorded in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, southwest China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesian islands of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Brunei. An isolated population is also found in the marshes of Iraq.

It occurs in areas where fresh water is plentiful — wetlands and seasonal swamps, rivers, lakes, and rice paddies. Where only otter species occurs, the smooth-coated otter lives in almost any suitable habitat, but where it is sympatric with other otter species, it avoids smaller streams and canals in favor of larger water bodies. Although it is often found in saltwater near the coast, especially on smaller islands, it requires a nearby source of fresh water.


  1. de Silva, P.; Khan, W.A.; Kanchanasaka, B.; Reza Lubis, I.; Feeroz, M.M. & Al-Sheikhly, O.F. (2015). “Lutrogale perspicillata“. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN.
  2. Hwang, Y. T. & Larivière, S. (2005). “Lutrogale perspicillata
  3. Kruuk, H.; Kanchanasaka, B.; O’Sullivan, S.; Wanghongsa, S. (1994). “Niche separation in three sympatric otters Lutra perspicillataL. lutra and Aonyx cinerea in Huai Kha Khaeng, Thailand”. Biological Conservation.
  4. Anoop, K. R. & Hussain, S. A. (2005). “Food and feeding habits of smooth-coated otters (Lutra perspicillata) and their significance to the fish population of Kerala, India”. Journal of Zoology.
  5. Photo from The Straits Times, Smooth-coated otters are famous in Singapore, with distinct groups forming such as the ‘Bishan family’. PHOTO: BERNARD PHOTOJOURNALS

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