Oriental small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea)


Opposite our Siamang gibbons, round the corner from Tropical World.

Fast facts

Status Vulnerable

Size Head to body: 45-61cm. Tail length: 25-35cm.

Weight 1-5kg

Gestation 1 ½- 2 months

Young 1-6

Life span 8-10 years in the wild, up to 20 years in captivity

What do I eat?

Oriental small-clawed otters will eat smaller animals, including crabs and molluscs (such as snails), fish, small mammals (such as mice), snakes, insects and frogs.

They use their paws to dig around in mud or move stones to find their prey. They are even known to leave crabs and snails out in the sun, as the heat will cause the shell (or exoskeleton) to open up slightly, making it easier for the otters to eat them!

Where do I live?

These otters are found in many areas from east to south Asia. They can be found in areas of north-western and south-western India, southern China, the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, Borneo as well as areas in the Philippines and Indonesia.

Oriental small-clawed otters prefer to live in wetland areas that have places for them to find food, muddy banks for them to dig out burrows and also have sources of freshwater. These areas include lakes, streams, reservoirs, canals, peat swamp forests, rice fields, mangroves and even along the coast.


Once these animals find their perfect mate, then they will stay together for life (monogamous), and can stay in loose family groups of up to 12 otters!

The female will build a nest out of grasses in a burrow before she gives birth to 1-6 young (usually 1 or 2). Young otters are born with their eyes closed and will not open them until around 5-6 weeks old. They will start to explore away from the nest site with their parents and start to swim from about 9-12 weeks old. These young otters are mature and able to breed from 2-3 years old.


Natural predators of the Oriental small-clawed otter are not well known, however snakes and crocodiles may be a threat to them.

Oriental small-clawed otters are strong and agile swimmers, and they may use this to their advantage to get away from other animals that may harm them.


Loss of habitat is a big problem for these animals. Areas they were once found in are being destroyed by deforestation, more land wanted for farming (i.e. for tea and coffee plantations) and for more human settlements. Pollution is another problem for these animals, as it not only affects them but also the animals that the otters hunt, and without their source of food they cannot survive. Otters have also been hunted for their fur, traditional medicines and are also seen as a pest as they are often seen in rice paddy fields.

To protect the Oriental small-clawed otter, they can be found in some national parks across their range, and they are also linked with many captive breeding programs in different zoos around the world.

Did you know?

The Oriental small-clawed otter is also known as the Asian short-clawed otter.

The teeth of the Oriental small-clawed otter are very strong; they will use their large broad back teeth to help crush the shells of their prey (such as crabs and snails).

The Oriental small-clawed otter is one of the smallest of the otter family.

These otters will make lots of different noises to communicate with their family; sometimes around 12 different sounds can be heard!


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Absolutely brilliant day for my 11 year old son worth every penny! He said it was the best day of his life ! It was truly an amazing experience for us both and he can't wait to go back and do it all again. Katie our zoo keeper was the best… Read full reviewSarah, 8th October 2017