This one is rare, folks!

The Hairy-nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana) is one of the least-studied species of otter, because it is so rare that it was believed to be extinct until small populations were discovered in 1998. It closely resembles the European or Common Otter, but can be distinguished by the hairs present on the moist part of the nose (the rhinarium). It exists in isolated populations in southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia. Historical records put them in Myanmar and Brunei.

Adult Hairy-nosed Otters are dark brown in color, which is nearly uniform all over their bodies except for their lips, chin and necks. They have webbed feet with prominent claws, adaptations that allow them to live well both on land and in the water. The hairs on its nose, as well as its whiskers, allow it to detect prey underwater. They prefer to live in wetlands, swamp forests and coastal mangroves. They can grow up to 32 inches (82 cm) in body length and weigh up to 13 pounds (5.9 kg).


The diet of Hairy-nosed Otters depends on its range, but typically consists of fish and water snakes. It will lunge quickly at any prey animal it spots and herd them toward the roots of the trees in its habitat, effectively netting them and making them easier to catch. They will also eat lizards, small mammals, insects, amphibians and crustaceans. It has few natural predators in water, but may be hunted by feral dogs or eagles on land.

Little is known about the specific reproduction of Hairy-nosed Otters, given their scarcity, but it is thought to be more solitary than other otter species of similar size and range. Family groups have rarely been observed to consist of more than six individuals, which means that the groups are likely the year’s pups and their parents. Pups are usually born from December to February, with the females giving birth after a two-month gestation period.


Hairy-nosed Otters communicate with each other through scent marking with scent glands, urine and feces. These markings are placed to inform other otters of foraging territories, and family groups will chirp and chatter to each other. Because of its rarity, the Hairy-nosed Otter is considered to be an endangered species by the IUCN. They are most under threat from the illegal wildlife trade, and their position in Vietnam is especially precarious due to poaching. It is protected in law but rarely in practice, which makes conservation difficult to achieve.

Source for all images used in this post.