Threats to the Asian Small-Clawed Otter

This is from IUCN (1990), Harris (1968) and UN Environmental Program, World Conservation Monitoring Centre.


These otters' skins are small, but very durable, and the animals are hunted and trapped, especially for making footwear. This is for local use - they are not internationally (and illegally) traded.

Habitat Destruction

The spread of population, and industrialization of the Far East has made a major impact on the Asian Small-Clawed Otter's habitat. Conversion of primary forest for logging, agriculture and settlement directly destroys habitat and necessary cover, but also leads to soil washing into rivers, silting up watercourses, and reducing prey biomass both by killing gill-feeders and burial. Large scale road construction has led to a rise in otter road kill. Widespread dyke and dam construction, wetland drainage and canalization of rivers to control flash-flooding and for hydroelectricity has had a large effect - small watercourses dry up, and dens and bankside vegetation is destroyed during construction, being replaced with steep, high-sided, often concrete banks which otters cannot climb, and certainly cannot build holts in. In Sumatra particularly there is a lot of gravel extraction from river beds which again leads to silting of water, and obviously renders the watercourse uninhabitable for the otters. All this habitat destruction is leading to fragmentation of populations.

Water Pollution

Huge quantities of PCBs are being released into the environment, as a result of industrial expansion. Increase in population has resulted in widespread use of organochlorine pesticides. Invertebrates are being killed directly, reducing prey biomass. Otters are being poisoned directly by ingestion of pollutants during drinking, and indirectly via biomagnification of pesticide levels up the food chain.


Otters are directly persecuted as competitors in the vast prawn and crab farming industry, and also, mistakenly, as fish killers. They also drown in fish traps.

Indigenous Use

As well as killing for fur and as competition, in some areas, the organs of otters are believed to have medicinal uses, and the animals are hunted for them, particularly in China, Burma and Nepal. They are also hunted for meat in Nepal, and collected as pets in the Phillippines (Palawan Islands).


Like other otters, this species is susceptible to feline enteritis and canine distemper, and can also catch jaundice and hepatitis from humans. As people spread into areas where the otters live, bringing their domestic animals with them, and often not observing even basic hygiene, the risk of disease to Small-Claws increases.

Other Threats

Although they eat crabs that burrow through the dykes controlling flooding of rice paddies, and crayfish that eat rice seedlings, they are persecuted by farmers for uprooting rice seedlings whilst foraging.

Asian Small-Clawed Otter