Chinese Small Clawed Otter (Aonyx Cinerea)

Chinese Small Clawed Otter (Aonyx Cinerea) Downloaded 10-6-09

Location and Natural Habitat

The chinese small clawed otter inhabits freshwater bodies of water ranging from southeast Asia through the Philippines. Current habitat locations include southeastern China, southern India, Indonesia, the Philippines and even England. The otters usually live within inland streams, rivers, swamps, and rice patties but often wander about on land. Thus the captive otters in England were able to establish themselves in the wild during the 1990s.
Habitat in Southern Asia Downloaded 10-14-09


The chinese small clawed otter is the smallest otter in the world, averaging in length at 80 centimeters long and weighing 3.5 kilograms. The animal is colored dark brown on top and a lighter cream throat and chest, making it more adept at hunting marine animals which it catches and eats with its partially webbed front paws. Small clawed otters areequipped with broad teeth that help it crush and chew crabs and mussels. They are known for foraging tight areas such as under rocks for such prey, using its slim fingers with little claw. Supplements to the animal's diet include fish, snails, insects, and the occasional rodent, snake, or amphibian.
The otter is highly adaptive to different environments and climates, expanding its natural made habitat of swamps and rivers to man made rice patties. Although they prefer the tropic climate of southern asia, the otter can adapt to the cooler temperatures of sub mountain streams. The amphibious qualities of the otter allow it to spend equal time on land and in the water. The small clawed otters make their dens on the riverbank and sleep, eat and live near bodies of water.
Small clawed otters are extremely social animals, living in large groups of up to fifteen organisms. Pairs of otters mate for life, successfully breeding as early as the age of two years old. Small clawed otters often produce large litters of up to seven pups twice a year.
Chinese small clawed otters are diurnal, often being awake during the day and the night. They sometimes hunt at night to avoid disturbance by humans, their main predator.

Population Expansion

Although the small clawed otter is marked as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resource(IUCN), it is still highly adaptable to changing conditions in the modern world. The otter is highly adaptable to changes in climate, as demonstrated by its migration into mountain streams and through England. Although humans hunt otter for their pelts, otters are otherwise relatively undisturbed by direct human contact or influence. The chinese small clawed otter has even developed ways to benefit from human contact by living in rice patties. There, the otter has consistent access to a diet of crabs, snail, fish, and insects. These same animals provide a diet for the giant chinese salamander, but the salamander is limited to flowing freshwater streams and rivers. Otters also reproduce more consistently than salamanders and do not eat their young, further increasing the mammal's chance of survival. Despite the fact that salamander and otters consume the same animals and are each hunted by humans, otters are infinitely more adaptable and therefore extremely capable of expanding into the salamander's niche.

Species in Competition

Unfortunately, both the population numbers of giant chinese salamanders and chinese small clawed otters are decreasing. There are no current statistics on the global small clawed otter population, but the population is listed as declining by the IUCN. Comparatively, the giant chinese salamanders has a predicted population decline of eighty percent since the 1980s. The recent decline of salamanders and its listing on the endangered species list make it much greater jeopardy than the otters. The competitive chinese small clawed otter species is also popular in zoos because of its ease in breeding, giving it a huge advantage over the less popular but more endangered chinese giant salamander. Once the salamanders lost the majority of their producing population, it would take the otters only a few years to overtake the reptile's previous habitat and niche.
Small Clawed Otters Adapt to Human Environment Downloaded 10-15-09

Works Cited

Chinese Giant Salamander. (n.d.). Saint Louis Zoo. Retrieved October 14, 2009,

Hussain, S.A. & de Silva, P.K. 2008. Aonyx cinerea. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1. <>. Downloaded on 14 October 2009

Kurk, H. (2006). Otters: ecology, behaviour and conservation. New York: Oxford
University Press.