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Otter Family Makes a Splash at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Asian Small-Clawed Otter

Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Genus and Species: Aonyx cinerea

These otters are the smallest of the world's 13 otter species.

Home Range:

Indonesia, southern China, southern India, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia


Freshwater streams, rivers, and creeks as well as coastal regions, often near dense foliage


Webbed paws and great manual dexterity allow otters to grab a variety animals living near the water's edge, including crabs, mussels, frogs, and snails.


After a gestation of about 60 days, females give birth to a litter of up to six pups, usually one or two.

Social Structure:

These otters live in family groups of about 12 individuals.


Although these otters are not listed as endangered, they are seriously threatened by rapid habitat destruction, hunting, and pollution. Scientists consider them an indicator species—their population indicates the general health of their habitat and the health of other species in their habitat.

Fun Fact:

Small-clawed otters have a vocabulary of a dozen or more calls, including a distress call for when they're in trouble and need help.

At the Zoo

A family of small-clawed otters live at Asia Trail—a mated pair and two litters of offspring.