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Inhabiting five of the continents of the world, Otters are truly amazing mammals. Otters are unique in many ways. For instance, Otters are the only marine mammals to have fur instead of blubber. There are thirteen species of otters alive today. There used to be fourteen, but the fourteenth otter, Maxwell's otter, is presumed extinct due to draining of their waters to perform genocide in Iraq. Otters are very smart; they are one of only a handful of tool using mammals. Sea Otters use rocks to pry abalone off rocks and to break open shells.

Where to find Otters

Otters are very animals , chasing prey in the water or searching the beds of rivers, lakes or the seas. Most species live beside water, entering it mainly to hunt or travel, otherwise spending much of their time on land to avoid their fur becoming waterlogged. The sea otter does live in the sea for most of its life.

About Otters in Ugandan

Only three species of these aquatic predators occur in sub Saharan Africa and there ranges overlap in western Uganda where all 3 have been recorded in certain areas such as Lake Mburo National Park. The cape clawless otter and the DRC clawless otter are the largest African otters and are associated with most wetlands habitats , they are most active between dusk and dawn and are hence less likely to be observed than the smaller darker spotted necked otter a diurnal species that is unusually common and visible on Lake Bunyonyi in Kigezi.

How to Identify Otters

Otters have long, slim bodies and relatively short limbs, with webbed paws. Most have sharp claws on their feet, and all except the sea otter have long muscular tails.
They have a very soft, insulated under fur which is protected by their outer layer of long guard hair. This traps a layer of air, and keeps them dry and warm under water.

What Otters Eat

Many otters live in cold waters and have very high metabolic rates to help keep them warm. Eurasian otters must eat 15% of their body-weight a day, and sea otters 20 to 25%, depending on the temperature. In water as warm as 10°C (50°F) an otter needs to catch 100 grams (3 oz) of fish per hour to survive. Most species hunt for 3 to 5 hours a day and nursing mothers up to 8 hours a day.

For most otters, fish is the primary staple of their diet. This is often supplemented by frogs, crayfish and crabs. Some otters are expert at opening shellfish, and others will feed on available small mammals or birds. Prey-dependence leaves otters very vulnerable to prey depletion.


Otters are playful animals and appear to engage in various behaviours for sheer enjoyment. Different species vary in their social structure, with some being largely solitary, while others live in groups – in a few species these groups may be fairly large.

Scientific Naming


Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)
Northern river otter (Lontra canadensis)
Marine otter (Lontra felina)
Southern river otter (Lontra provocax)
Neotropical river otter (Lontra longicaudis)
Sea otter (Enhydra lutris)
Spotted-necked otter (Hydrictis maculicollis)
Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra)
Hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana)
African clawless otter (Aonyx capensis)
Oriental small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea)
Smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)

Genus Lutra

* Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra)
* Hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana)

Genus Hydrictis

* Spotted-necked otter (Hydrictis maculicollis)

Genus Lutrogale

* Smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)

Genus Lontra

* Northern river otter (Lontra canadensis)
* Southern river otter (Lontra provocax)
* Neotropical river otter (Lontra longicaudis)
* Marine otter (Lontra felina)

Genus Pteronura

* Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)

Genus Aonyx

* African clawless otter (Aonyx capensis)
* Oriental small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea)

Genus Enhydra

* Sea otter (Enhydra lutris)

Northern river otters

The northern river otter (Lontra canadensis) became one of the major animals hunted and trapped for fur in North America after European contact. River otters eat a variety of fish and shellfish, as well as small land mammals and birds. They grow to one metre (3 to 4 ft) in length and weigh from five to fifteen kilograms (10 to 30 lb).

Sea otter

Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) live along the Pacific coast of North America. Their historic range included shallow waters of the Bering Strait and Kamchatka, and as far south as Japan. Sea otters have about 26,000 to 165,000 strands of hair per square centimetre of skin, a rich fur for which humans hunted them almost to extinction. By the time the 1911 Fur Seal Treaty gave them protection, so few sea otters remained that the fur trade had become unprofitable. Sea otters eat shellfish and other invertebrates (especially clams, abalone, and sea urchins),frequently using rocks as crude tools to smash open shells. They grow to 1.0 to 1.5 metres (2.5 to 5 ft) in length and weigh 30 kilograms (65 lb). Although once near extinction, they have begun to spread again, from remnant populations in California and Alaska.
Unlike most marine mammals (such as seals or whales), sea otters do not have a layer of insulating blubber. As with other species of otter, they rely on a layer of air trapped in their fur, which they keep topped up by blowing into the fur from their mouths. They spend most of their time in the water, whereas other otters spend much of their time on land.

Eurasian otter

This species (Lutra lutra) inhabits Europe, and its range also extends across most of Asia and parts of North Africa. In the British Isles they occurred commonly as recently as the 1950s, but became rare in many areas due to the use of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides and as a result of habitat-loss and water pollution (they remained relatively common in parts of Scotland and Ireland). Population levels attained a low point in the 1980s, but are now recovering strongly. The UK Biodiversity Action Plan envisages the re-establishment of otters by 2010 in all the UK rivers and coastal areas that they inhabited in 1960. Roadkill deaths have become one of the significant threats to the success of their re-establishment.

Giant otter

The giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) inhabits South America, especially the Amazon river basin, but is becoming increasingly rare due to poaching, habitat loss, and the use of mercury and other toxins in illegal alluvial gold mining. This gregarious animal grows to a length of up to 1.8 metres (6 ft), and is more aquatic than most other otters.

Did you know...

Otters live on every continent except Antartica and Australia

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