/ ©: Mohd Shahnawaz Khan

Smooth-coated otter

Key Facts

  • Common Name

    Smooth-coated otter

  • Scientific name

    Lutrogale perspicillata

  • Geographic Habitat

    Smooth-coated Otter is distributed throughout the country from the Himalayas and to southwards in India

  • Length

    1.3 meter

  • Weight

    7-11 Kg.

  • Status


Scientific Name
India is home to three of the thirteen species of otters found worldwide:
  • Common Otter- Lutra lutra
  • Smooth-coated Otter- Lutrogale perspicillata
  • Small-clawed Otter- Aonyx cinereus
Conservation status
They have been accorded legal protection under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, while the IUCN Red List of threatened animals designates the status of Common Otter as Near Threatened and that of Smooth-coated Otter and the Small-clawed Otter as Vulnerable.

Habitat and Distribution
While the Smooth-coated Otter is distributed throughout the country from the Himalayas and to southwards, the Common Otter and the Small-clawed Otter are restricted to the Himalayas, to the north of the Ganges and to southern India. Their sympatric occurrence has been reported from northeast India and the Western Ghats only. With their shy and elusive habits, otters are extremely versatile, adapting to a variety of habitats, ranging from marine to freshwater environments.

Population status 
Breeding populations of otters have been recorded from Corbett and Dudhwa Tiger Reserves and Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in the north, Kaziranga National Park in the northeast, Sunderbans, Bhitarkanika and Coringa in the eastern coast; and Periyar Tiger Reserve and the Nagarhole National Park in the south. Remnant otter populations are reported from outside Protected Areas which are vulnerable to human perturbation.

Key Contact:

Dr. Asghar Nawab,
Senior Project Officer- Freshwater & Wetlands Programme,

Tel: +91 11 41504813
e-mail: anawab@wwfindia.net

Why are their numbers declining?

Illegal trade in otter pelts is common in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and China. Otters are mercilessly killed for their fur, which is dense and very durable, so much so that furriers consider it the ‘diamond’ of the fur business. In Tibet, otter skins are used to adorn the traditional costume ‘Chuba’ and headgears are decorated with trophies worn during festivals and sports. Other body parts are believed to possess therapeutic properties and in some places in India otter blood is used as a cure for epilepsy. Nomadic hunting tribes such as Gilhara, Badiya and Jogis are known to regularly kill otters for their skin and flesh. Pollution from many sources, including agricultural run-off and heavy metal concentration results in reduction in prey biomass (fish stocks). Infrastructural developments have led to disappearance of otters from the many streams and rivers which were once major otter habitats.  

Why they are so important for us?

They are the principal predators of the aquatic environments and suitable indicators of the health of a wetland ecosystem as they are sensitive to degradation along the food chain. Serving as effective symbol of environmental quality otters are endorsed as ‘Wetland Ambassadors’ to promote the conservation of freshwater biomes.  
 / ©: Anoop K.R.
Otters in Periyar Tiger Reserve
© Anoop K.R.

What is WWF-India doing to save the otters?

  • Documenting past, present, and potential future distribution of otters. This is vital for understanding their population dynamics, and to plan species-oriented conservation programme.
  • To reinforce a sympathetic attitude towards the plight faced by otters.
  • Stimulating more research and conservation effort for these species.

What you can do to save the otters?

We look forward to your support and generous donations for building a positive future for the Otters!