Conservation Status of the Smooth-Coated Otter

For most of the 20th Century, the general feeling was that these animals were plentiful, if less common than the Asian Small-Clawed Otter, but there had been no surveys, and numbers were really unknown.

1997 - CITES Listing

In 1997, this species was placed on CITES Appendix II, along with all other species of otter since at best they are considered Vulnerable. The IUCN rates it as 'Vulnerable' - facing a high risk of extinction in the wild, following a 50% reduction in population over the last ten years, as a result of a loss of habitat and direct exploitation. It is covered by EC Reg 338/97 B since 2000, but has no special status according to the US ESA.


This species is technically protected in much of its range. In India, it is covered by Schedule II Part II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. In Myanmar, it is covered by the Protection of Wildlife, Wild Plants and Conservation of Natural Areas Act 15(A), although limited hunting and collection is allowed under licence. In Myanmar, they are explicitly protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1992. Many observers think that Smooth Otters are the most common of the otters across most of their range. This may because they are bigger than the Small-Clawed Otter and hence more noticeable. They are certainly more abundant than the Eurasian and Hairy-Nosed Otters, with which they are sympatric. There are many national parks covering the Smooth Otter's range, especially in Indonesia, which otherwise does not extend any protection to any species of otter at all. Unfortunately, enforcement of the laws that are supposed to protect these animals is, in many places, weak or non-existent.

The Future

There are a number of initiatives to survey otter numbers over the Smooth Otter's range. In Nepal, the IOSF funded a project in 2002 to survey the status, distribution, ecology and behaviour of Smooth Otters in Bardia National Park to help develop a management programme. In some areas, such as Sungai Buloh National Park in Singapore, the otters are seen as stars of the park and the public are encouraged to find them attractive, in the hope that they will then understand why habitat should be preserved.

Encouragingly, the subspecies discovered by Gavin Maxwell (Lutrogale perspicillata maxwellii), long thought extinct due to the extensive drainage and pollution of the Iraqi marshes where they lived by the Saddam Hussain administration attempting to exterminate the Marsh Arabs, has reappeared! The marshes are being restored, and the otters have come back from somewhere, presumably a tiny refuge somewhere!

Al-Sheikhly, O.F. and Nader, I.A. (2013). The Status of Iraq Smooth-Coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli Hayman 1956 and Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra Linnaeus 1758 in Iraq IUCN Otter Spec. Group Bull. 30 (1): 18 - 30
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Smooth-Coated Otter