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Asian Small-clawed Otter

Common name for the smallest species of all otters. Its name derives from the fact that the claws of its forepaws do not extend above the fleshy end pads of its fingers and toes, giving it an almost human-like proficiency and coordination in the use of its paws. With poor eyesight, they also use their nimble fingers to probe for food in murky waters, using their sense of touch, whilst for hunting, they use their whiskers to detect vibrations made by fish. Asian Small-clawed Otters live in extensive family groups, close to water and can be found in mangrove swamps, as well as freshwater wetlands. They occur from India to the southern regions of the Far East, as well as in much of Southeast Asia, including Thailand. Their diet includes fish, clams, mollusks, shellfish, squid, frogs, crabs and other small aquatic animals, including even ducks. Otters belong to the family of Mustelidae, a group of animals whose members, with the exception of the sea otter, all have well-developed scent glands for sexual signaling, making territories or defence. The Asian Small-clawed Otter is also known as Oriental Small-clawed Otter and has the scientific name Aonyx cinerea (fig.). In Thai, it is called naag lek leb san, which translates as ‘short-clawed otter’. See also Eurasian River Otter.