10 facts you might not know about the adorable otter

You already know that otters are adorable. But here are 10 facts you might not know about this amazing animal…

1. Otters come in all shapes and sizes

There are 13 types of otter in the world, of all different shapes and sizes. Members of the otter family include the South American giant otter — which can reach up to 1.7m in length; the Asian small-clawed otter — the smallest of the otter family; and the sea otter, the heaviest, weighing in at up to 45kg.

2. Otters are part of a much bigger family

The otter is part of the weasel family which includes other carnivorous animals like the weasel, stoat, badger, mink and ferret. But the otter is the only one of this family who’s taken to the water.

3. Otters can be found all over the world — except two places

Otters have been highly successful in making their habitats in oceans, lakes, rivers and wetlands around the world. They can be found from North to South America, Africa to Asia, and all across Europe. However, otters have never set up shop in Australia or Antarctica.

Help otters and join the fight against the illegal wildlife trade:
Download the Wildlife Witness app

4. Otters are very active carnivores

Otters have teeth perfectly adapted for crushing their favourite food — fish, shellfish and crabs! While crabs form as much as 80 per cent of the otter’s diet, they will also eat other water creatures such as fish and snails as well as small land animals such as lizards, frogs and mice. Otters will use their sensitive paws, claws and stiff whiskers to forage for food. They need to eat often and will hunt throughout the day — up to five hours!

5. Otters have a huge appetite

Because most otters live in and around cold water, they have to have to keep warm — and the best way they do that is by keeping their metabolism up. This means eating lots of food! The sea otter has to eat around 20 per cent of its body weight everyday and the European otter around 15 per cent. That’s a lot of fish.

6. Otters make great use of tools

If one of your favourite foods includes shellfish, you’re going to need something to break them open. When sea otters dive to the bottom of the ocean to find their food, they also bring up small rocks to smash the shellfish open. Dinner is served.

7. Otters are incredibly social

Otters are well known for their playfulness and sense of curiosity. Playing together helps keep family bonds strong and teaches the pups important skills such as how to find food. Otters have many sounds to communicate with, including different sounds for greeting, playing, courting and even a special call for raising the alarm! The otter’s great sense of smell also allows them to communicate using scent marks.

Help otters and join the fight against the illegal wildlife trade:
Download the Wildlife Witness app

8. Otters have the thickest fur coat in the world

The Sea Otter lives in the cold coastal waters of the Pacific and spends most of its time out in the water. The Sea Otter has no blubber so keeps the cold at bay with the thickets fur in the world — around 150,000 hairs per square centimetre!

9. Otters have a long history with humans

Perhaps because of their playful nature, otters have become part of myths and stories from cultures from all around the world. On a more practical level, small-clawed otters are traditionally trained in parts of India, China and South-east Asia to help fishermen: catching fish and returning them to the boat in exchange for a reward. Unfortunately, the relationship between otters and humans has not always been so mutual — otters have been hunted for their fur for hundreds of years.

10. Otters are in danger

Sadly, 12 out of 13 of the Otter species worldwide are under threat or endangered. Their numbers are declining due to reasons including hunting otters for the illegal fur trade, habitat destruction and reduction in available prey. They are also affected by pollution of waterways, including pesticide run-off from farmland. Water pollution and overfishing reduce the availability of prey species, such as crabs, that the otters eat.

Taronga Conservation Society Australia partnered with TRAFFIC to create the Wildlife Witness app.

Download it today and help otters in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.

Taronga Conservation Society Australia (Taronga) is a not-for-profit conservation organisation that leads in wildlife conservation, science and research; animal welfare and rehabilitation; and environmental education. Taronga operates the award-winning Taronga Zoo in Sydney and Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

Taronga’s vision is to secure a shared future for wildlife and people.

Find out more at taronga.org.au.

For the Wild

Stories on wildlife conservation, animal welfare, and environmental education from Taronga Conservation Society Australia. www.taronga.org.au

Taronga Conservation Society Australia

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Taronga Conservation Society Australia is a not-for-profit organisation that leads in wildlife conservation, science and research and animal welfare.

For the Wild

Stories on wildlife conservation, animal welfare, and environmental education from Taronga Conservation Society Australia. www.taronga.org.au