At SeaQuest Las Vegas, they have an asian otter interaction where people get to feed Asain small-clawed otters named Chip and Dale through a feeding tube! They are native to South and Southeast Asia, and are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. Since 1983, a Species Survival Plan has been in place thanks to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Asian small-clawed otter diets vary seasonally, and at the aquarium they also vary their diets! When I was there, it was time for them to receive fish. In the wild, they can eat fish, crabs, snakes, frogs, insects, and rats. Otters are smart and will leave shellfish in the sun so the sun will open the shells for them.
Small-clawed otters are the smallest otter species in Asia, being less than 2 feet long head to body and only adding another foot of length with their tails. Adults weigh between 6-8 pounds. They can be found in freshwater wetlands, such as ponds, rivers, swamps, rice fields and other irrigation systems, as well as in tidal pools, lagoons, and mangroves. A wild population can also now be found in England, where captive otters were released in the 1980s. Male smooth-coated otters have mated with female small-clawed otters, resulting in about 60 hybrid otters in Singapore.
Asian small-clawed otters are social creatures that live in groups of up to 15 otters. They have about a dozen vocalizations, including whimpers and yelps. They’ll call for help if they are in danger. They can swim at speeds of 2-4 feet per second, undulating their bodies and tails underwater and using their limbs to row and paddle while on the surface.
Otters face several threats leading to their vulnerability. Small-clawed otters are the most sought after illegal pet in Asia, with over 700 being sold illegally online between 2016-2017. They’re also poached for their fur. Loss of habitat and water pollution by pesticides are also major threats for them.
Interacting with animals via organizations that focus on conservation and research is a great way to get people to care about something they might not otherwise know.