Earlier this year, our monitoring team at Juq Kehje Swen Island in East Kalimantan, participated in the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) 2021, and conducted observations on rare bird species. During observations, team member Erik spotted some rare, Asian small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinereus), known locally as sero ambrang. He found a group of three sero ambrang whilst conducting observations on Kangkung Island, a small island about the size of a football field near Juq Kehje Swen.
Erik spotted the otters when he was bird-watching one morning. Our PRM team at Juq Kehje Swen was very happy to learn of his discovery since this was the first time otters were recorded in the area.
Small-clawed otters are the smallest of all otters, varying in length from 65 to 94 cm. They have a dark brown or pale brown coat with white coloration on the neck and stomach. They are usually found near riverbanks around dawn and dusk, when they are busy using their claws to forage for small fish, crabs, shrimp, and molluscs.
Small-clawed otters are known to enjoy the shade of shrubs and mangroves. Unlike other types of otters, this species is more tolerant of human activity, and will eat the snails and small fish found in paddy fields and drainage canals close to human settlements. However, due to pollution and land-use changes, small-clawed otters are now classed as Vulnerable (VU) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), while the small-clawed otter has not yet been categorized as endangered, its status will worsen if people continue to poach them for commercial trade, which, as of 2019, was banned internationally.
We hope the discovery of these small-clawed otters, or sero ambrang, indicates that there is still rich biodiversity to discover and protect in the Juq Kehje Swen area. May they all live free and safe from human interference!