Otters of Turtle Bay

A population of Asian small clawed otters lives in Turtle and Binunsalian bay mangroves. I know this because I have been given otter pups on two occassions by the residents of the areas and local fishermen who showed me where the came from.

"The oriental small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea), also known as the Asian small-clawed otter, is the smallest otter species in the world, weighing less than 5 kg."
"Oriental small-clawed otters form monogamous pairs for life. The estrous cycle in the female is 28 days with a three-day period of estrus. The mated pairs can have two litters of one to six young per year and the gestation period is about 60 days. The newborn pups are relatively undeveloped; when they are born, they weigh around 50 g, are toothless, practically immobile and their eyes are still closed. They remain in their birthing dens and spend their first few weeks nursing and sleeping. The pups nurse every three to four hours for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. They open their eyes after 40 days and are fully weaned at 14 weeks. In the next 40 days, the young start to eat solid food and can swim three months later. Young otters will stay with their mother until the next litter is born. The male otter assists the female building the nest before birth and in food procurement after parturition. The life span of this species is around 11 to 16 years.'


Oriental small-clawed otters are diurnal animals (active during the day), found in remote areas, free of human disturbance. However, some have adapted to life near villages. They continually groom their fur to maintain its insulating qualities. Asian small-clawed otters are excellent swimmers; they swim by moving their hind legs and tail. They ‘dog-paddle’ with all four feet while swimming or floating. When swimming at a high speed, they undulate their entire bodies, including their tails, up and down while their hind feet steer. They can dive under water for about six to eight minutes. Usually after swimming or feeding, this species will rub themselves against logs and vegetation around their territory so that they can leave their scent. This is called 'scent marking'. They also produce small amounts of feces, known as spraint. The spraints are important for communication among the otters; those with different smells and appearance indicate the presence of strangers. Generally, the otters sleep and rest on land either above ground or in their dens. They often sleep in areas with moderate disturbance. Oriental small-clawed otters are mostly social animals. They live in extended family groups of about 12 individuals. They are often seen playing (which can be seen at zoos) and sliding on muddy banks and in the water in regions where they frequently visit or live. They defend their territories by working, scratching and occasionally fighting."

I do not believe otters ever came into consideration when the permits to build a massive man made ocean park were given. But they should have. Their main diets consists of small crabs, and molluscs. There are 108 varieties of bivalves and gastropods (clams and shells) in both bays. See study on the menu bar.

There has been no true scientific environmental study of these two bay. They are one of a kind. They were given protected status because the ecosystem was damaged by past cyanide fishing and corals have been damaged from fishing boats sheltering in the coves.

The otters of the bays are already under threat from human encroachment, and I have been given two sets of rescued otter pups to save over the last two years. The second pup was only a day or two old and I could not save him. Of the first three, whose mother was accidentally killed, two remain healthy and are being rehabilitated for release. I have taken them into Turtle bay to train them to feed on their own over the last 17 months.

With the impending development, it will be impossible to release them back into the environment from which them came.

Otter pup was a victim from human encroachment.
The most recent otter pup victim of human encroachment. People are building native huts in the mangrove areas and their dogs killed the otter's siblings.
Otter pup rescued at approximately 1 week old.
Otter pups eyes and ears are closed until a month old. Just like canine puppies. We had to feed them a special formula every 2 hours for the first two weeks, and thereafter every 3 hours, 24 hours a day. We didn't get much sleep in those days.


Otter pups have a very pungent smell. Until they are 1 month old, they must be toileted. When they relieve themselves it's called "spraint". Not only did we have to nurse them constantly, we had to have lots of tissues on hand to wipe their genitals. I can tell you it was not a pleasant thing to have to go through. As cute as they are at that age, it's a very tiring and stinky job. They also have a very high pitched, ear piercing cry at this age.



The otters pictured here are two sisters. Their story is on my blog:
http://otters-of-palawan.blogspot.com.
"Oriental small-clawed otters feed mainly on invertebrates such as crustaceans and molluscs, but are also known to feed on vertebrates, in particular amphibians. The hindmost upper teeth (pm4 and m3) are broad and robust and are specialized for crushing the exoskeletons of crabs and other hard shelled prey. They also feed on insects and small fish such as gouramis and catfish. They supplement their diet with rodents and snakes. Apart from crabs, the major prey items are mudskippers (Gobioidei). There is much seasonable variability in the diet. They hunt food by using their vibrissae to detect movements of prey in the water. They use their forepaws to locate and capture items rather than their mouths. Their incomplete webbing gives them a great deal of manual dexterity. They dig in sand and mud for shellfish such as clamsmussels and crab. To get at the meat they crush the shell manually or let heat from the sun force the shells to open."
The otters pictured here are two sisters. Their story is on my blog:
http://otters-of-palawan.blogspot.com .
 "They are seriously threatened by rapid habitat destruction, hunting and pollution. Their population trend is decreasing despite being a protected species."
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A video of the otter pups at the mouth of Turtle and Binunsalian bays learning to be on their own for future release.





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