Thursday December 29, 2016
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Earth Lodge is situated on the eastern bank of the Muda river where the clear waters of the smaller Labua merge with the murky waters of the Muda river. As the Labua converges with the Muda from the northeast, it forms a northwestern and a southeastern bank at this location. On April 8, 2016, the author observed an otter swimming in the Labua river downstream towards the confluence of the two rivers from his position on the Earth Lodge premises on the southeastern bank of the Labua. During this season, the water level had reached a very low point and was between ankle- and shin-deep at the section of river where the otter was observed. The animal was swimming along the northwestern bank of the Labua, intermittently raising its head above the surface but mostly remaining fully submerged, the shallow depth of the river notwithstanding. The distance between author and otter were an estimated 5 m to 6 m, which is the approximate width of the river.
As several sightings of smooth-coated otters had been made during the preceding days, the author did not assign any significance to the sighting then and surmised, based on the smaller size, to have seen a young smooth-coated otter striking out on its own, hence not in the company of a family group. This first sighting occurred in the morning hours and no photo could be taken. However, the author encountered another otter of the same size and appearance as the first animal some time later at the same location. Based on metadata of the photographs, the second sighting occurred at 8:44 AM. The otter was ambling on the northwestern bank of the Labua in a northeasterly direction (upstream). The author is convinced that this was the same animal he observed earlier, even though there are no photographic records of the first encounter for comparison and verification.
As the animal approached the location directly across on the opposite bank to where the author was positioned, it became aware of his presence and though it showed no sign of immediate alarm, after a short hesitation and furtive assessment of the author, it retreated up the bank and into the thick vegetation rather than continue on along the river bank.
Only during a recent review of the photographs of this otter, assumed to be Lutrogale perspicillata up to this point, did the author notice a slight oddity about the animal's nose and on closer examination it became clear that there was no distinct rhinarium, as should be the case with smooth-coated otters, and that the area between the nostrils was covered in hair. After comparisons with images from literature (Shepherd and Loretta, 2012) and internet resources, he concluded that this species could only be Lutra sumatrana. To put all doubts aside, friend and conservationist Jonathan Hunter forwarded the image to the OSG and Dr. Hiroshi Sasaki confirmed the identity to be L. sumatrana. Hopefully, this encounter will help shed some light on the ecology of L. sumatrana and draw attention to the significance of the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve as a viable habitat for the species.
Résumé : Confirmation de l'Observation de Lutra sumatrana dans la Réserve Forestière l'Ulu Muda dans le Kedah en Malaisie
Resumen: Avistaje Confirmado de Lutra sumatrana en la Reserva Forestal Ulu Muda en Kedah, Malasia
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