KOTA KINABALU: Watch the latest episode of Borneo Jungle Diaries, as our fearless wildlife presenter, Bertie Gekoski, accompanies scientist Leona Lai, as she monitors the health and eco system of a lively, charismatic family of Borneo otters and their cubs. Adorable, highly socialised and increasingly threatened by tree felling and river pollution, the otters that inhabit the Kinabatangan river are an underrated species that needs to be highlighted in terms of conservation, especially in Sabah, because of the lack of scientific study. Leona is doing her best to change this as she studies otters for her masters degree.
A Passion for Otters and Wildlife Conservation
Leona was in her final year of a bachelor’s degree in Conservation Biology at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) when she met Benoit Goossens, the director of the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC). That’s when she decided to pursue her masters degree at the DGFC.
“Wildlife and nature has been my passion since I was young and I have fallen in love with otters ever since I first saw them in a zoo,” says Penampang-born Leona. “Their unique behaviour and fierce-yet-adorable appearance was what attracted me most.”
Otter Facts and Habitat
Otters are found on every single continent in the world except for Australia and Antarctica. The anatomy of an otter is designed to allow it to get around well both on land and in the water.
A Buzz in Borneo about the Hairy-Nosed Otter
Here in Sabah, Borneo, there are four known Otter species; the Smooth-Coated Otter, Small-Clawed Otter, Hairy-Nosed Otter and the Eurasian Otter. The Hairy-nosed Otter and the Eurasian Otter are thought to be extinct in Borneo, but recently, there have been sightings of these two species.
In mid-2010 there was a world-wide buzz when the hairy-nosed otter was rediscovered in Borneo, at the Deramakot Forest Reserve in Sabah. The last confirmed record of the hairy-nosed otter in the state of Sabah was more than 100 years ago, and it has not been seen in Borneo since an individual was killed by a car in 1997.
Different Species of Otter in Borneo
One otter species caught on camera include the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata), and the Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinereus).
But a close examination of one photograph revealed it had recorded a hairy-nosed otter, which has a flatter, longer head, a white throat and darker fur than its two relatives.
Otters can be found in the Lower Kinabatangan and several other areas in Sabah.
The good news is that people in Sabah and the rest of the will soon get to know more about the otters in Borneo, thanks to the wonderful work of Leona Wai.
A Passion for Otters, Wildlife and Conservation
Watch the Borneo Jungle Diaries episode on otters now.