Asian small clawed otter, manipulative ability and coordination of the forelimbs

Research by the Rome Bioparco in collaboration with the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies of Rome – National Research Centre.

Our research on the Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinereus) is aimed at investigating the ability of this species in using the forelimbs when handling food or objects of various kinds.

Moreover, recent studies have shown that the Asian small-clawed otter is able to manipulate objects not only for eating purposes, but also to solve particular tasks.

According to these studies, the Asian small clawed-otter is able to use both a single limb and the simultaneous action of both limbs.

However, there are no systematic studies regarding lower limb manipulation skills.

For this reason, our research investigates two aspects through the observation of behaviour:

  • the level of skill that a single limb has in grasping food/objects and how this ability varies according to the size of what is grasped;
  • the ability to use the forelimbs in actions that require the simultaneous and coordinated use of the two limbs.

This study will last two years and its results will allow to:

  • fill a gap in literature relating to the level of skill in the use limbs of the Asian small-clawed otter;
  • contribute to the development of specific environmental enrichment activities implemented by the Bioparco.

The research on the Asian small-clawed otter will involve other Italian zoos that house the same species to increase the study sample such as Zoo Delle Maitine, the zoo of Pistoia, Zoom Torino and the Aquarium of Cattolica.