Remote Turtle Islands in Tawi-Tawi got unexpected visitors: six otters from the same genus was spotted for the first time in the Philippines.

Residents found at least two romps, each composed of two adults and one pup, were spotted in Taganak Island in the 3rd week of May. At first, locals thought it was the Asian small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinereus), a species found only in Palawan and the only otter species ever recorded in the Philippines.

But Rizza Salinas, a veterinarian of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) asked otter experts Lyca Sandrea Castro to identify the otter species.

Once she saw the photos and videos sent to her of the otters, Castro immediately ruled out that they were Asian small-clawed otters, noting that this means this is a second species for the country.

“When she sent the video and I saw the otter, I got even more excited because it’s really different, meaning it’s another record for otters in the Philippines,” Castro told Rappler on Saturday, May 30.

Castro, who is also the country’s first International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) otter specialist, said the otters are more likely smooth-coated otters (Lutrogale perspicillata).

They appeared to be bigger than small-clawed otters and had longer nails. Other otter specialists she conferred with agreed with her, as this may just be the first ever recording of a smooth-coated otter in the country.

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