|At a Glance|
|Conservation Status||Least Concern|
The Cape clawless otter is the second-largest freshwater species of otter. African clawless otters are found near permanent bodies of water in savannah and lowland forest areas. They range through most of sub-Saharan Africa, except for the Congo River basin and arid areas although today they appear to be surviving in meaningful numbers only in Southern Africa. They are characterized by partly webbed and clawless feet, from which their name is derived. They are part of the weasel family!
The otter’s body is elongated, sinuous and agile designed for active swimming. The dark-brown coat, consists of densely packed underfur and long guard hairs, and traps a layer of insulating air underwater. The lips, chin and throat are white. The long tail is heavy at the base tapering towards the tip. The limbs are short and stout. The forepaws are not webbed and the fingers are strong and dexterous for probing. The hindfeet have a small web and the middle two toes have short claws to assist with grooming.
Though mostly solitary animals, African clawless otters will live in neighbouring territories of family groups of up to five individuals. Each still having its own range within that territory, they mostly keep to themselves unless seeking a mate. Territories are marked using a pair of anal glands which secrete a particular scent. Each otter is very territorial over its particular range.
Awkward on land but acrobats in the water, these animals spend their days swimming and catching food. They return to underground burrows (holts) for safety, cooling or a rubdown using grasses and leaves. Mainly aquatic creatures, their tails are used for locomotion and propel them through the water. They are also used for balance when walking or sitting upright.
They feed on crabs, molluscs, fish, birds and a range of rodents and amphibians. They have an acute sense of smell and well-developed canines.
1 (sometimes 2) young are born throughout the year after a gestation period of ± 9 weeks. The female has 2 pairs of breast mammae.
Not found in the dry interior areas of the southern African subregion, as it generally prefers rivers, marshes, dams, lakes, estuaries and the intertidal zone.
African clawless otters can be found anywhere from open coastal plains, to semiarid regions, to densely forested areas. Surviving mostly in southern Africa, the otters live in areas surrounding permanent bodies of water, usually surrounded by some form of foliage. Logs, branches, and loose foliage greatly appeal to the otter as this provides shelter, shade, and great rolling opportunities. Slow and rather clumsy on land, they build burrows in banks near water, allowing for easier food access and a quick escape from predators.
Quick in the water and burrowing on land, the African Clawless Otter does not have many predators. Its greatest threat comes from the python, which will often lay in wait near or in the water. Other predators would include the crocodile (not in Kloof!) and fish eagles.
Not at all common in Krantzkloof. The scats can be easily confused with those of the Water Mongoose.
The photograph on this BioGuide is the only known photographic recording of a Cape Clawless Otter in the Kloof area.
Living in Africa, environments can become very hot. Staying cool means spending time in the water, and using burrows as a way to escape the highest temperatures of the day. To stay warm, on the other hand, the otters depend solely on their thick fur. Guard hairs cover the body, acting as insulation. Since the otter lacks an insulating layer of body fat, its only means of warmth is provided by its thick coat of fur.
There are stiff whiskers around the nose and muzzle. These tactile hairs are very sensitive and aid in locating prey.