How much do you know about otters?

Posted by Zimasa Katamzi on 26 May 2021

How much do you really know about these incredibly adorable and energetic creatures?

An otter life in paradise

South Africa is home to two out of the 13 species of otters – the African Clawless Otter, also known as the Cape Clawless Otter found throughout the country, and the Spotted Necked Otter found in the eastern and northern half of the country. These two species are the only clawless otters and this makes them very easy to spot especially in sandy areas.

Otters are found down riverbanks, where they get into all sorts of antics like juggling rocks and floating on their backs. They are easily identifiable by the dark-brown, thick and shiny coats, with white markings on the sides of their face, throat, belly and lowe ears, as well as the upper lips. Australia and Antarctica are the only continents otters cannot be found.

The Cape Clawless Otter weighs between 10 to 21kg, measuring 130cm in length, with the male being slightly larger than the female. This aquatic creature has very thick fur that keeps it warm and dry and uses its very long whiskers to find prey under rocks.

They use rocks to crack open shells and even store rocks and food in their loose skin under their armpits.

The otter hunts day and night and feeds on prey both on land and water. Some of its favourite meals are crabs, shellfish, fish, amphibians, rodents and birds.

When bedtime strikes an otter will wrap itself up in seaweed and will float around in a small group with other otters – the group is called ‘rafters’ – and some of them will hold hands while they sleep.

The first six months after they are born, otter pups stick to their mother until they have grown and developed enough skills to go out all alone. But until then, their mother will leave them wrapped up in seaweed, floating while she goes out searching for food.

In South Africa, you can find these creatures at the Botlierskop Private Game Reserve on the Garden Route, the Rondevlei Nature Reserve in Cape Town, the Sterkspruit Nature Reserve, and the Ilanda Wilds Nature Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal.

Apart from the human threats, they constantly need to battle Nile Crocodiles and Fish Eagle. When on land, they are at their most vulnerable to predators.

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PICTURE: Unsplash






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