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African Otters

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Find out more about our African projects (Helping Otters in Africa)

Marine Otter
In Africa four species of otter can be found and more information is shown below:

Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra)
African Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis)
Spotted-necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis)
Congo Clawless Otter (Aonyx congicus)

Algeria

Species: Eurasian Otter

Has a patchy distribution

Legal protection: Protected

Threats: High human population density and hunting

Angola

Species: African Clawless, Congo Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

The Spotted-necked Otter is fairly common but the other two species are rare.

Legal protection: No information.

Threats: Hunting

Benin

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Patchy distribution and both species are rare.  Spotted necked otters are highly endangered and extinction could occur if the current threats are maintained. (IUCN 2007).

Legal protection: Protected in National Parks

Threats: High human population density and hunting.

Botswana

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Both species occur in the Okavango swamps and Chobe river.

Legal protection: Fully protected

Threats: Not known.

Burkina Faso

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Both species are rare and occur in the moister south and south east of the country.

Legal protection: Protected in National Parks.

Threats: Overhunting and over fishing

Burundi

Species: Congo Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Both species may or may not be present - the last information was from 1986.

Legal protection: Not protected.

Threats: No information.

Cameroon

Species: African Clawless, Congo Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

All species present but little is known on distribution. The Congo Clawless seems to prefer the lowland forest areas in the southeast of the country (Alary, F et al 2002).

Legal protection: Protected in Nature Reserves.

Threats: Hunting for bushmeat, witchcraft material and the skin is used for drums.

Central African Republic

Species: African Clawless, Congo Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

All three species present. The Congo Clawless Otter is present in the lowland rainforests to the southwest of the country.

Legal protection: Protected in Nature Reserves.

Threats: Killed for food.

Chad

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Both species occur only in the area around Lake Chad.

Legal protection: Slightly protected.

Threats: Drying up of Lake Chad and hunting.

Democratic Republic Congo

Species: Congo Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Spotted-necked Otter is common in Lake Tele but no evidence for the rest of the country The Congo Clawless is rare but found in the Likouala,Cuvette and Virunga volcanoes regions. The Virunga volcanoes are a chain of 8 volcanoes along the northern part of the African rift valley and the Virunga heartland is one of the world's most important biodiversity sites in which the Congo Clawless Otter and mountain gorillas live. On January 17th 2002 Mount Nyiragongo, just north of Lake Kivu erupted and the Congo Clawless Otter was affected by lava flows entering the lake.

The future of the wildlife in the Congo Basin is looking brighter thanks to two milestones in conservation. Both the passing of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership Act and African Wildlife Foundations launch of its newest African Heartland in the Maringa/Lopori-Wamba landscape, promise hope for the wildlife of the Congo Basin. This news is particularly welcome to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as it emerges from five years of civil war.

The Lukuru Wildlife Research Project is starting to conduct research into the Congo clawless otter.

In February 2010 a Congo Clawless otter was rescued after its mother was killed by a hunter. The cub, Mazu, was reared by two missionaries, Glen and Rita Chapman, and she returned to the wild in 2012. That same year another Congo Clawless cub was found in the Republic of Congo, and she was transferred to Kikongo for the Chapmans to care for. Mazu became an ambassador for otters and there is not the Kikongo otter sanctuary.

Legal protection: Protected in Nature Reserves.

Threats: Not known.

Equatorial Guinea

Species: African Clawless, Spotted-necked Otter, and Congo Clawless Otter (2006)

No recent information.

Legal protection: Not known.

Threats: Not known.

Ethiopia

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Both rare.

Legal protection: Protected in one National Park.

Threats: Dense human population.

Gabon

Species: Congo Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

The Congo Clawless is present in much of the virgin rainforest areas (Jacques, H et al 2002), while the Spotted-necked Otter is rare.

Legal protection: Protected in Nature Reserves.

Threats: Drowning in fish traps, hunting for bushmeat.

Gambia

Species: African Clawless Otter?

Legal protection: Not known.

Threats: Not known.

Ghana

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Legal protection: Protected in Nature Reserves.

Threats: Increasing human population is affecting the habitat.

Guinea

Species: African Clawless Otter

Locally common

Legal protection: Protected in Nature Reserves.

Threats: Bushmeat

Guinea-Bissau

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Until 2003 only the African Clawless Otter was thought to occur which is fairly common. However, a live Spotted-necked Otter was rescued on 18 April 2003.

Legal protection: Unprotected.

Threats: Hunting of otters and agricultural development.

Paper

2003 - New species in Guinea-Bissau

Cote d'Ivoire

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Legal protection: Not known.

Threats: Loss of habitat.

Kenya

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Kakamega Forest National Reserve is located in Western Kenya, 418 km from Nairobi and is a good area to watch African Clawless Otters.

Saiwa Swamp National Park is the smallest park in Kenya, only 3km2, that was established to protect the semi-aquatic Sitatunga antelope notable for its wide spread hooves which allow it to walk on the swamp. Other species of mammals include the Spotted-necked Otter.

Legal protection: Protected - a licence is required to capture and kill otters.

Threats: Deforestation and habitat loss. Recently the introduced Louisiana red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii Girard is affecting the population.(Ogada, M 2004)

IOSF Funds research in Kenya

Latest Kenya News

Lesotho

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

African Clawless Otter is declining and the Spotted-necked Otter may be extinct.

Legal protection: Protected in one National Park.

Threats: Silting of streams and human pressure on land.

Liberia

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

African Clawless and Spotted-necked are common in the Sapo National Park but elsewhere they are rare.

Legal protection: Protected in one National Park.

Threats: Loss of forest and silting of rivers, illegal killing.

Malawi

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

African Clawless Otter is common over most of the country and found in Lake Malawi along with the Spotted-necked Otter.

Legal protection: Fully protected..

Threats: Agricultural expansion, tourism and fish traps.

Help raise funds for IOSF project in Malawi

Mali

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Legal protection: Not known.

Threats: Not known.

Morocco

Species: Eurasian Otter.

Widespread in rivers at the foothills to Moyen Atlas. The Otter also can be found on the Sahara side of the Atlas in rivers flowing into the desert.

Legal protection: Not known.

Threats: Construction of dams, pesticide pollution, increased tourism

Mozambique

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Legal protection: Protected in National Parks and Reserves. Otters are in a good state.

Threats: Otters are killed for meat and skins.

Namibia

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

The African Clawless Otter is rare and occurs only in the Kunene and Okavango rivers on the northern border. The Spotted-necked Otter is found on the Okavango river.

Legal protection: Protected

Threats: Not known.

Niger

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

The African Clawless is only found in the south of the country. The Spotted-necked Otter has been occasionally reported.

Legal protection: Protected.

Threats: Habitat destruction.

Nigeria

Species: African Clawless, Spotted-necked and Congo Clawless Otter.

African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter are rare. The Congo Clawless Otter has been reported from Cross River state in the south east.

Legal protection: Protected

Rwanda

Species: African Clawless, Spotted-necked and Congo Clawless Otter.

Spotted-necked Otter is the most common living on the open lakes, while the African Clawless Otter occurs in the marshy areas. Little information is available on the Congo Clawless Otter.

Legal protection: Protected in two National Parks.

Threats: Hunting and war.

Senegal

Species: African Clawless Otter.

African Clawless Otter is widespread.

Legal protection: Protected

Threats: Not known.

Sierra Leone

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Both species are rare.

Legal protection: Protected in Nature Reserves.

Threats: Increased human activity.

South Africa

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

African Clawless Otter occurs throughout the eastern part of the country and the southern coast but is absent from the arid interior and occurs only along the Orange river. The Spotted-necked Otter is rare and only occurs in the inland waters in the east.

Tsitsikamma National Park has an otter trail.

The Goukamma Nature Reserve near Sedgefield has set up a research project on the African Clawless Otter, and is undertaking telemetry work on this species.

Legal protection: Protected in National Parks and game reserves.

Threats: Expanding human population.

IOSF funded projects

1994 Otter survey of Western Cape Province, South Africa.

Sudan

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Little information is available.

Legal protection: Protected in National Parks

Threats: Otters caught in fishing nets.

Swaziland

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Legal protection: Protected in National Parks and game reserves.

Threats: Not known.

Tanzania

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

African Clawless Otter is common living in rivers and streams but has declined over the years from Lake Victoria due to changes in fish populations. The Spotted-necked Otter can be found at Lakes Victoria, Tanganyika, Malawi and Rukwa.

Legal protection: Protected in National Parks.

Threats: Expansion of human population, intensive fishing and deforestation.

Togo

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Legal protection: Protected.

Threats: Human population and pesticides.

Tunisia

Species: Eurasian Otter

Occurs to the land west of Tunis and north of the Oued Medjerda.

Legal protection: Not known

Threats: Not known.

Uganda

Species: African Clawless, Spotted-necked and Congo Clawless Otter.

The Spotted-necked Otter is common in Lakes Bunyeni, and Kigezi but rare in Lake Victoria. The other two species are rare. Katonga Wildlife Reserve, has recently been developed for tourism, the reserve protects a network of forest-fringed wetlands along the Katonga river and all three species of otters are present. They can also be found on the Nile river but still very near the Mabira management area.

Legal protection: Protected in three National Parks.

Zambia

Species: African Clawless and Spotted-necked Otter.

Dr Jo Thompson of the Lukuru Wildlife Research Project reported that an ecologist, Frank Willems, working in north central Zambia had confirmed that both African Clawless and Spotted-necked otters are present. He provided a picture taken on 6 August 2012 of a group of 6 Spotted-necked Otters on the Luwombwa River in Kasanka National Park. This park is just east of the international border between the very most southern tip of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. According to Mr Willems the African Clawless is not as common as the Spotted necked, which can be seen in various parts of the country.

Legal protection: Protected in National Parks - a license is required to hunt otters.

Threats: Not known.

Zimbabwe

Species: African Clawless Otter.

The African Clawless is common along rivers and man-made lakes.

Legal protection: Protected in National Parks.

Threats: Not known.