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About Otters

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Why are Otters so important?

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Otter Species

Otters Around the World

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The Mustelid Family

Otter Watch

African Otters

Asian Otters

Otter-like animals have inhabited the earth for the last 30 million years and over the years have undergone subtle changes to the carnivore bodies to exploit the rich aquatic environment.

Otters are members of the Mustelid family which includes badgers, polecats, martens, weasels, stoats and mink.

You can find out more about each of the 13 species below and check out their current conservation status in the Red Data List.

You can find out more about each species in “Otters of the World” available at the Ottershop.

World of Otters

Our interactive map of otter locations around the world.

African Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis)

SIZE 1.1 - 1.6m
WEIGHT: up to 22kg
DIET: Mainly crab; more fish in winter
HABITAT: Rivers, lakes, estuaries, mangroves, forests, savannah - even found in deserts and the sea
OFFSPRING Up to 3, born in spring
CITES Appendix (I/II) – Appendix II everywhere except Nigeria and Cameroon (listed under Aonyx capensis microdon for those countries)
THE THREAT TO THE SPECIES: Increasing human population, farming and overgrazing.

African Clawless Otter
Photo: Nicci Wright

This otter occurs from South Africa northwards to Ethiopia and Senegal, but is absent from the central rainforest areas. The African Clawless Otter is similar in appearance to the Congo Clawless otter. Although it is born with tiny claws it loses these on all toes except the middle three on the hind feet. There is no webbing and it can therefore use its "fingers" more freely than other species.  It captures most of its prey in its paws, hunting by sight and also using the long vibrissae (whiskers) which help when hunting in murky waters. 

These otters are active generally during the late afternoon and early evening, and like many otter species  have set sprainting points and grooming areas. They are usually seen alone or in pairs, but occasionally they can be seen in family groups of up to five animals. 

Young otters go through rituals of fighting and romping. They often pick up an object, juggle with it, throw it in the water and attempt to retrieve it before it falls to the bottom. These games probably help the youngsters to practice skills they will need to capture prey in later life. 

Distribution of the African Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis)

Data based on Otters of the World (IOSF 2017) which is available at the Otter shop.


More information on the African Otters Group

Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra)
Spotted Necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis formerly Lutra maculicollis)
Congo Clawless Otter (Aonyx congicus)