Cape clawless otter, Groot otter
The African clawless otter (Aonyx capensis ), also known as the Cape clawless otter or groot otter, is the second-largest freshwater otter species. It inhabits permanent water bodies in savannah and lowland forest areas through most of sub-Saharan Africa. It is characterized by partly webbed and clawless feet, from which their name is derived. The word 'aonyx' means clawless, derived from the prefix a- ("without") and onyx ("claw/hoof").
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight (that is, the periods of dawn and dusk). This is distinguished from diurnal...
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by being active during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal",...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
A piscivore is a carnivorous animal that eats primarily fish. Piscivorous is equivalent to the Greek-derived word ichthyophagous. Fish were the die...
Semiaquatic animals are those that are primarily or partly terrestrial but that spend a large amount of time swimming or otherwise occupied in wate...
Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
A burrow is a hole or tunnel excavated into the ground by an animal to create a space suitable for habitation, temporary refuge, or as a byproduct ...
Natatorial animals are those adapted for swimming. Some fish use their pectoral fins as the primary means of locomotion, sometimes termed labriform...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
Polygyny is a mating system in which one male lives and mates with multiple females but each female only mates with a single male.
Generally solitary animals are those animals that spend their time separately but will gather at foraging areas or sleep in the same location or sh...
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
The second largest out of all freshwater species, the African clawless otter is well known for its luxurious hair, very silky in appearance and to the touch. These animals are acrobatic, curious and clever, and are perfectly adapted to the aquatic environment in which they live. Their dense, short fur insulates their bodies when they are swimming, their webbed back feet provide them with power, and their strong tails act as rudders. They have very playful personalities, especially once they have eaten.
The African clawless otter is Africa’s most widely distributed otter, from Senegal, through most parts of West Africa as far as Ethiopia, and in the south to South Africa. It occurs in any large area of suitable habitat to the south of the Sahara, except the Congo Basin. This species inhabits a wide variety of freshwater habitats, such as streams, rivers, lakes and estuaries, as well as marine habitats, including rocky seashores, as long as freshwater can be accessed, which is essential for washing and drinking. Although usually found in water, these otters can also travel long distances overland.
An African clawless otter is a solitary animal. Groups of 4 to 6, consisting of 2 to 3 adults with 2 to 3 young, are sometimes seen, and larger groups sometimes form to forage. This species is most active at dawn and dusk (known as crepuscular). During the day they sleep in burrows or dens. The majority of their time awake is spent swimming, foraging, hunting, playing, and sunbathing. On land, they either trot like a seal or walk slowly, sometimes travelling over 7 km between one body of water and another. An African clawless otter does most of its hunting in water. They dive for fish, with dives lasting 6 to 49 seconds, with an average of 18 seconds per dive. Straight after eating, an otter will clean its face with its forefeet. After bouts of hunting they may leave the water to dry off or to play.
African clawless otters are mainly carnivores. In freshwater habitats, they eat primarily crabs, and they also eat insects, frogs, and various species of fish. The diet in marine habitats is mainly fish, but also crab, abalone and Cape rock lobsters. They sometimes will eat ducks, geese, coots, swans, mollusks, dragonfly larvae, reptiles, shrews, and small birds.
Little is known about the mating system of African clawless otters. However, what is known is that after mating, males and females go separate ways, returning to their solitary lives. This and the fact that young are raised solely by the females may suggest that African clawless otters exhibit a polygynous mating system. Breeding occurs mostly during the dry season, though it may take place at any time of the year. Gestation lasts for about 63 days. Litters can number 1 to 3 pups, but up to 5 per litter have been known for animals in captivity. They are born altricial (in an undeveloped state and needing parental care) but after 16 to 30 days open their eyes and can leave their den. Weaning takes place after 45 to 60 days old. They are independent and reproductively mature from the age of 1 year.
In some areas within its large range, these otters are killed for their sleek fur, or for the use of other body parts in traditional medicines. Sometimes they are killed because people believe that they compete with humans for fish, or because they get the blame for a raid on a fish farm or the death of domestic hens or ducks. Sometimes otters drown when they become tangled in fishing nets. This species may also be affected in some areas by loss or degradation of its habitat. Development, deforestation, overgrazing, wetlands being drained, and water extraction all impact negatively on the quality of the aquatic habitat and surrounding vegetation on which these animals depend.
According to the MPALA LIVE resource, the total number of African clawless otters in South Africa is around 21,500 individuals. Currently this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.
As predators, they may have an influence on the numbers of their prey species: crabs, fish, frogs, and insects.