Otterly amazing


Not only are they veritable Einsteins, but dexterous to boot. Hello Cape clawless otter. And the secret to being top dogs in the brain game is their bigger body-to-brain ratio compared to all other southern Africa carnivores.

But these brainiacs also ace it looks-wise thanks to their luxurious hair and silky appearance. Perfectly adapted to their aquatic environments, dense fur insulates their bodies, webbed back feet provide power and strong tails are built-in rudders.

Although primarily water babies, Aonyx capensis are known to travel up to 7 km overland between water bodies. During the day they lounge around in dens. But when awake, they swim, forage, hunt, play and catch a tan.

Talking of food, otters go ape for crabs, insects, frogs and fish in freshwater environments. But in marine habitats they’re quite the epicures, with abalone and Cape rock lobster preferred, plus crabs and fish. They’ve also been known to feast on ducks, geese, coots, molluscs, dragonfly larvae, reptiles and shrews.

After eating, they groom themselves cat-like after which they’re full of vooma.

Polygynous and solitary, otters mate in the dry season. After 63 days’ gestation, the female rears the 1 – 3 whelps by her lonesome and the little ones get their independence passes at 60 days.

Ref: Smithers’ Mammals of Southern Africa a field Guide by Peter Apps, Struik Nature edition 2012;
Photo: Rob Tarr