Cape Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis)

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Body length: 95 cm (Lariviere 2001)

Cape Clawless Otter Photo by Kawausosu

Weight: up to 18kg (Lariviere 2001)

Color: Brown with white underbelly and white below eyes just above the nose (Kruuk 2006).

Feet: Large forefeet with no webbing or claws and long fingers (Kruuk 2006).

Lifespan: ~13 years in captivity (Lariviere 2001).

Range: Throughout Africa south of the Sahara Desert, with the exception of the Congo Basin (Kruuk 2006)

Home Range: 50km.  Males home ranges can overlap the ranges of several females.  Females have smaller home ranges, which can overlap with their offspring (Kruuk 2006).

Cape Clawless Range Map from

Habitat: Wetlands, lakes, rivers, and streams; also found in suitable costal regions, where fresh water is available (Kruuk 2006)

Behavior/ Social Structure: Can live in groups/families up to eight individuals but hunt individually (Kruuk 2006)

Communication: Communicate through toilet sites and scent marking through urine, rolling, scraping, and rubbing.  Also communicate through vocalizations such as whistles, huffs, growls and screams. (Kruuk 2006)

Diet:  Mostly crabs, fish (mostly bottom feeders) and mollusks.  Use long clawless toes to forage for food in substrate (Kruuk 2006).

Cape Clawless Otter Foot Photo by Kawausosu

Reproduction: Breeding occurs throughout the year with a gestation of 63 days.  They do not have delayed implantation. Produce 1-3 cubs per year and the young will leave the mother after one year (Kruuk 2006)

Predators: Crocodiles, fish eagles and humans (Lariviere 2001).

Conservation Status: Have been hunted for fur and are losing habitat due to destruction.  However, some research shows they may actually benefit from human encroachment because eutropication of waterways lead to an increase in crabs, their primary food source (Kruuk 2006). Listed as CITES Appendix II, though the population in some areas is listed as Appendix I (ICUN 2011).