(Last Updated On: March 20, 2021)

The African clawless otter, scientific name Aonyx capensis, also referred to as the Cape clawless otter or Groot otter, is the second-largest freshwater otter species. It inhabits everlasting water our bodies in savannah and lowland forest areas via most of sub-Saharan Africa. In this article, I am going to talk about African clawless otter baby, pet, cape, habitat, facts, etc.

It is characterized by partly webbed and clawless feet, from which their name is derived. The phrase ‘aonyx’ means clawless, derived from the prefix a- (“without”) and onyx (“claw/hoof”).

African Clawless Otter Profile

The African clawless otter is Africa’s most generally distributed otter, from Senegal, via most components of West Africa so far as Ethiopia, and within the south to South Africa.

It happens in any massive space of appropriate habitat to the south of the Sahara, besides the Congo Basin. This species inhabits all kinds of freshwater habitats, similar to streams, rivers, lakes, and estuaries, in addition to marine habitats, together with rocky seashores, as long as freshwater could be accessed, which is important for laundry and ingesting. Although normally present in water, these otters may also travel long distances overland.

African clawless otters are primarily carnivores. In freshwater habitats, they eat primarily crabs, and so they additionally eat bugs, frogs, and varied species of fish. The diet in marine habitats is principally fish, but additionally crab, abalone, and Cape rock lobsters. They typically will eat geese, geese, coots, swans, mollusks, dragonfly larvae, reptiles, shrews, and small birds.

The second-largest out of all freshwater species, the African clawless otter is well-known for its luxurious hair, very silky in look and to the touch. These animals are acrobatic, curious and intelligent, and are completely tailored to the aquatic surroundings during which they stay.

Their dense, brief fur insulates their bodies when they’re swimming, their webbed back feet present them with energy, and their robust tails act as rudders. They have very playful personalities, particularly as soon as they’ve eaten.

Little is thought in regards to the mating system of African clawless otters. However, what is thought is that after mating, men and women go through separate methods, returning to their solitary lives.

This and the truth that younger are raised solely by the females could recommend that African clawless otters exhibit a polygynous mating system. Breeding happens largely through the dry season, although it might happen at any time of the year.

Gestation lasts for about 63 days. Litters can 1 to 3 pups, however, as much as 5 per litter have been identified for animals in captivity.

They are born altricial (in an undeveloped state and needing parental care) however after 16 to 30 days open their eyes and may go away from their den. Weaning takes place after 45 to 60 days old. They are impartial and reproductively mature from the age of 1 year.

African clawless otter

Geographic Range

Aonyx capensis, African Clawless Otter is probably the most broadly distributed otter species in Africa. Their dwelling range is restricted to the African continent, stretching alongside the coast from South Africa to Ethiopia and throughout the continent to Senegal.

Unlike their shut relative Aonyx capensis congica, Aonyx capensis doesn’t happen within the central African rainforest area of the Congo Basin. Aonyx capensis and A. capensis congica are sympatric in Uganda and Rwanda.

African Clawless Otter Description

African clawless otters have thick, clean fur with virtually silky underbellies. Chestnut in shade, they’re characterized by white facial markings that stretch downward in direction of their throat and chest areas.

Paws are partially webbed with 5 fingers, and no opposable thumbs. All lack claws apart from digits 2, 3, and Four of the hind feet. Their massive skulls are broad and flat, with comparatively small orbits and brief rostra.

Molars are massive and flat, used for crushing prey. Male otters are barely bigger than females on average. Adults are 113–163 cm (45–64 in) in size, together with their tails that comprised a couple of third of their size.

Weights can range from 10–36 kg (22-80 lbs), with most otters averaging between 12 and 21 kg (26-46 lbs). Despite being carefully associated with the oriental small-clawed otter, the African clawless otter is commonly twice as large as that comparatively diminutive mustelid.

African clawless otters are the biggest Old World otter species and the third-largest species of otter general. Their head and body size range from 762 mm to 880 mm.

Their tail measures 465 mm to 515 mm long and is often stout and tapered. They weigh between 10 and 22 kg. Males are barely heavier and longer than females.

Their thick shiny coats are colored darkish brown apart from distinctive white coloring on the higher lips, the perimeters of the face, neck, throat, stomach, and decrease ears. Otter pelage consists of two sorts of hair.

The outer hairs, or guard hairs, measure as much as 25 mm in size. The undercoat, or fur, is white to off-white and is manufactured from brief (10 mm), fantastic, wavy hair.

African clawless otters have long white whiskers on their cheeks, chin, and brows, that are used to detect prey in murky waters. They are clawless apart from small grooming claws on hind digits 2, 3, and 4.

Although their hind feet are partially webbed, they have the least quantity of webbing of all otter species. They have nimble forefeet with opposable thumbs. Rough pores and skin traces their palms and fingers and helps to grip slippery prey.

African clawless otters have massive skulls, measuring 125 to 136 mm in size. They have a broad, flattened mind case and a small sagittal crest. Brain size is massive in comparison with skull size, the podium is brief and broad, and zygomatic arches are slender.

African clawless otters have massive molars, specialized for crushing crustaceans and fish skulls, and no chopping teeth. The form of their molars varies geographically. They possess a pair of anal scent glands are used for scent-marking.

Males’ foreskin protrudes from their body however the penis resides beneath their thick pores and skin. Females have two pairs of mammary glands on their stomach.

African Clawless Otter Distribution and Habitat

African clawless otters are primarily aquatic and reside close to perennial and episodic springs or rivers. Marine populations do happen if a source of freshwater is close by for ingesting.

These otters want shallow water with thick reed beds, that is dwelling to a number of favorable prey similar to crab and fish. On land, African clawless otters take shelter in underground burrows, below rocks, roots, or dense vegetation. Dens have been discovered from sea level to 1200 m in elevation.

Dens are used for resting, taking part in, consuming, defecating, and giving beginning and are shared by a number of otters. African clawless otters have been identified to dig burrows within the sand as much as Three m deep, with entrances to the den above and beneath the water floor.

Burrows usually comprise a nest manufactured from grass or different vegetation. Dens are by no means farther than 50 m from shore or 15 m from freshwater. They are normally near considerable meals provides and densely vegetated areas. African clawless otters don’t usually dive farther than 1.5 m beneath the floor of the water.

African clawless otters could be discovered wherever from open coastal plains, to semiarid areas, to densely forested areas. Surviving largely in southern Africa, the otters stay in areas surrounding everlasting our bodies of water, normally surrounded by some type of foliage.

Logs, branches, and unfastened foliage vastly attractive to the otter as this offer shelter, shade, and great rolling alternatives. Slow and quite clumsy on land, they construct burrows in banks close to water, permitting for simpler meal entry and a fast escape from predators.

In the False Bay space of the Cape Peninsula, they’ve been noticed scavenging alongside seashores and rocks and looking in shallow surf for mullet. They are primarily nocturnal in city areas and lie up through the day in quiet, bushy areas.

African clawless otter


An African clawless otter is a solitary animal. Groups of four to six, consisting of two to three adults with 2 to three younger, are typically seen, and bigger teams typically type to forage.

This species is most lively at daybreak and nightfall (referred to as crepuscular). During the day they sleep in burrows or dens. The majority of their time awake is spent swimming, foraging, looking, taking part in, and sunbathing.

On land, they both trot like a seal or stroll slowly, typically traveling over 7 km between one body of water and one other.

An African clawless otter does most of its looking in the water. They dive for fish, with dives lasting 6 to 49 seconds, with an average of 18 seconds per dive. Straight after consuming, an otter will clear its face with its forefeet. After bouts of looking they could go away the water to dry off or to play.

Food Habits

African clawless otters are primarily carnivores. In freshwater habitats, their diet consists primarily of crabs (Potamonautes); nonetheless, in addition, they eat frogs (Xenopus), bugs (Coprinae, Cyclorhapha, Dytiscidae, Nepidae, Odonota, Scarabaeidae), and varied species of fish, which make up more of the diet throughout winter when they’re slowed by chilly temperatures and are simpler to catch. In marine habitats, the diet of African clawless otters is principally composed of fish.

Marine inhabitants additionally eat crab, Cape rock lobsters, and abalone. African clawless otters have additionally been identified to eat geese, geese, coots, swans, dragonfly larvae, mollusks, reptiles, small birds, and shrews.


African clawless otters stay 10 to 12 years within the wild and roughly 15 years in captivity.


African clawless otters are often eaten by Nile crocodiles and fish-eagles. Their most harmful predators are people. Their bi-colored pelage helps camouflage them within the water and on land.

They are agile swimmers that may typically escape potential predators whereas within the water. While on land, nonetheless, they’re significantly susceptible to predation.

African Clawless Otter Reproduction

Little is thought of in the mating system of African clawless otters. Breeding happens through the dry season, which varies relying on location, and parturition coincides with the start of the wet season.

Gestation lasts roughly 63 days. Litters range in size from 1 to three pups, however, as many as 5 pups per litter have been reported for animals in captivity. At birth, pups weigh about 200 g and may develop to more than 1,400 g within 14 days.

Pups are born altricial however open their eyes and go away from their den after 16 to 30 days, and weaning happens by 45 to 60 days after beginning. They grow to be impartial and sexually mature by 1 year old.

Females give beginning to litters containing two to 5 younger rounds early spring. Mating takes place briefly intervals all through the wet season in December. Afterward, each man and women go their separate methods and return to their solitary lives as soon as more.

Young are raised solely by females. Gestation lasts around two months (63 days). Weaning takes place between 45 and 60 days, with the younger reaching full maturity around one year of age.

African clawless otter

African Clawless Otter Behavior

African clawless otters are solitary and could be present in each freshwater and marine habitat. Groups composed of Four to six people, with 2 to three adults and a couple of to three younger, are often noticed and bigger clans typically type to forage.

These otters are most lively throughout daybreak and nightfall (i.e., crepuscular). Daytime is spent sleeping in burrows or dens. Nearly half of all dens are fashioned by natural depressions or sheltering panorama with the opposite half of dens constructed by otters digging via delicate substrates similar to sand or mud.

The ground of the den is commonly lined with vegetation. They spend a majority of their waking hours swimming, looking, foraging, taking part in, and basking within the solar.

On land, these otters both stroll slowly or trot like a seal, typically strolling over 7 km between our bodies of water. They swim by utilizing their hind legs and tails for propulsion whereas utilizing their tails as rudders.

African clawless otters do the vast majority of their looking in the water. Shallow water, roughly 1.5 m deep, is most well-liked for looking. They start looking by submerging their heads underwater and scanning for prey whereas utilizing their forefeet to really feel below rocks.

They seize prey with their forefeet and convey it to the floor to eat. Small crabs are eaten whereas the otter is perpendicular to the water’s floor, and enormous crabs are eaten whereas the otter lies on its back with the intention to catch items of meals falling from its mouth.

African clawless otters additionally dive for fish. Dives can final from 6 to 49 s, averaging 18 s per dive. Small fish are eaten within the water, and enormous fish are delivered to shallow water or the shore for consumption.

Though largely solitary animals, African clawless otters will stay in neighboring territories of family teams of as much as 5 people. Each nonetheless having its personal range inside that territory, they largely preserve to themselves until searching for a mate. Territories are marked utilizing a pair of anal glands which secrete a specific scent. Each otter may be very territorial over its explicit range.

The African clawless otter spends its days swimming and catching meals. They return to burrows (holts) for security, cooling, or a rubdown utilizing grasses and leaves. Mainly, aquatic creatures, their tails are used for locomotion and propel them via the water. They are additionally used for stability when strolling or sitting upright.

Directly after consuming, African clawless otters clear their faces with their forefeet. After looking bouts they could exit the water and dry off or spend time taking part in.

They dry themselves off by rolling and rubbing their bodies in opposition to grass, rocks, or sandbars and basking within the solar. Young African clawless otters spend a big period of time taking part in and have been noticed play-fighting, swimming, sliding on rocks, taking part in with their meals, and even fetching small pebbles thrown into the water before they hit the ground.

Communication and Perception

African clawless otters make advanced vocalizations, together with low and high pitched whistles, grunts, and “hah” sounds thought to specific nervousness. They additionally squeal, moan, and mew.

The function of various vocalizations shouldn’t be properly understood. These otters demarcate territorial boundaries with scant-marked fecal droppings referred to as “spraints.”

Spraints are generally discovered surrounding dens and happen most steadily through the mating season. A pair of anal scent glands are additionally used to speak via scent.


The diet of Aonyx capensis primarily consists of water-dwelling animals, similar to crabs, fish, frogs, and worms. They dive after prey to catch it, then swim to shore once more, the place they eat.

Their forepaws come in useful as looking out gadgets and are great instruments for digging on the muddy bottoms of ponds and rivers, choosing up rocks, and looking out below logs. Extremely delicate whiskers (vibrissae) are used as sensors within the water to choose up the actions of potential prey.


Living in Africa, environments can grow to be very popular. Staying cool means spending time within the water, and utilizing burrows as a technique to escape the best temperatures of the day.

To keep heat, then again, the otters rely solely on their thick fur. Guard hairs cover the body, appearing as insulation. Since the otter lacks an insulating layer of body fats, its sole means of heat is supplied by its thick coat of fur.

African clawless otter


Quick within the water and burrowing on land, A. capensis doesn’t have many predators. Its biggest risk comes from the python, which is able to typically lie in wait close to or within the water.

Other predators would come with the crocodile and fish eagles. If threatened, a high-pitched scream is emitted to warn neighboring otters and confuse a predator.

Ecosystem Role

The greatest risk to African clawless otters comes from people. Aonyx specimens will typically forage in man-made fisheries and could also be hunted or grow to be entangled in nets.

Overfishing by people could cut back the meals provide accessible to otters. They are typically hunted for his or her thick, delicate pelts, which people use in types of clothes.

In forested areas, logging could also be a significant risk, since erosion results in vastly elevated turbidity in rivers which might in flip vastly cut back the populations of fish on which the otters rely.

This might be a far larger risk to otters than looking. The Otter Trail is a mountain climbing path in South Africa named after the African clawless otter, which is discovered on this space. Otters alongside the path are protected because it falls throughout the Tsitsikamma National Park.


In some areas inside its massive range, these otters are killed for his or her smooth fur, or for using different body components in conventional medicines.

Sometimes they’re killed as a result of people imagine that they compete with people for fish, or as a result of they get the blame for a raid on a fish farm or the dying of home hens or geese.

Sometimes otters drown once they grow to be tangled in fishing nets. This species may additionally be affected in some areas by loss or degradation of its habitat.

Development, deforestation, overgrazing, wetlands being drained, and water extraction all influence negatively on the standard of the aquatic habitat and surrounding vegetation on which these animals rely.


According to the MPALA LIVE resource, the total variety of African clawless otters in South Africa is around 21,500 people. Currently, this species is classed as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers at the moment are reducing.

As predators, they could have an effect on the numbers of their prey species: crabs, fish, frogs, and bugs.

African clawless otter Fun Facts

African clawless otters dry and groom themselves by rolling in the grass and rubbing themselves in opposition to rocks and soil and basking within the solar. Such habits normally entice crocodiles.

The younger otters love taking part in and have interaction in play-fighting, swimming, taking part in with meals and sliding on rocks, even fetching small pebbles tossed into the water as they sink to the underside.

An African clawless otter makes advanced vocalizations, together with grunts, low and high-pitched whistles, squeals, moans, and mews, in addition to “hah” sounds which might be thought to specific nervousness.

This species is known for its webless front feet. They will use their front feet to extract meals hidden below logs or rocks or within the mud. Their delicate whiskers assist them to seek out meals within the water by detecting the motion of aquatic animals.

These otters have an even bigger body-to-brain ratio than all different carnivores in southern Africa, which could possibly be the explanation for his or her cleverness and dexterity.

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