SIZE: Length (including tail) 1,3 m, mass 14 kg. COLOUR: Light greyish-brown to very dark brown, with a silvery sheen. Cheeks, snout, throat and chest are white and the ears have a whitish edge. GESTATION PERIOD: 9 weeks POTENTIAL LONGEVITY: 16 years MOST LIKE: The Spotted-Necked Otter, which is the only other species of otter in southern Africa. The Cape clawless otter is longer, very much heavier and lacks the neck spots of its cousin. HABITAT: Grassland, scrub or forest in the vacinity of rivers, streams, lakes, swamps, dams and marine estuaries. Also rock pools along certain parts of the coast. When they occur in coastal waters, a supply of fresh water is an essential habitat requirement.

On land they enjoy sunbathing and sprawl flat on their backs. Cape clawless otters are mostly active during the day and although they are fond of water, they spend more time out of it than the spotted-necked otter does, wandering in search of new feeding grounds. They have a taste for crabs and frogs, and less commonly eat fish.

The shells of the crabs are crushed with the strong cheek teeth and everything is eaten. They also eat birds, bird’s eggs and insects. The otter’s den is known as a ‘holt’. Two to five young are born: they mature quickly and are soon taught to swim by their parents. These otters are very good swimmers even though their feet are only slightly webbed, and the long tail is used to propel the otter forward.

As its name suggests, the Cape Clawless Otter is clawless, which immediately distinguishes it from the spotted- necked otter. When they are in play, they chase one another and indulge in mock fights: they also play with sticks and stones. They use smooth rocks as water slides into a pool and generally frolic about in the water.