The Cape Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis) is one of the most overlooked and charasmatic mammals along the coastline of Western Cape Province of South Africa. They are highly adaptable and can survive in close proximity to humans where they carry out their daily activities usually undetected.
Cape Clawless Otters are thought to be diurnal and most active at dawn and dusk (crepuscular), they do however exhibited nocturnal behaviour which we detected on a number of occasions this year in the Struisbaai area. They feed on a broad range of prey such as crabs, crayfish, fish, reptiles, birds and their eggs and will also take advantage of discarded fish and ofal. They are fearce when pressed and can defend themselves ably against domestic dogs and native competitors within their natural environment.
This spring we where blessed with a spate of otter sightings in the Struisbaai/Cape Agulhas area. Our best views, some from as close as two metres away just before dark one evening. It was this interaction which motovated us to make repeated trips to admire these efficient coastal predators. On seven outings we managed to see them about 50% of the time and learnt that their morning and early evening activities are influenced by the tides, with a low tide at dawn providing the best chances of a sighting in our search area.
Other good sightings over this period from the beach included Indo-pacifc Humpback Dolphins, Southern Right Whales and a few individual endangered Damara Terns, South Africa's rarest breeding seabird. Hopefully we'll spend more time looking for the otters in 2018 again and learn more about their interesting life-style!
If you would like an opportunity to search for Cape Clawless Otters, Fangs and Feathers runs day tours in and around Cape Town as well as Short Two Day Tours to the Overberg Region to try and find them. Seeing them is never a guarenteed excercise since they are wild animals and have rules of their own. A sighting however is always very rewarding and worthwhile the effort.