Aonyx – African clawless otter

Inhabit water bodies in sub-Saharan Africa's savannahs

The African Clawless Otter, a notable member of the otter family, stands out due to its significant size and unique physical adaptations. Native to the sub-Saharan regions of Africa, this species occupies a variety of freshwater habitats, from rivers and lakes to marshlands and coastal areas, showcasing its adaptability to different aquatic environments.

The African Clawless Otter is the second-largest freshwater otter species, following the giant otter. One of its most distinctive features is its dense, silky fur, which provides essential insulation. This adaptation is vital for maintaining body heat in aquatic environments, where temperatures can vary significantly. Unlike many of their otter relatives, the African Clawless Otters have partially webbed and entirely clawless feet, an adaptation that, while seemingly counterintuitive, does not impede their swimming efficiency. Instead, their strong, muscular tails serve as powerful rudders, allowing for agile and effective navigation through water.

African Clawless Otters exhibit crepuscular behavior, being most active during dawn and dusk. This timing strategy allows them to exploit their aquatic environments optimally while avoiding the peak hours of potential predators and human activity. Their daily routines include foraging, hunting, swimming, sunbathing, and engaging in playful behaviors, which are crucial for social bonding and skill development, especially among young otters.

Their diet is varied, primarily consisting of fish, which they skillfully catch using their sensitive whiskers and dexterous forefeet. Additionally, they consume a range of other aquatic animals, birds, eggs, insects, worms, and occasionally, a small amount of plant matter. After feeding, these otters exhibit meticulous grooming behaviors, using their forefeet to clean their faces, which is critical for maintaining the insulating properties of their fur.