Animal Database

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Animal Database
Animal Database
African Clawless Otter
African clawless otter
Common Name Cape Clawless Otter and Groot Otter
Range Africa
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Carnivora
Family Mustelidae
Genus Aonyx
Species Aonyx capensis
Conservation Status

The African clawless otter (Aonyx capensis), also known as the Cape clawless otter or groot otter, is the second-largest freshwater species of otter. African clawless otters are found near permanent bodies of water in savannah and lowland forest areas. They range through most of sub-Saharan Africa, except for the Congo River basin and arid areas.[2] They are characterized by partly webbed and clawless feet, from which their name is derived. The word aonyx means "clawless", derived from the prefix a- ("without") and onyx ("claw/hoof").


African clawless otters have thick, smooth fur with almost silky underbellies. Chestnut in color, they are characterized by white facial markings that extend downward towards their throat and chest areas. Paws are partially webbed with five fingers, and no opposable thumbs. All lack claws except for digits 2, 3, and 4 of the hind feet. Their large skulls are broad and flat, with relatively small orbits and short rostra. Molars are large and flat, used for crushing of prey. Male otters are slightly larger than females on average. Adults are 113–163 cm (45–64 in) in length, including their tails that comprised about a third of their length. Weights can range from 10–36 kg (22-80 lbs), with most otters averaging between 12 and 21 kg (26-46 lbs). Despite being closely related to the oriental small-clawed otter, the African clawless otter is often twice as massive as that relatively diminutive mustelid.


Though mostly solitary animals, African clawless otters will live in neighboring territories of family groups of up to five individuals. Each still having its own range within that territory, they mostly keep to themselves unless seeking a mate. Territories are marked using a pair of anal glands which secrete a particular scent. Each otter is very territorial over its particular range.

The African clawless otter spends its days swimming and catching food. They return to underground burrows (holts) for safety, cooling or a rubdown using grasses and leaves. Mainly aquatic creatures, their tails are used for locomotion and propel them through the water. They are also used for balance when walking or sitting upright.


The diet of Aonyx capensis primarily includes water-dwelling animals, such as crabs, fish, frogs and worms. They dive after prey to catch it, then swim to shore again, where they eat. Their fore paws come in handy as searching devices and are great tools for digging on the muddy bottoms of ponds and rivers, picking up rocks and looking under logs. Extremely sensitive whiskers (vibrissae) are used as sensors in the water to pick up the movements of potential prey.