Where you can see Spotted-Necked Otters

In the Wild

  •   These otters are relatively common on the Great Lakes of Africa. In Kwa-Zulu Natal, in the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, spotted-necked otters have been recorded in the contiguous protected areas from Garden Castle to Royal Natal (except Highmoor). Other protected areas from which they have been reported are, Coleford, Himeville, The Swamp, Umvoti Vlei, Vryheid, and Wagendrift.
  • Rusinga island on lake Victoria (the Kenya end). This is one of the few places where they are EASY to see, playing on the rocks, not far from Rusinga Island fishing club (thanks to Mordy Ogada for this info).
  • There are Spotted-Necked Otters in Taï National Park, Cote d'Ivoire, and Mbeli Bai, Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, R. P. Congo.
  • At Penwarn Country Lodge, south of the Drakensberg, they have a fine tame otter of their own, Nim Rothschild.

In Captivity, outside Africa

There are as yet no Spotted-Necked Otters in Britain. The only ones I could find anywhere in captivity are these.

  • The Ituri Forest Exhibit at San Diego Zoo, California, USA.
  • Toronto Zoo
  • In 1999 six spotted-necked otters were caught from the wild and sent to a Chinese safari park at Guangzou. I cannot find out if where exactly they went, what happened to them, and if they are still there. Report.

Captive Care

Davis, in Otters: Proceedings of the First Working Meeting of the Otter Specialist Group (1977), says these otters rarely take meat or mince, though RZu2U gives ground horsemeat. All agree that the main food is fish, preferably fresh and ungutted. If this is unavailable, fresh cutlets with vitamin capsules embedded may be given, but these otters tend to wash their food before eating, which may be a problem. RZu2U gives a mixture of chicken ground up, bones and all with horsemeat, fish, cat food, vitamins, minerals and water, made up in bulk and frozen in individual portions.

Harris (1968) reports that a captive spotted-necked otter, allowed to forage in the garden, selected and ate carrots, peas, beans and potatoes, and otters accidentally killed have been found to have vegetation in their stomachs. This might be taken as roughage, but perhaps also as a source of vitamins and minerals.

It is imperative that this species has a large, deep pond since swimming plays such an important role for them. The pond should be cleaned frequently to avoid the build-up of faeces, old food and disease organisms.
Behaviour and Training
It has been noted by Kwa-Zulu Natal Wildlife Management Services that this species is rather shy, and heads for water if it feels threatened. Care must be taken when interacting with them as they can be extremely vicious when thwarted.

On the other hand, Davis (Otters: Proceedings of the First Working Meeting of the Otter Specialist Group (1977) and Beever and Company) had a pet otter of this species, Samaki, who became very affectionate, though he notes that the animal must be hand-reared to be tame enough for direct interaction. RZu2U considers them to be very intelligent animals, learning easily by positive motivational training, but of a sensitive disposition.

Davis, in Otters: Proceedings of the First Working Meeting of the Otter Specialist Group (1977) noted that the females of this species are polyoestrus in captivity, and that they show typical lutra-like behaviour, in that the male takes no part after mating.
Capture and Handling
When it is necessary to capture an otter, darting is not recommended because of the animal's tendency to run for water. Use of a catching bag is also unwise as the animal is extremely aggressive when cornered or harassed.

Netting is possible, but only for the very experienced. In South Africa, it has been found best to trap the animal in a box trap, and swiftly immobilise it, or it will severely damage its nose and head trying to escape.

According to Davis, in Otters: Proceedings of the First Working Meeting of the Otter Specialist Group (1977), this species is susceptible to canine distemper, feline panleucopaenia and rabies.

If stressed, they may severely injure their paws, noses and faces attempting to escape from their enclosure.

Spotted-Necked Otter