Threats to the Spotted-Necked Otter

Taken from Kruuk (1995), University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web, Otters: An Action Plan for their Conservation (1990) and Lejeune (1989).


These otters are killed locally for their pelts. Since 1977 they have been listed on CITES Appendix II i.e. trade in their pelts is regulated, but the quotas are not always enforced, especially in the war-torn areas.

An example of a Spotted-Necked Otter skin can be seen on the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office website (use the link Felle Lutrinae, and go to page 25); this information is used for identifying illegal fur shipments.

Habitat Destruction

Deforestation increases soil run-of, producing poor visibility in the water because of increased silt levels. Since these otters hunt mainly by sight rather than paw or whisker, this reduces hunting success. Deforestation also affects stream flow rates and seasonal drainage patterns, causing problems for both predator and prey.

Due to rising population and industries, there is increased water extraction, which causes water levels to drop. Gradually, this is restricting the habitat available for the otter and the species it preys on.

Wetland is also being drained for agriculture and housing, again destroying otter and prey habitat.

Several alien species of fish have been introduced to the great lakes, such as Nile Perch into Lake Tanganyika. These are disrupting the ecosystem, causing scarcity of prey; the very large species may also eat otters.

Water Pollution

As well as the usual soil and water pollution that comes with increased population (such as sewage), and industry (such as PCBs), the otters in some river systems also face heavy pollution from mineral extraction. For example, iron ore working in Liberia has created very heavy pollution of the country's main river system.

Over fishing

In many areas, human fishing is intensive, and there may simply not be enough food left over for the otters.

On the great lakes, spotted-necked otters take up to a seventh of the catch of local fishermen (Lejeune, 1989), by raiding nets. They are hunted with dogs as competitors, and also as net-wreckers; these same nets, which are a substantial financial investment for the fishermen, also drown otters that become entangled in them, as can fish traps.

In addition, in Nigeria, fishermen routinely catch fish by poisoning them with natural and artificial toxins. These can directly kill otters, and also build up in tissues leading to long-term damage.

Indigenous Use

This species is killed locally for food, and is generally vulnerable to the bush meat trade in west and central Africa.

The fur is highly prized as a cure for eye and nose infections, and is made into necklaces, bracelets and amulets.

Sport Fishing

In affluent and tourist areas, spotted-necked otters are regarded as competitors for sport fish and persecuted accordingly, although the animals are too uncommon to really affect fish stocks for good or bad. However, any otter that finds a well-stocked pond during the dry season can eat enough to seriously affect the sport fishing relying on those fish.

Spotted-Necked Otter