IUCN Otter Specialist Group . . . leading global otter conservation Last Update: Sunday February 22, 2015
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Aonyx congicus (Lönnberg, 1910), the Congo Clawless Otter (currently being revised)

:: Aonyx congicus

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More photos would be welcomed



A large otter, around 1.5m in length and weighing around 20kg, and very similar in appearance to the African Clawless Otter . The fingers are unwebbed and without claws and webs; the toes on the back feet are webbed only to the second joint, and have only vestigial claws on the three middle toes. The fur is dark brown above, with extensive frosting on the head and neck, and paler below, and there is a prominant black patch surrounded by white fur between eyes and nostrils; the cheeks are white, rather than beige as in the African Clawless Otter. The whiskers are not prominant and there are no eyebrow tufts. The teeth are not so massive as in the other clawless otters, and the skull and neck less heavily muscled. This species is reported to eat crabs like the other clawless otter, but more invertebrates such as giant earthworms, which in places form an important part of the diet.

DNA work is underway to establish whether this is a true species, or a subspecies or regional variation of Aonyx capensis, the African Clawless Otter.

English: Congo Clawless Otter
French: Loutre à joues blanches du Congo
German: Kongo-Keinkrallenotter, Kongo Weisswangenotter
Fang: Aban
Adonna: Libingui
Bakota: Ibangou
Baka: Londo
Bangando: Fima


This species is found in rivers, streams and swamps in rain forests and lowland swamp forests in the Congo river basin, and in the forests, highland swamps, papyrus swamps and wetland areas around lakes in Rwanda, Burundi and southwestern Uganda. They make use of clearings (baïs) in rainforests, on land, when hunting for earthworms.


This species occurs in the Congo river basin in Zaire, northeastern Angola, Congo, Gabon, southern Cameroon and the extreme southwest of the Central African Republic, as well as the forests and wetland areas of Rwanda, Burundi and southwestern Uganda.

Conservation Status

Red List Category Near Threatened, Decreasing
Year Assessed 2014
Assessors Jacques, H.
Evaluators Hussain, S.A. (Otter Red List Authority)

There is no information available about population size or the number of mature animals. There is only fragmented, reliable information about the species' geographic range.

Current Concerns

Very little is known, but it is likely that this species is killed for bushmeat, and as a competitor for fish. There is also some habitat destruction as bush is cleared and wetlands drained, and there is evidence of disturbance by, and hunting with dogs in Rwanda. In some areas they are considered as competitors, in some they are hunted for meat or pelts, while in others they are taboo meat, or considered unpalatable.

Research is urgently needed on all aspects of this species' ecology and biology. It is protected at international level, but legislation and its enforcement at national and local level are needed.

Leading Researchers

David Rowe-Rowe, Jan Nels, Michael Somers, Hélène Jacques

Key Publications

  • Alary, F., Moutout, F. & Jacques, H. (2002) Still on the Tracks of the Congo Clawless Otter (Aonyx congicus): First Mission in Cameroon. IUCN Otter Spec. Group Bull. 19(1): 51 - 55
  • Baranga, J. (1995) the Distribution and Conservation Status of Otters in Uganda. Habitat 11: 29 – 32
  • Carpenato, G. & Germi, F.P. (1989) The Mammals in the Zoological Culture of Mbuti Pygmies in North-Eastern Zaire.  Hystrix 1: 1 – 83
  • De Barros Machado, A. (1969) Mamiferos de Angola ainda nâo citados ou ponco conhecidos.  Museo do Dundo, Lisboa
  • Harris, C.J. (1968) Otters: A Study of Recent Lutrinae. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London.
  • Jacques, H., Moutou, F. & Alary, F. (2002) On the Tracks of the Congo Clawless Otter (Aonyx congicus) in Gabon. IUCN Otter Spec. Group Bull. 19(1): 40 - 50
  • Kingdon, J. (1997) The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press, London
  • Lejeune, A.  & Frank, V. (1990) Distribution of Lutra maculicollis in Rwanda: ecological constraints. IUCN Otter Spec. Group Bull. 5: 8 – 15
  • Rowe-Rowe, D.T. (1990) Action Plan for African Otters.  In Otters: an Action Plan for their Conservation (Foster-Turley, P, Macdonald, S. & Mason, C. Eds): pp 41 -  51.  IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
  • Rowe-Rowe, D.T. (1995). The distribution and status of African otters. Proceedings of the VI International Otter Symposium, September 6-10, 1993, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Habitat No.11, Hankensbüttel, Germany.
  • Rowe-Rowe, D. T. & Somers, M. J. (1998). Diet, foraging behaviour and coexistence of African otters and the water mongoose. Symposia of the Zool. Soc. of London 71: 216-227.

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