IUCN Otter Specialist Group . . . leading global otter conservation Last Update: Sunday February 22, 2015
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Hydrictis maculicollis (Lichtenstein, 1835 ), the Spotted-Necked Otter (currently being revised)

:: Hydrictis maculicollis
Click on the images below to see more of this species
Lutra maculicollis, copyright Jan Reed-Smith
Lutra maculicollis, copyright Jan Reed-Smith
Spot-Necked Otter eating fish
More photos would be welcomed



This medium-sized otter is around 1.1m long and weighs about 6kg. The fur can be very variable in colour but is usually dark brown, with distinctive spots and streaks of paler colour on the throat and neck. The paws are fully webbed, with well-developed claws, but the teeth are rather small. It is long and sleek, and more aquatic than the other African otters. The teeth are specialised for catching fish, rather than the broad, crustacean-crushing molars of the clawless otters, although in less fish-rich parts of the range, fish, crabs and frogs form the diet in roughly equal proportions.

This species can be quite social, forming large single-sex groups which swim together at certain times of year if there is sufficient prey to support them.

The taxonomic position of this species is still unclear, and it is sometimes classified as Hydrictis maculicollis, but K-P Koepfli's opinion is that the balance of DNA evidence he has obtained indicates that it is a Lutra sister-species.

CITES Identification Sheet

Afrikaans: Kleinotter
English: Spotted-Necked Otter
French: Loutre à cou tachete
German: Fleckenhalsotter
Kiswahili: Fisi aji mdongo
Tswana: leNyibi
Zulu: inTini


Spotted-Necked Otters are very aquatic and require permanent water sources with high fish densities. They prefer larger rivers, lakes and swamps with open areas of water. They appear to only make use of fresh water habitats. Because they mainly hunt by sight, they need clear, unpolluted water where there are numerous small fish, or fish, crabs and frogs. Long reeds, grass and bushes are essential to provide cover, and holes or other shelters are also needed. The most suitable habitat is the large fish-rich African lakes and the deep, clear areas of the Botswanan Okovango.


The distribution is large, but with some local declines. It occurs in all countries south of Sahara, from Senegal to Ethiopia and south to the Cape provinces where there is suitable habitat.

Conservation Status

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

Current Concerns

The main threat throughout the range is habitat destruction by land drainage or pollution in response to increasing human population density, and direct persecution as competitors for fish. There is some hunting for bushmeat and ceremonial practices. In some lakes, introduced large fish such as Nile Perch outcompete the small fish which are the otters' food, reducing prey availability.

Although international and national level legal protection is in place, enforcement is needed. There is a need for increasing local awareness of the species.

Leading Researchers

A. Lejeune, I. d'Inzillo Carranza, M.A.E. Mortimer, J. Procter, David Rowe-Rowe, Michael Somers

Key Publications

  • Kruuk, H. & Goudswaard, P.C. (1990) Effects of Changes in Fish Populations in Lake Victoria on the Food of Otters (Hydrictis maculicollis Schinz and Aonyx capensis Lichtenstein) (sic) Afr. J Ecol 28: 322 – 329
  • Larivière, S. (2002) Hydrictis maculicollis. Mammalian Species 712 : 1 – 6, 3 figs.
  • Lejeune, A. (1989a) Ethologie des Loutres (Hydrictis maculicollis) au lac Muhazi, Rwanda.  Mammalia 53 : 191 – 202
  • Lejeune, A. (1989b) Les loutres, Lutra (Hydrictis) maculicollis Licht. et la Pêche Artisanale. J. Afr. Zool. 103: 215 - 223
  • Lejeune, A. (1990) Ecologie Alimentaire de la loutre (Hydrictis maculicollis) au lac Muhazi, Rwanda.  Mammalia 54 : 33 – 45
  • Mortimer M.A.E. (1963) Notes on the Biology and Behaviour of the Spotted-Necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis).  Puku 1: 192 – 20
  • Nel, J.A.J. & Somers, M. (1998). The status of otters in Africa: An assessment. Proceedings of the VII International Otter Symposium, 13-19 March 1998. Trebon, Czech Republic.
  • Perrin, M.R. & d’Inzillo Carranza, I. (1999) Capture, Immobilization and Measurements of the Spotted-Necked Otter in the Natal Drakensberg,  South Africa. S. Afr. J. Wildl. Res29: 52 – 53
  • Perrin, M.R. & d’Inzillo Carranza, I. (2000a) Activity Patterns of Spotted-Necked Otters in the Natal Drakensberg, South Africa.  S. Afr. J. Wildl. Res. 30: 1 – 7
  • Perrin, M.R. & d’Inzillo Carranza, I. (2000b) Habitat Use by Spotted-Necked Otters in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, South Africa.  S. Afr. J. Wildl. Res. 30: 8 - 14
  • Perrin, M.R. & d’Inzillo Carranza, I.  & Linn, I. J. (2000) Use of Space by the Spotted-Necked Otter in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakenberg, South Africa.  S. Afr. J. Wildl. Res. 30: 15 – 21
  • Procter, J. (1963) A Contribution to the Natural History of the Spotted-Necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis Licht.) in Tanganyika.  E. Afr. Wildl. J. 1: 93 – 102
  • Rowe-Rowe, D. T. (1977a). Food ecology of otters in Natal, South Africa. Oikos 28:210-219.
  • Rowe-Rowe, D. T. (1977b). Prey capture and feeding behaviour of South African otters. The Lammergeyer 23:13-21. Rowe-Rowe, D. T. (1992). Survey of South African otters in a fresh-water habitat, using sign. South African J. of Wildl. Research 22:49-55.
  • Rowe-Rowe, D.T. (1990). Action plan for African otters: 41 - 51. In: Otters: An action plan for their conservation. IUCN/SSC,  Gland, Switzerland.
  • Rowe-Rowe, D.T. (1995). Distribution and status of African otters. In: Reuther, C. & Rowe-Rowe, D. (Eds) Proc. V l International Otter Colloquium,  Pietermaritzburg 1993. Habitat 11 : 8 - 1 0.
  • Rowe-Rowe, D.T. & Somers, M.J. (1998). Diet, foraging behaviour,  and coexistence of African otters and the water mongoose. Symposia of the Zoological Society of London 71: 216-227
  • Smith, L. (1993) Otters and Gillnet Fishing in Lake Malawi National Park IUCN Otter Spec. Group Bull. 8: 4 -6
  • Somers, M.J.& M.G. Purves, (1996). Trophic overlap between three syntopic semi-aquatic carnivores: Cape clawless otter, spotted neck otter and water mongoose. African J. of Ecology 34:158-166.

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