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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
English: Spotted-Necked Otter
French: Loutre à cou tachete
Kiswahili: Fisi aji mdongo
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.
Red List Category & Criteria LC (Lower Risk/least concern)
Year Assessed 2004
Assessor Nel, J.A.J.
Evaluators Hussain, S.A. & Reuther, C. (Otter Red List Authority)
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.
A. Lejeune, I. d'Inzillo Carranza, M.A.E. Mortimer, J. Procter, David Rowe-Rowe, Michael Somers
Kruuk, H. & Goudswaard, P.C. (1990) Effects of Changes in Fish Populations
in Lake Victoria on the Food of Otters (Lutra maculicollis Schinz and
Aonyx capensis Lichtenstein) (sic) Afr. J Ecol 28:
322 – 329
- Larivière, S. (2002) Lutra 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 (Lutra 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. Res. 29: 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 (Lutra 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,
- 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 -
- Rowe-Rowe, D.T. & Somers, M.J. (1998). Diet, foraging
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.