otters of South Peninsula at Westlake by Nicola Okes Update on the Cape Clawless Otter Watch! by researcher Nicola Okes.

Last year, Scenic South presented the beginnings of the Otter Project in the South Cape Peninsula: a project initiated by the University of Cape Town’s Zoology Department in response to the need to understand how these charismatic aquatic mammals are coping with declining water quality in an urban environment. Read the background info at: (http://scenicsouth.co.za//2011/07/otters-of-the-cape-peninsula/).

Since then, much has happened behind the scenes with preliminary work being conducted in Zandvlei, Noordhoek and Clovelly, to start understanding the otters general distribution, their diet and main habitat types.

The Peninsula Otter Watch was developed to collect information on where otters are in the Cape, and it is currently in full swing with numerous sightings being recorded by residents in all parts of the Peninsula.cape point otter caught on Video cam by Nicola Okes Webcam Photo on RHS help to record elusive Cape Clawless Otters.

Some particularly interesting sightings include:

– a rather unusual sighting of an otter in Kloof Street;

– otters found and subsequently relocated by the SPCA – in Mannenburg and Athlone;

–  Kommetjie otters making the most of the Cape’s rare sardine run in November last year; 

otter pups born in Zandvlei and Silvermine River Wetlands, Clovelly;

– a few sightings in Rondebosch gardens;

– signs of otters in Hout Bay;

– a close encounter with an otter swimming in Buffels Bay and numerous sightings in other parts of Cape Point Nature Reserve.

Threats to South Peninsula Otters

Unfortunately there has also been sad news of otters being killed on our roads. In the last 6 months, otters have been killed on both Liesbeek Parkway and Kommetjie Road, highlighting the danger otters face when on the move and therefore the need to understand the spatial ecology of these animals. Other events including the recent sewerage spill in Clovelly wetlands also pose a risk to otters, yet the full extent of the impact on populations is not yet known. The otter project hopes to find this out in the course of the next few years.

Otter tracks by Nicola Okes of south Peninsula Otter WatchBecome an Otter Spotter for the Peninsula Otter Watch Project

Project fieldwork will commence shortly in rivers around the South Peninsula, and will consist of camera trap surveys, fish surveys and otter sign surveys. Residents and friends of the rivers are needed now more than ever, to report sightings (historical and current) of otters. Whether it be tracks, scat or the otter itself (dead or alive) – please report sightings to Nicola Okes, or upload your information online at www.nicolaokes.co.za : navigate to the sightings tab in the top right menu, fill in details of location and sighting on the form and submit. (Photo above on LHS of Otter tracks) These records will be uploaded on to a map of resident sightings and displayed online at a later stage. In the case of dead otters (roadkills for example), the carcasses are needed for research so please notify Nicola immediately.

Otter scat by Nicola Okes

(Photo above on RHS of Otter scat.) To keep updated with the latest news, photos, sightings and upcoming talks, follow the Peninsula Otter Watch blog www.nicolaokes.co.za, or contact Nicola Okes for more information at nicolaokes@gmail.com. or phone 082 961 9082.