Get otter town! Little critter Caesars marina as its own
A Cape clawless otter has settled in to Granger Bay marina very nicely thank you
One of the country’s most exclusive marinas has a mysterious new denizen who dines on crayfish every day and makes himself at home on just about anyone’s yacht without permission.
About three months ago a Cape clawless otter made his first appearance at the Water Club in Granger Bay, on Cape Town’s sought-after Atlantic Seaboard.Marina manager Faried Sylvester said owners of the 110 multimillion-rand flats there, as well as boat-owners, had taken well to the animal.
The otter has been dubbed Caesar. “He came, he saw and he conquered our hearts,” said Sylvester. “They are usually very shy animals so it was strange for me to see him. He eats lots of crayfish every day and is very playful.”Sylvester consulted an expert at the nearby Two Oceans Aquarium, who advised that the otter should not be fed or confronted.
Conservation biologist Nicola Okes confirmed that Cape clawless otters had been seen on the Atlantic Seaboard more frequently since the onset of the drought.
While she is not sure why, she said in the last five years researchers had noticed that in areas where vleis or wetlands have started drying up the otters hade dispersed in search of alternative habitat — and in doing so had ventured into unusual places.
Examples include a hotel lobby on the Atlantic Seaboard, under a caravan in Manenberg on the Cape Flats and in Cape to Cuba, a Kalk Bay restaurant.“Generally, they inhabit wetlands or large vleis which are close to the sea. That is their ideal habitat,” said Okes, who confirmed that the animals are shy and not dangerous, often playing with dogs and interacting with humans.
But she cautioned that otters are wild animals and should be treated as such.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classified the Cape clawless otter as “near-threatened” in 2015, citing research which found that climate change could decrease their habitat. Human conflict and the scarcity of water, land and fish resources also played a role.
Research by Okes and Justin O’Riain, published in 2017, suggests that for the animals to remain in the Cape Peninsula authorities must maintain wetland, estuarine and river habitats close to marine protected areas.“During the course of the study, Cape clawless otters regularly inhabited fishing harbours and densely populated beaches, using drains and sewers to navigate between water bodies, creating holts under the decks of houses and in cracks in the dolosse (concrete blocks used to break up wave action) adjacent to the coast,” they said.
“This suggests that where the landscape level habitat requirements have been met, otters may be able to adapt to transformed environments on a local scale provided that these environments still provide access to critical resources in the form of fresh water, resting and breeding sites.”Last year a young Cape clawless otter wandered away from its mother and into a Sunridge Park backyard in Port Elizabeth.
Eddie Oosthuizen said at the time that his Jack Russells, Bella and Rosie, found it and he called in an animal control specialist, Arnold Slabbert.
“We see more and more wild animals appearing in built-up areas. Their natural habitats are being threatened by the long drought and encroachment by building developments,” Slabbert said.
“So we need to be sure this little one can fend for itself and avoid further contact with people once we release it.”