Congo Clawless Otter Pictures, Stock Photos, Images, Illustrations

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Congo Clawless Otter, Aonyx congicus, Pictures, Stock Photos, Images and Illustrations

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The Congo clawless otter is a close relative of the African clawless otter. It has the same short, velvety fur with the striking color contrast between the dark brown covering most of its body and the white throat and cheeks. However, it features a distinct patch of dark fur between its eyes and nose, on each side of the muzzle, that helps to identify it as a Congo clawless otter. Like the African clawless otter, it has very nimble front fingers that are not webbed, which it uses with great dexterity to find and manipulate prey.

The Congo clawless otter is in the Mustelidae family, which includes badgers, weasels, mink and otters. It is one of three otter species in the Genus Aonyx, the others being African Clawless Otters, Aonyx capensis, and Asian Small-clawed Otters, Aonyx cinereus.

Curiously, the Congo clawless otter's range appears to just barely overlap that of the African clawless otter. The IUCN Otter Specialist Group's distribution map shows it to occupy the Congo River basin in a large circle of territory comprising Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, northern Angola, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, most of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and very small parts of Uganda and Nigeria. The IUCN Otter Specialist Group shows the related African clawless otter to occupy other areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, with a small overlap in Rwanda, Uganda, Cameroon and Nigeria. One source, (Rowe-Rowe, 1986) quoted in Lariviere, 2001, says that the African clawless and the Congo clawless otters are sympatric in limited areas of Rwanda and Uganda only. Why these two closely related species should have almost mutually exclusive territories is not clear from the available information.

Congo Clawless Otter
Picture of Congo Clawless Otter or Cameroon Clawless Otter, Aonyx congicus Image #: 102755

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Suborder: Caniformia/Canoidea

Family: Mustelidae/Mustelids

Subfamily: Lutrinae

Genus: Aonyx

Specific: congicus

Species: Aonyx congicus

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Congo clawless otters are adapted to life in rainforests and the waterways that run through them. Some researchers speculate they may be more adapted to life on land than other otters, including the African clawless otter.

Congo clawless otters are like most other otters in that they have long, slender bodies, short legs, and a thick tail that tapers. One of the things distinguishing them, however, is their front paws, which feature long, slender, fingers that are very dexterous and which lack webbing. Hind feat have webbing to the second phalange, as well as short claws. The claws resemble rudimentary nails, and are only on the center three of the five toes of each hind foot.

Another distinguishing feature of Congo clawless otters is their short, velvety fur with its distinctive coloration. Their short fur has a texture and sheen much like that of the smooth-coated otter of Asia. Like African clawless otters, there is a color contrast between the brown of its body and the nearly white areas of its throat and cheeks.

Congo clawless otters are very similar in appearance to African clawless otters, but they can, with some difficulty, be differentiated as follows. While both species have silvery tips on the ends of the brown fur of their shoulders and back, the silvery frosting is more prominent on the Congo clawless otter. The Congo clawless otter also has a white fringe to its ears, while the African clawless has beige colored ear fringe. The cheeks of the Congo clawless are white, while those of the African clawless are beige. The Congo clawless has a straight rhinarium (nose), while that of the African clawless is rounded or vaguely v-shaped. The dark patches of fur on the muzzle of the Congo clawless are darker and more distinct than that of the African clawless. Congo clawless otters are said to have smaller, weaker molars, for eating softer prey, than African clawless otters, but this trait is difficult to observe for obvious reasons.

Like African clawless otters, Congo clawless otters can grow to be quite large. Adults weigh between 12 kg (26.4 lbs) and 25 kg (55 lbs). They measure up to 150 cm (59 inches) including the tail, with males being larger than females.

Congo clawless otters are presumed to eat worms, frogs, fish, insects, eggs, aquatic birds, and other small animals along the waterways and in the rainforests they inhabit. The presence of crabs in a waterway does not seem to guarantee the presence of this otter species, indicating that crabs do not form a major part of the Congo clawless otter diet.

Very little is known about the foraging, reproduction and socialization habits of the Congo clawless otter. Their habits are assumed to resemble those of the African clawless otter, but with an emphasis on more terrestrial activity. They have been described as solitary and nocturnal.

The IUCN lists African clawless otters as Data Deficient. There is no reliable information about population, and only sporadic, unreliable information about range. Purported sightings are difficult to confirm. However, their tracks are said to be fairly easily found in the rainforests of Gabon. Threats to the Congo clawless otter are deforestation and the bush meat trade.

Alternate names: Congo Clawless Otter, Cameroon Clawless Otter, Small-clawed Otter, Small-toothed Clawless Otter, Zaire Clawless Otter, Swamp Otter, Loutre a Joues Blanches du Congo, Congo Weisswangenotter, Ibangou

© Congo clawless otter information assembled from on-line sources by Kevin Miller on Aug. 12, 2008 for