Spotted-Necked Otter Fact File

Hydrictis maculicollis

Credit: Derek Keats from Johannesburg, South Africa, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons








Wild 8 years

Captive 14 years



Fish, Crabs

Conservation Status


Near Threatened

The spotted-necked otter is a resident of Africa named for the variable pattern of spots found on their throat.

These animals are considered the most aquatic of the African otter species spending much of their day here. Their feet are webbed to assist with a life in the water.

Sharp claws allow them to maintain a primary diet of fish assisted by teeth shaped for eating fish instead of the crustaceans consumed by many other otter species.

Unfortunately due to their reliance on fish they have been impacted by the introduction of larger fish which are too fast to catch and outcompete other species. Habitat destruction and degradation is another major threat.

Read on to learn more about these marvellous mammals.


What does the spotted-necked otter look like?

The spotted-necked otter is covered by a coat of brown fur. Their name comes from the patch of white spots which are present on the throat. This fur has water repellant qualities to help them when swimming in the water.

Each otter has a unique spot pattern which can be used to tell individuals apart. Albino species have been recorded on rare occasions.

Their fur is formed of two layers. The outer layer are guard hairs and the undercoat is made up of denser hairs which trap air to provide insulation. This adaptation helps to reduce the loss of body heat.

Spotted-necked otters are equipped with a clear eyelid which serves as a set of googles when underwater to allow them to see.

On either side of the face are long whiskers which are used to help find food. Adults have orange-red eyes.

The body ends with a long tail measuring an average of 40cm (1ft) long.

A range of adaptation assists with their life in the water. These include webbing between the toes.

An average spotted-necked otter will measure 85-105cm (2.8-3.4ft) long with a weight of 4kg (8.75lbs). Females tend to be shorter and less muscular than males. They may also have lighter fur.


What does the spotted-necked otter eat?

Spotted-necked otters are carnivores. They will feed on fish, frogs and invertebrates such as crabs.

Food is caught in the water with the assistance of the large claws on their feet.

Small fish are eaten in the water and they may be seen on their back at the surface feeding.

Spotted-Necked Otter

Credit: Derek Keats from Johannesburg, South Africa, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Where can you find the spotted-necked otter?

African spotted-necked otters are natives of Africa where they live in Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Liberia; Malawi; Mali; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Sierra Leone; South Africa; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The species is considered possibly extinct in Burundi; Ghana; Lesotho and Togo.

Parts of their range overlap with the African clawless otter and the Congo clawless otter. They can co-exist in the same water courses due to variations in diet.


What kind of environment does the spotted-necked otter live in?

Spotted-necked otters make their home in forests and wetlands. They require areas of un-silted water with abundant levels of small fish to feed on.

They will not make use of highly polluted water as the spotted-necked otter primarily uses sight to find food. The water courses used by the species include streams and rivers. Alongside these they need dense vegetation and overhanging trees to help provide cover when they are inactive.

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How does the spotted-necked otter produce its young?

Breeding takes place between June and July.

The female will give birth to between 1 and 3 young which are known as cubs after a 60 day gestation period. At birth the young are blind and their spots are orange. They will turn white as they grow.

Males have no involvement in raising the cubs.

At birth the juveniles otters do not known how to swim. Instead they must spend one to two years with their mother learning this.

Young are weaned off milk by 12 to 16 weeks and first try to swim at eight weeks old.

Sexual maturity is reached at two years old.


What does the spotted-necked otter do with its day?

Spotted-necked otters will live together in a group with up to 20 other individuals. Often these split up when foraging. This is highly variable across their range and in some areas they are considered solitary.

These animals will groom their fur by scratching and biting it. They may also rub their body against grass, rocks and logs.

They are considered to be the most aquatic species of otter in Africa and are clumsy when on land.

When swimming the spotted-necked otter is able to hold its breath for several minutes.

Resting is undertaken in a den close to the water where they will also raise their young. Their den is referred to as a holt.

Both genders maintain a home range. That of males is larger and overlaps multiple females with which he maintains breeding rights.

Spotted-necked otters are described as highly vocal and produce a range of vocalizations including a harsh mewing and high pitched squawking to demonstrate distress.

These otters are active during the day with feeding concentrated around the hours before dawn and after dusk.

Spotted-Necked Otter

Credit: Derek Keats from Johannesburg, South Africa, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the spotted-necked otter?

Nile crocodiles are the natural predators of adult spotted-necked otters and young may be predated by fish eagles.

The population of the spotted-necked otter has been assessed as declining. Their survival seems to be dependent on the presence of fish.

Spotted-necked otters are threatened through the introduction of large fish to their environment which eat the smaller fish on which these animals feed. Introduced plants also cause the degradation of the water course.

Further impacting their survival are habitat loss, changes to water courses, water pollution and increasing human populations across their range. These animals are killed for food, skins and use in traditional medicines. They may also be persecuted due to a perception that they threaten poultry and fish.

Quick facts

In Swahili the spotted-necked otter is referred to as the fisi-maji or water hyena.

They may also be known as the speckled-throated otter.


Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

Reid Park Zoo. 2021. African Spotted-necked Otter, Reid Park Zoo. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 19 September 2021].

Reed-Smith, J., Jacques, H. & Somers, M.J. 2015. Hydrictis maculicollisThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T12420A21936042. Downloaded on 19 September 2021. 2021. Spotted-Necked Otter. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 19 September 2021]. 2021. The Zoo | Spot-necked otter. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 19 September 2021]. 2021. spotted necked otter. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 19 September 2021].

IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group. 2021. Spotted-necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis) | IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 19 September 2021].

Soderman, S. 2000. "Hydrictis maculicollis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed September 18, 2021 at

Spot-Necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis) Fact Sheet. c2010-2016. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed 19 September 2021].

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