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Aonyx capensis 

Actual scientific name :   Aonyx capensis 
Old scientific name :    
French name :   Loutre à joues blanches
English name :   Cape Clawless Otter; Arfican Clawless Otter
Vernacular name :  
Xhibawe (Kikaonde) ; Kibao (Kilala); diyi ta dikaya, nkongo (Tshiluba) ; ciwawe (Kilamba); chibau (Lunda); mbao, kibao (Kibemba)


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Description :   Length: between 110 and 160 cm (with a tail ranging from 40 to 70 cm). Average weigh: 18 kg. Its thick dark brown fur protects it from cold water. Stomach is lighter. Throat, chin, neck, cheeks and top of breast are white. Has long vibrissae. Fingers of front legs lack webbing or claws. A small membrane is present at the base of the toes of its hind legs and small nails are present on 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers of hind legs. 
Habitat :   Close to water (rivers, marshes, etc) in savannah.
Less common than the spotted-necked otter, it is nevertheless present along large rivers of Katanga. More discrete than its cousin, it is less often seen.  
Behaviour :   Live solitary, in couple or in small family groups. They are mostly nocturnal but can have a diurnal activity when they are not disturbed by human activity. They rest in dens, in undergrowth or between trees’ roots. They are excellent swimmers who move quickly in the water, propelled by their tails.
They use their agile and sensitive front legs to locate their preys hidden in the mud. In shallow waters, they turn stones to find their preys, while in deep waters, they dive to capture them. They sometimes use stones to break molluscs’ shells. They are very curious and love to play.
When alarmed, they emit a loud and high-pitched scream.
They lifespan is about ten years. 
Diet :   Aquatic animals (mainly frogs, fish, crabs and mussels).  
Life history :   They reach their sexual maturity around one year.
After a gestation period of about 60 days, females give birth to 2 to 4 young.
Distribution in Katanga :   view map  
History, Ethnology, Sociology
Interactions with humans :   Except when it feeds on fish captured in fishing nets, the otter does not interfere with human activities.  
Taboos :   During the enthronement of Kazembe, in the paroxysm of the ceremony, when the chief is recognized and when he finally speaks after months of silence, he puts around a belt and a two-edged sword's case made out of otter's skin (the mpok). After his speech, the chief dances and points his mpok towards the 4 cardinal points then towards sky and towards the ground, to assert that he is the absolute chief on earth and that only God and death can overcome him. 
Legends, believes, folklore :   By the Bemba, eyes are used in the preparation of a potion that is applied on fihermen's nests.  
Fishing, hunting :   At the beginning of the 20th century, otters' skins were highly commercialised, especially on the Luapula and on the Lake Bangweolo. 
Feeding :   Meat is consumed by fishermen who catch the animal in their nests or who follow them with their pirogues and kill it with their spears. Its fatty meat is highly appreciated.  
Breeding, taming :   Unlike Asians, Africans do not tame otters to use it to catch fish.  
Uses of skin or other body parts :   Otter's fur has had its glorious period. Traditionally, otter was used to make charms that were increasing fishing nests' yield.  

Warning :

This database was established according to official pieces of work and with the help of famous scientists. However, there might be some errors.

The vernacular names were collected in the field and in the colonial literature from the first part of the 20th century. The monks who established the first dictionaries were not necessarily informed naturalists. Therefore, errors must have been committed.

We invite everyone who could help us to improve this working tool to contact us in order to correct us and share her/his knowledge with us.

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