Otter road kill on Marine Drive

Otters in the water at Rietvlei, captured by photographers Jan and Frieda Prinsloo.

Two otters were found dead on Marine Drive after they crossed the only “barrier” restricting them from their natural movement to the ocean. This is a battle many animals based at the Rietvlei area of the Table Bay Nature Reserve face in their struggle to adjust to urbanisation.

The Cape clawless otter is one of the 13 worldwide species of otter and is also regularly observed by residents in their gardens or on sports fields, and even at the Potsdam Waste Water Treatment Works.

Unfortunately, two of them met an untimely end, found dead near Dolphin Beach.

Table View resident Karen Veldsman, who witnessed the lifeless otters on Marine Drive, posted on the Rietvlei Nature Reserve Facebook group: “Just saw the saddest thing, two otters lying dead in the road next to Dolphin Beach. Awful. It all happens before people see them at night and aren’t cautious as they drive past.”

According to Rietvlei Nature Reserve Biodiversity area manager, Koos Retief, Cape clawless otters are elusive nocturnal foragers, which are sometimes seen in daylight. They occur naturally in the area and move around a lot, especially at night, to forage.

“Marine Drive is therefore a ‘barrier’ to their natural movement patterns. When they try to cross these ‘barriers’, they are at risk to be killed. The same risk also applies to our other resident animals, such as the Cape grysbok, steenbok, and caracal that have also been killed on these roads in the past.

“Over the years, we have noticed that there is often one to two otters killed on Marine Drive every year. We don’t know whether this is causing a decline in the otter population, because they probably breed fast enough to make up for these losses. It is, however, a concern to prevent any unnecessary wildlife deaths due to traffic accidents,” said Mr Retief.

According to Mr Retief, there are between 20 and 30 otters inhabiting the Diep River and Table Bay coast. However, new otters disperse in search of new areas with less competition for food, which exposes them to risk when they cross roads and developed areas.

“We therefore ask the people of Cape Town to value the wildlife that is, so to speak, at their doorstep and to help us to conserve this by driving safely. Obey the traffic rules and speed limits and to be aware of wildlife on the roads,” said Mr Retief.