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Otters on the Liesbeek!

Posted by on April 26, 2013

A mere 300m down the road from busy restaurants and shops in Main Street, Newlands, an urban river – the Liesbeek – meanders through suburbia. The Liesbeek has its source on Table Mountain, above Kirstenbosch Gardens. It joins up with the Black River in Observatory, and flows out to Table Bay via Paarden Eiland. It is one of Cape Town’s oldest urbanized rivers and was used extensively in the past to supply water to industries, including the South African Breweries.

Today, much of the river is canalized, yet remains home to many birds, mammals, fish and crabs.  As part of my study on otters in the Peninsula, I have been setting camera traps on the Liesbeek in an attempt to survey otter activity along the river. A few cameras were lost, stolen or flooded by the heavy Newlands rain, but despite these hiccups we have managed to gain some insights into what animals exist here.

In the first few months, we found mostly porcupines, squirrels, water mongoose and birds. Then in October I got a huge surprise when I was flicking through the photos from and came across a deer! As there are no African buck species that have antlers, I was particularly confused until I realized that it was the Sambar deer – an alien deer that was introduced to the Cape in the 1960s.

Many months went by and there was still no sign of otters on the cameras despite rumors of otters at the Arderne Gardens in Claremont and sightings in Kirtsenbosch Gardens. In February this year, residents in Lemon Lane, Newlands, contacted me with the news that they had been visited by an otter which had left its droppings all over their garden. Eager to catch a glimpse of the Liesbeek otter, I set up a camera trap in their garden and we were all finally rewarded with a photo two weeks ago when the otters visited once more. A big thank you to the residents of Lemon Lane and the trusty Bushnell camera trap that survived being completely submerged in rain and mud during the last storm!

 Water mongoose Porcupines along the Liesbeek

Pelicans on the Liesbeek

 Sambar deer

Otter on the Liesbeek

One Response to Otters on the Liesbeek!

  1. SUE HARVIE

    I live in Devon Valley near Stellenbosch and have noted otters in the dam in front of our house. Last night the dogs were going crazy so I went out with a torch and saw a fairly small otter walking on our grass bank . it also went for a swim and I kept an eye on it enjoying the water.I suspect it may haver been a pup as I have seen larger ones before.

    During late winter I heard a lot of screaming in the dam and saw the otters chasing each other. A colleague mentioned that they were mating – maybe the little one is the result.

    I am very keen to set up a camera to check them out! We have four dams close to one another so I imagine it is otter heaven.

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