Potamogale velox 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Afrosoricida Tenrecidae

Scientific Name: Potamogale velox
Species Authority: (de Chaillu, 1860)
Common Name(s):
English Giant Otter Shrew, Giant Otter-shrew
French Le Potamogale

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-02-27
Assessor(s): Stephenson, P.J.
Reviewer(s): Taylor, A.
Contributor(s): Vogel, P.
Like all otter shrews, this species is poorly studied and little is known of its current status, although it appears to be threatened by forest loss and the resultant siltation of waterways as well as some degree of hunting. The species is listed as Least Concern as it is not thought to be declining at a rate significant enough to qualify for a higher category, but it needs to be monitored.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Least Concern (LC)
2006 Least Concern (LC)
1996 Endangered (EN)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

This species occurs in the central rainforest zone and peripheral areas from Nigeria (Cross River) eastwards through Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to western Uganda and western Kenya and Tanzania, and southwards to central Angola and northern Zambia (Corbet 1974). It is found from sea level up to 1,800 m asl. Most of the recent records have been from eastern DRC, in places such as the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, Ituri Forest (P.J. Stephenson pers. obs.), the Itombwe Massif (T. Demos pers. comm.) and in the Upper Lualaba (J. Kerbis Peterhans pers. comm.).

Countries occurrence:
Angola (Angola); Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Equatorial Guinea; Gabon; Kenya; Nigeria; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; Zambia
Upper elevation limit (metres): 1800
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The mean density in good habitats may be one territorial animal per 0.5-1.0 km length of stream with maximum densities of about one per 100 m river (Dubost 1965).
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This is an aquatic species found in waterways in equatorial rain forests. It lives along rather small slow-flowing forest streams, forest pools and mountain torrents (from an altitudinal range of zero to 1,800 m asl) where banks provide habitats for nest chambers (Nicoll and Rathbun 1990). It is also found along streams bordered by gallery forest. Normally it does not occur in large rivers, although one individual was found in the Ivindo river (Gabon) where it was several hundred metres wide. This species is an adept swimmer that feeds on crabs, fish and amphibians. It lives in riverbank burrows, which have an entrance below the water level. It shelters in its burrows during the day becoming active in the afternoon. It is possibly a solitary species with each adult occupying between 500-1,000 m of stream.

A very muscular tail enables efficient swimming by horizontal undulations (Kingdon 1974), as in fishes and crocodiles. This method of swimming is unique amongst aquatic mammals (e.g., pinnipeds, cetaceans) which usually swim by undulations in a vertical plane. The forelimbs are not used for propulsion. Moving on land it is rather clumsy. The body pelage is groomed with comb-like structure formed by the fusion of second and third toes. It is nocturnal with several bouts of activity each night (Dubost 1965, Nicoll 1985), and it rests during the daytime in a burrow in river bank. When disturbed, it escapes in the water. Movements over long distances are always by water, never over-land.
It forages in water, feeding on aquatic prey. It hunts by diving and each dive lasting for only a few seconds. Prey are located using the sensitive vibrissae and odour; the eyes apparently are not used to locate prey. Analysis of stomach contents and faeces show that the diet is mainly fishes, crabs, shrimps and water insects; frogs are eaten rarely (Dubost 1965). In captivity it eats 15-20 crabs per night (Durrell 1953).

Latrines are probably used to mark the boundaries of territory (Dubost 1965). The den, with the nest chamber, is entered from below or above water level and is usually placed under a tree.

This species breeds during wet and dry seasons.
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: It is reported to be widely hunted for its skin but there is no further use or trade information.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

Soil erosion caused by deforestation increases the murkiness and opaqueness of waterways which seems to be to the detriment of this species. This is a particular problem in Cameroon (Nicoll 1985), where forest clearance, soil erosion and resultant murky water in forest streams resulted in the disappearance of the local Potamogale population. This species may therefore be in decline in most of its range states where the loss of native forest due to timber extraction, agriculture and infrastructure development is an ongoing threat. It is reported to be widely hunted for its skin and is accidentally trapped in nets or fish traps, but the extent to which such offtake is a threat to the survival of the species is unknown.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: It occurs (or thought to occur) in a number of protected areas across its range. Further research on the species’ distribution, population, habitat needs and threats will help determine appropriate conservation measures where they are needed.

Citation: Stephenson, P.J. 2015. Potamogale velox. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T18095A21285012. . Downloaded on 29 November 2015.
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