Potamogale velox


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

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: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Vogel, P. (IUCN SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group)
Reviewer(s): Rathbun, G. (Afrotheria Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
The species is not thought to be declining at a rate significant enough to qualify for a higher category, and is listed as Least Concern. The current population seems to be declining, but is not well known. In Cameroon (and probably elsewhere) forest clearance and soil erosion cause murkiness and opaqueness of the water in forest streams, and resulted in disappearance of local population of these otter-shrews (Nicoll 1985).
2006 Least Concern
1996 Endangered

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: 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, to western Uganda and western Kenya and Tanzania, and southwards to central Angola and northern Zambia (Corbet 1974). From sea level up to 1,800 m. Occurs in the preserved rainforest of Kakamega, Kenya.
Angola (Angola); Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Gabon; Kenya; Nigeria; South Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Mean density in good habitats may be 1 territorial animal /0.5 to 1 km length of stream with maximum densities of about 1 per 100 m river (Dubost 1965).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Found in streams in equatorial rain forests. Lives along rather small slow-flowing forest streams, forest pools and mountain torrents (from an altitudinal range of 0–1,800 m) where banks provide habitats for nest chambers (Nicoll and Rathbun 1990). Also along streams, bordered by gallery forest. Normally does not occur in large rivers, although one 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.

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., seals arid whales) which usually swim by undulations in a vertical plane. Forelimbs not used for propulsion. Moving on land is rather clumsy. Body pelage groomed with comb-like structure formed by the fusion of second and third toes. Nocturnal with several bouts of activity each night (Dubost 1965, Nicoll 1985); rests during daytime in burrow in river bank. When disturbed, escapes in the water. Movements over long distances always by water, never over-land.

Foraging and food Forages in water, feeding only on aquatic prey. Hunts by dives, each lasting for only several seconds. Prey located using the sensitive vibrissae and odor; eyes apparently not used to locate I prey. Analysis of stomach contents and feces show that diet is mainly fishes, crabs, shrimps, and water insects; frogs rarely eaten (Dubost 1965). In captivity eats 15– 20 crabs per night (Durrell 1953).

Latrines probably used to mark 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.

Breeds during wet and dry seasons. One (n=3) or two (n=2) pups/litter. Probably two litters/year (Dubost 1965).
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Soil erosion caused by deforestation increases the opaqueness of waterways to the detriment of this species. This is a particular problem in Cameroon (Nicoll 1985), but a potential threat in the other range states undergoing rapid forest loss. If forest strips lining the banks of the inhabited waterways remain intact then viable population are thought to be maintained. This species is also widely hunted for its skin and is accidentally trapped (but the extent to which this last is a threat to survival is unknown).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Occurs in a number of protected areas across its range. Basic biology and conservation research will determinre the types and feasibility of realistic conservation measures.

Citation: Vogel, P. (IUCN SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group) 2008. Potamogale velox. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 31 August 2015.
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