The diet of spotted-necked otters foraging in trout-stocked waters in Mpumalanga, South Africa
Human-wildlife conflict is likely to increase as urbanisation increases. African clawless otters, Aonyx capensis, and spotted-necked otters, Hydrictis maculicollis, are illegally persecuted for their perceived role in reducing trout in artificially stocked habitats in South Africa. The diet of African clawless otters has been investigated, but little is known about the diet of spotted-necked otters in these habitats. Using stable isotope techniques, we investigated the diet of spotted-necked otters occupying habitats artificially stocked with trout. Stable isotope analyses revealed that the diet of spotted-necked otters included equal proportions of crab and trout followed by frog. Diet was found to vary between, as well as within, individuals suggesting individual dietary plasticity. Temporal variation in foraging areas was evident for some otters. These results suggest that individual animals specialise on trout when available. However, this was not consistent between individuals. The resulting conflict with freshwater fisheries
may, therefore, be primarily due to individual animals adapting to diets consisting largely of farmed trout. The extent of spotted-necked otter influence on stocked trout, however, needs further investigation.
Keywords: Damages, fishery management, human-wildlife conflict, Hydrictis maculicollis, stable isotopes, trout As urbanisation