An orphaned otter shows no fear as he play-fights with a hyena and comes nose-to-nose with a huge lioness.
Moses, a Cape Clawless otter, was found by the side of a river when he was just a few weeks old after being abandoned by his parents. A policeman discovered the helpless baby animal and took him to Annel Strydom at Loebies Guest Farm and Predator Park in Bela Bela, South Africa.
Moses, who weighed just 400g, was nursed back to health by Annel who was also raising lion and hyena cubs in her home.
‘He was only as big as my hand when I first saw him,’ says Annel. ‘In my life, I never thought that I would see an otter, or see a baby otter. It was unexpected.’
Now 18 months old and free to roam the park, Moses still comes into the house and often shares Annel’s bed. And he’s formed one of nature’s most unlikely friendships with the residents of the predator park – including Robyn the lion.
‘By the time Moses came into our care we already had many animals. We had Robyn, who was in the house as a cub and he also became friends with a young spotted hyena.
‘They grew a big bond and Moses doesn’t see himself as an otter. He knows that he’s an otter, but he thinks he’s part of the family with the hyenas and lions. Moses thinks that Robyn is his sister and she regards him as her brother.’
Moses uses his small hands to touch the animals in the park, including a 200kg lion’s mouth who licks him back through the enclosure.
But Annel hit a surprising hurdle when Moses made his first attempt at swimming and came close to drowning in the water.
‘I thought that otters can all swim, it’s instinct,’ said Annel. ‘But, when I put him in the water he almost drowned. So we started to teach Moses to swim. We put him in a small swimming pool with just a little bit of water.
‘Every four hours we would take him to the water and we would make it deeper. We then took him to the dam and I was super-excited when he had his first dive.’
Despite the extraordinary bonds Moses has formed at the park, he will eventually return to the wild.
‘He’s not a pet, Moses can walk whenever he wants to, he’s not in any enclosures and roams freely on the farm, and we know that when the hormones kick in he will walk off,’ says Annel. ‘I hope that one day Moses will find a mate and begin a family of his own kind.’