In the shade of a magnificent Khaya anthotheca (African mahogany) and framed by a picturesque stone wall, is the Otter Pond. In this pond is a very lifelike sculpture of the elusive Cape Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis). It was sculpted by Llewellyn Davies and donated to Kirstenbosch by the Taeuber Family in September 1994. It is inscribed with these words: “Our quality of life will depend on the ability of mankind to live in harmony with nature.”
Otters were once abundant in the streams of Table Mountain but are now only rarely seen. They occur at Kirstenbosch, but are active early in the morning or at dusk, so you are more likely to see their droppings, containing crushed crab shells, than the animals themselves. Otters hunt for crabs, frogs, insects, terrapins and fish. They use their nimble fingers to search under rocks and crevices for food. They are superb swimmers and divers and use their strong tails to propel themselves through the water. They also live along the coast and are quite at home in sea water.
Fresh Water Crabs (Potamonautes perlatus) also inhabit the pond and may be seen scuttling for cover when spotted. They are also occasionally encountered walking along the paths – they can do this because they fill their gill cavity with water, which enables them to breathe as they travel overland. The pond is a favourite place of the Egyptian Geese.
Growing around the pond are Alsophila dregei (tree ferns), Gunnera perpensa (river pumpkin), Cyperus textilis (mat sedge), Wachendorfia thrysiflora with their yellow spikes in early summer, and in mid summer the bright orange Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora (falling stars) put on quite a show.