The rakali

The rakali (Hydromys chrysogaster) is one of Australia’s native water rats, active in both freshwater and saltwater habitats (wetlands, streams, farm dams, lakes, estuaries, beaches). They have been seen by neighbours in my area, but unfortunately not by me.

So I was thrilled to see a photo of one taken by neighbour Liam Corbett, who was visiting Ballarat (Victoria) at the time. The rakali had come out to sniff his sneaker.

Rakali (photo by Liam Corbett)

They are the closest thing to otters that we have and can get fairly large:

Rakali have a body 231–370 millimetres (9.1–14.6 in) in length, weigh, 340–1,275 grams (0.750–2.811 lb) and have a thick tail measuring around 242–345 millimetres (9.5–13.6 in).


They eat fish, crustaceans, shellfish, small birds, eggs, mammals, frogs and reptiles. Their webbed feet aid in swimming.

They also can eat cane toads without dying – flipping the toads over on their backs to get at the stomach, thus avoiding the poison sacs on the shoulders.

Rakali are mostly solitary, and forage at dawn and dusk; when not foraging they rest in hollow logs and burrows.

They used to be hunted for their soft, waterproof fur, but have been protected such that they are common now, although shy and not often seen.

So it seems I’d better slip on some sneakers and quietly hang about some streams if I hope to see one in the wild.

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6 Responses to The rakali

  1. Prue Gargano says:

    I saw one in a creek in Canberra once and was dumbfounded: “There aren’t any otters in Australia” was my first reaction.

  2. janebeau says:

    What a lovely beastie! Of course, our otters are a bit bigger (up to a metre or so) but would probably be clueless with a cane toad. Very good with vicious dogs though!

  3. Kathleen Pearce says:

    We have never heard of these Rakali!
    We need then in the Kimberleys, where Cane Toads have arrived, and all across the top end.

    • Joy Window says:

      They are at the Top End, so possibly munching on cane toads as we speak. I became aware of them only a few years ago. We have a lot of native rodents that we don’t know much about.

  4. Roselene says:

    I’d love to meet one.
    One day, after lockdown/ shutdown etc. when I can travel again

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