Giant Otter

World Otter Day 2020

Janette Schofield News

It’s World Otter Day! To mark the occasion, we want to focus on the amazing Giant Otter, an animal that’s classed as endangered by the IUCN. Giant Otters are native to South America and due to habitat loss, poaching, and industry, there are now fewer than 5,000 left in the wild.

To give you an introduction to this amazing animal we present our top 10 Giant Otter facts!

  1. Giant otters have a creamy-white pattern on their throats, and this mark is believed to be unique to each individual, helping them to distinguish each other in a group.
  2. A family group of Giant Otters is called a raft, a romp or a bevy.
  3. They are known in Spanish as the river wolf (Lobo Del Río).
  4. There is evidence that long time bonds form between giant otter pairs, who may stay together for several breeding seasons.
  5. Family groups hunt together, but each individual catches its own prey. Once they have hunted successfully, Giant Otters bring their prey to a “picnic area” to eat.
  6. The giant otter’s size and speed allows it to compete for fish with the likes of jaguars and black caimans.
  7. Giant otters are diurnal, being most active from 10-11 am and from 3-5 pm. They take a nap at mid-day during really warm weather.
  8. Giant otter fur is the shortest of all the otter species. It is also water-repellent, as the fur is densely packed so that no water can penetrate through to the skin.
  9. Although Giant Otters can be found all over South America, the population is highly fragmented due to localised extinctions.
  10. For a long time, the main threat to Giant Otters was the fact that they were hunted for their pelts. They now face a multitude of threats including habitat contamination and degradation, overfishing of their prey and conflicts with fishermen, human infrastructure and climate change.

To support the Giant Otter, YWPF are a proud and active supporter the Instituto Araguaia Giant Otter Project in Brazil. The key project is set in remote areas of South America and aims to preserve the Giant Otter threatened by deforestation, commercial fisheries, and increased industrialisation across the Amazon Basin. YWPF fund a scheme to improve management and conservation of the Cantão ecosystem, carrying out local field surveys in the 90,000 hectare Cantão State Park in Brazil.

During the coronavirus lockdown, the project has been continuing their patrols and wildlife monitoring, with staff choosing to self-isolate at the wilderness base.