The Giant Otter is Almost Always Unknown to the Average Person, Let Alone an Otter Lover
Learn About this Interesting Otter Species Below!
Name: Giant Otter
Scientific Name: Pteronura Brasiliensis
Species: P. brasiliensis
Giant Otter General Information:
The giant otter is an amphibious carnivore and one of the largest members of the mustelidae family. Although it is the longest in the weasel family, the sea otter is heavier. In its native Amazonian habitats, the giant otter is an apex predator and is active exclusively in daylight hours (diurnal).
Although once abundant in South America, its numbers have been greatly reduced, with current estimates generally listing its wild population at lower than 5,000. The giant otter has been hunted for its pelt, and its habitat has been greatly degraded.
The giant otter is listed as an “Endangered Species“.
The giant otter, known through much of its range as the ‘river wolf’, is one of South America’s top carnivores and is the largest of the otter species in terms of total length.
Giant Otter Physical Description:
The male otter can measure anywhere between 4.9 and 5.9 feet in length, and the female is generally a bit smaller at 4.9 – 5.6 feet long. Some exceptionally massive specimens once occurred at, reportedly, nearly 8 feet, but hunting has probably reduced the existence of such large specimens.
Male giant otters weigh in around 57 – 70 lbs, and females at around 48 – 57 lbs. Its fur is short and dense and is brownish in color. It is also velvety in texture, which has made the giant otter a prized victim of pelt poachers. There are also light-colored markings on its throat, which are unique and allow identification of specific individuals from birth.
The muscular, sinuous body is covered with velvety, brown fur, which is dense and water-repellent. The giant otter has short legs and large webbed feet which, along with the wing-like tail, allow the otter to move quickly through the water. The movement of prey is detected by the large eyes and sensitive whiskers.
Giant Otter Diet Facts:
Giant otters feed on primarily fish, and supplement their diet with crustaceans, small snakes, and even caimans. An adult can eat up to 10 lbs of fish per day. They hunt alone and in groups. It can be noted they are the most violent of all otter species, and spend much of their time hunting.
Giant Otter Habitat Facts:
Giant otters occur in freshwater habitats that are often located in forested regions. They prefer rivers, lakes, and flooded areas where the water currents are gentle. It is primarily terrestrial but is amphibious in nature. It has lost as much as 80% of its original South American Amazon range, but still currently habits areas of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.
Giant Otter Reproduction Facts:
The gestation period lasts about 65 – 70 days, after which time 1 – 5 (with an average of 2) pups are born. Males actively participate in rearing the young, as do older, juvenile siblings. Breeding can take place throughout the year, although most young are born during the dry season. Litter size varies from one to six cubs, following a 64 to 72-day gestation. The new cubs are cared for by both the adults and older siblings. At two to three weeks the cubs are put in the water by the female, and at three to four months the cubs begin hunting and traveling with the family. The young are weaned at six months, and are efficient hunters by the age of ten months, although they remain with the family group for at least another year; sexual maturity is attained at age 2.5 years, after which many young adults disperse
Giant Otter Conservation Facts:
The giant otter is protected through much of its range and is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which effectively bans international trade.
In 1990, the IUCN developed an action plan for the conservation of otter species. It recommended a number of conservation measures for the giant otter, including continuing studies on the ecology and requirements of this remarkable species, improving the management of existing protected areas in which it occurs, and stricter regulations to prevent the escape of toxic waste from factories, human settlements, and agriculture into the surrounding rivers and wetlands. Education campaigns are also required to raise awareness of the plight of this fascinating species.
The charismatic giant otter also plays an important role in nature tourism that may provide some financial incentives for protection measures.