Giant Otter

Giant Otter

Giant Otter – Pteronura brasiliensis

Description

The Giant Otter features a very long body, similar to that of a weasel. Many people find this particular Otter to be different in size and shape from others. For that reason they are often mistaken for another type of animal.

Distribution

Throughout South America is where you will find the Giant Otter. They prefer to reside in the rivers and streams that hold freshwater. It is also common for these regions to flood during the rainy season.

Behavior

They are very social which is why you will find them in very large groups. It is also known as the noisiest of all species due to the constant communications that go on among them. It is very fascinating though to listen to all of the activity going on.

You will find that they are very active during the day. Then they retreat to their dens on land as the sun goes down. These Otters prefer to live in groups that can have up to 20 members in them. They have a complex hierarchy that takes place within these groups. For example the females with pups take precedence over all the rest.

They are very protective of the members in their groups too. Usually it is the males that take care for defending them but instances of females doing the battles have been recorded as well.

Diet/Feeding

The Giant Offer primarily feeds on various types of fish in the water. They also enjoy feeding on crab and small snakes.

Giant otter, large carnivorous mammal

Giant otter – Pteronura brasiliensis / Photo taken by Frank Wouters from Belgium

Reproduction

The reproduction of the Giant Otter leaves a great deal to be figured out. Experts can only assume what really goes on in the wild. They have observed such efforts in captivity but feel that there will also be some differences based upon the location. As long as there is plenty for the Otters to survive on they will take part in mating all year long.

The males are the ones that will initiate the process though. About 70 days after conception the pup will be born. A female may be ready to mate again in a couple of months but it can be up to 2 years before she does.

They are good caregivers, but research shows that stress can cause them not to create enough milk or to abandon their pup. This is both in captivity and in the wild. The average lifespan for a Giant Otter is 8 years in the wild and 17 in captivity.

Conservation

The future for the Giant Otter has been looking grim for many decades. However, with conservation efforts in place there may still be some hope for them after all. There are less than 5,000 of them in the wild and approximately 60 of them in captivity. They do seem to adapt well to changes in their natural environment though which is a plus.

Right now it is categorized as being endangered. There continues to be plenty of research too about introducing them to new environments as a means of increasing their numbers. Poaching continues to be a huge problem which is the illegal hunting of these animals.

Commercial fishermen are being asked to use nets that won’t trap or kill the Giant Otter. They are more expensive though than what the other nets cost so many of them still haven’t made the transition.

Human Interaction

Humans are the only real predators that the Giant Otter has. However, there have been some reports of cougars and jaguars killing them in certain areas. This is very likely due to changes in the natural habitat for those types of animals though.