Endangered Species of the Week: Giant otter
Species: Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)
Status: Endangered (EN)
Interesting Fact: The giant otter is also known as the ‘river wolf’.
The giant otter is one of South America’s top carnivores, and is the largest of the otter species. The giant otter generally lives in family groups of three to ten individuals, composed of a monogamous, breeding pair and their offspring born during previous years. These groups rest, play, travel, fish and sleep together. When cubs are born, they are cared for in a den by both the adult pair, and the older siblings. At two to three weeks of age, the cubs are taken to the water by the female, and at three to four months the cubs begin hunting and travelling with the family. The patch of cream coloured fur on the throat and chin is unique to each individual from birth. The diet of the giant otter is composed almost exclusively of fish, but it is also known to eat caimans, anacondas, other snakes and even the occasional turtle!
Up until the late 1970s the giant otter was excessively hunted for its valuable fur, with its naturally curious disposition making it a particularly easy target. Today, however, habitat destruction is the major threat to this species, with the areas in which the giant otter lives being destroyed and degraded by mining, logging, and damming.
For more information on the giant otter, visit the IUCN Otter Specialist Group.
Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author