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Giant Otter

South America

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Pteronura brasiliensis

Endangered

  • Overexploitation for its highly sought fur
  • Habitat destruction due to logging, farming, and human activities
  • Habitat pollution due to fossil fuel extraction, gold mining, and tourism
  • Considered as a fishing threat or nuisance

The Giant Otter, also called River Wolf, used to range throughout the world’s largest river system which is on Amazon as well as within the world’s largest wetland region which is in Brazil’s Pantanal.

This South American carnivorous mammal has the longest body length (up to 2 metres) in the mustelid family but has the shortest fur of all otter species.

A Giant Otter is known as an inquisitive, sociable, and noisy animal – capable of making up to 22 types of distinct vocalizations used for different situations.

Being a diurnal river-dwelling creature, it feeds almost exclusively on fish (but may also eat crabs and snakes) in slow-moving freshwater environments and can consume up to ten pounds of its selected prey every day.

Because of its exceptionally-dense, water-repellent fur, this excellent apex predator is very much at home in the water and known to build complex nests close to its feeding area.

The luxurious feel of its fur – one of the finest in the world – has made the Giant Otter a constant poaching victim for decades now, with a price tag higher than a local resident’s annual income.

Even when pelt trade was deemed illegal in the 1970s, fishermen wouldn’t hesitate to kill them on sight because Giant Otters are viewed either a nuisance or a threat to their livelihood.

The continued pollution and destruction of its natural habitat also contributed greatly to the Giant Otter’s dwindling population, where estimates range from 5,000 to less than 1,000. Unsustainable logging activities in surrounding forest areas led to clearing of riverbanks’ vegetation while agriculture, fossil fuel extraction, and mining activities poison the water and the fish stocks in it – all compounding the Giant Otter’s problems of disrupted habitats, depleted soil areas, and increased vulnerability to overexploitation.