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Giant Otter

Fact File

Class: Mammal
Order: Carnivore
Family: Badgers, otters, weasels & relatives
Found:  Africa
Size:    1.6m
Weight:  28kg


Diet:  Carnivore (Meat Eater)
Gestation: 62 days


Conservation Status: LC

Giant Otter

Pteronura brasiliensis

Habitats: rivers, lakes and ponds

Threats: This is one of the most endangered species in South America. Up until the 1980s these otters were excessively hunted for their valuable fur.  Today an estimated 2,000-5,000 are left in isolated pockets due to hunting, pollution and habitat destruction; with the areas in which they live being destroyed and degraded by mining, logging, damming and over-fishing .  Today even in captivity they are very rare, with this park being one of two places in England where you can see these fabulous animals. Yet another animal competing with humans for space and food.

Social Behaviour: A special feature of the Giant Otter is their highly developed social behaviour. They live in groups of up to 10 individuals, who hunt, sleep, and play together.   A group occupies a confined territory, and the territories of different groups do not overlap.

Food: Giant otters are piscivorous, meaning they eat only fish!   They spend most of their time in the water and find most of their food there. Giant Otters hunt during the day and sleep at night. An amazing thing about their whiskers, which are called “vibrissae”, is that they can use them to detect changes in current and water pressure.  This helps when they are searching for fish and other prey because they can detect the prey’s movement.

Information: This otter’s fur is so dense that water never reaches the skin, even when swimming. Giant Otters spend a lot of time in the water, and can dive for several minutes at a time so their outer fur is thick and waterproof. The inner coat includes an insulating layer of air, and stays dry even underwater.

Range: The Giant Otter lives in the rivers and lakes of the South American rainforest. The Giant Otter population once was widespread from Venezuela to northern Argentina.  Today they are found in the slow moving rivers, lakes and ponds of the Orinoco, Amazon, and La Plata rivers.

Conservation: Through our conservation charities The Sumatran Tiger Trust and The Wildlife Protection Foundation we are working to save species and habitats all over the world.  To find out more check out www.wildlifeprotection.info or www.tigertrust.info

How we are Protecting Wild Animals
Throughout most of tropical America large macaws have suffered major population declines as a result of habitat loss and poaching for the pet trade.

The Tambopata Macaw Project is a long term research project, which studies the behaviour, ecology and diet of wild parrots and macaws. The research includes monitoring of home range and habitat use, using GPS surveillance technology, and the study of breeding behaviour through the use of specially designed bird nest boxes with the inclusion of remote cameras.

The project also works to protect the forest – in particular the bird’s nesting and feeding sites. This is largely done by promoting ecotourism in the area – this boosts funds and awareness for the local wildlife as well as providing higher security from illegal logging and poaching.

The information our scientists have uncovered so far has been invaluable to the care and protection of these threatened species, both in this area and across the globe.

Safari Zoo Animals Protected by This Project

Other Wild Animals Protected by This Project