Giant Otter Pteronura brasiliensis
Giant  Otter, Pantanal, Mato Grosso, Brazil, December 2006 - click for larger image Pantanal. Mato Grosso, Brazil
December 2006

The Giant Otter is distributed in the Amazon and Orinoco Basins as well as the Pantanal and, its most important remaining area - the Guyanas. It is classified as Endangered with probably less than 5,000 individuals remaining.

Giant  Otter, Pantanal, Mato Grosso, Brazil, December 2006 - click for larger image It is very large with males being almost 2 metres from nose to tail and weighing about 30 kilos. It has a curious stubby nose which is flesh-coloured and white stripes down the front of its neck. These are different from one otter to another and allow for the easy identification of individuals.

They are amphibious spending most of their time on land but being very agile swimmers as they hunt for fish.
Giant  Otter, Pantanal, Mato Grosso, Brazil, December 2006 - click for larger image The mustelid family which includes otters are not noted for being sociable but the Giant Otter is an exception. They live in large family groups and the group that we saw in the Pantanal must have numbered about 10. They indulge in co-operative preening and younger adults will look after youngsters while older adults are away hunting. They are also very vocal.
Giant  Otter, Pantanal, Mato Grosso, Brazil, December 2006 - click for larger image And fierce. When I lived in São Paulo in the 1980s there was a horrendous incident at the zoo when a young child fell into the Giant Otter enclosure. An off-duty policeman jumped in and handed the child back over the barrier but he couldn't get out and was dead within minutes.

There is an excellent entry on Giant Otter in Wikipedia.
Giant  Otter, Pantanal, Mato Grosso, Brazil, December 2006 - click for larger image
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