Giant otter

Species profile

Name: the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) – also known as the giant river otter – is the largest member of the Mustelidae or weasel family.

Appearance: giant otters typically have chocolate brown fur although it can be reddish or even light yellow. Their fur is extremely dense to prevent water from penetrating to the skin. They have unique white or cream coloured markings on their throats which they use to recognise each other.

Size: adult males reach between 2.2 and 2.4 metres in length while females are around 1.0 to 1.5 metres. Early reports of skins and living animals suggested exceptionally large males of up to 3.1 metres although intensive hunting has likely reduced the occurrence of such huge individuals.

Diet: they mainly feed on fish such as cichlids, piranha, and catfish although if fish are unavailable they also eat crabs, snakes, and even small caimans and anacondas.

Did you know: giant otters play an important role in the folklore of the Amazon region. For the Achuar people, giant otters are seen as a form of tsunki or water spirit. The Bororo people have a legend that those people who used the tobacco leaf improperly by swallowing it were punished by being transformed into giant otters. While the indigenous Kichwa people believed in a world where Yaku runa reigned as mother of the water and was charged with caring for fish and animals – using giant otters as canoes.

Location: they are typically found in freshwater rivers and streams which flood seasonally – particularly in and along the Amazon River and the Pantanal.

Best places to see giant otters

According to reports submitted to WildSide, the best places to see giant otters are as follows:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
Madre de Dios
Peru
50%
average
4.8
very good
4
reports

Photo credit: Cloudtail the Snow Leopard, under a Creative Commons license from Flickr