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Rainforest Animals – Giant Otter

Name:

Giant otter

Scientific name:

Pteronura brasiliensis

Condition:

Endangered

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordates

Class: Mammals

Order: Carnivora

Family: Mustelidae

Genus: Pteronuria

Kind: P. brasiliensis

General information:

The giant otter is an amphibian carnivore and one of the largest members of the mustelidae family. Although the largest in the weasel family, the sea otter is heavier. In its native Amazonian habitats, the giant otter is an apex predator and is active exclusively during daylight hours (diurnal). Although once abundant in South America, its numbers have declined significantly, with current estimates generally putting its wild population at less than 5,000. The giant otter has been hunted for its skin and its habitat has been greatly degraded. It is listed as an “Endangered Species”.

Physical description:

The male otter can be between 4.9 and 5.9 feet long and the female is generally a bit smaller at 4.9 – 5.6 feet long. Some extremely massive specimens were once reported to be nearly 8 feet long, but hunting likely reduced the existence of such large specimens. Male otters weigh about 57 – 70 pounds and females about 48 – 57 pounds. Its fur is short and dense and brown in color. It also has a velvety texture, which has made the giant otter a prized prey for poachers. There are also light colored markings on its neck, which are unique and allow identification of specific individuals from birth.

Diet:

Giant otters feed on fish and supplement their diet with crustaceans, small snakes and even caimans. An adult can eat up to 10 kg of fish per day. They hunt alone and in groups.

Habitat:

Giant otters occur in freshwater habitats often found in forested areas. They prefer rivers, lakes and flooded areas where water currents are gentle. It is mainly terrestrial, but is amphibious in nature. It has lost up to 80% of its original Amazonian range in South America, but still occurs in areas of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

Reproduction:

The gestation period lasts about 65 – 70 days, after which 1 – 5 (on average 2) pups are born. The giant otter reaches sexual maturity at about 2 years of age. Males are actively involved in raising the young, as are older, juvenile siblings.

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