Conservation of the Giant Otter
Conserving the Giants of the Amazon
The Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) is the largest otter species that exists and it inhabits the lakes, rivers and currents of the tropical plains of South America (from sea level to 600 meters above sea level) to the east of the Andes in the basins of the Orinoco, Amazon and La Plata rivers.
River otters have gone from plentiful distribution in the past to nearing extinction in some areas and their presence is rare, fragmented and diminished, especially in the southeastern region of their habitat. The species has gone extinct in Uruguay and Argentina, and is now rarely encountered in Paraguay. The largest populations of Giant otters today reside in Guyana, the Pantanal of Brazil, and in southeastern Peru along the Brazilian and Bolivian borders.
In Danger for Decades
These impressive creatures have been threatened with extinction for seven decades. In Peru, they are considered in danger, the IUCN identifies the species on their Red List and CITES in Appendix 1. From 1946 until the 1970s, river otter furs were considered highly fashionable in Europe. The overwhelming hunting and sale to which it was exposed killed off its population in some countries and Peru was one of the largest providers of river otter furs. Today, they are no longer hunted for their fur but face other threats like mining and logging that put their habitats at risk. Directly or indirectly, humans continue to be their biggest predators.
The Giant Otter Project
The FZS Peru Giant Otter Project was founded in 1990 by biologists Christof Schenck and Elke Staib and has since become the emblem of our work. This project seeks to increase knowledge and understanding of this charismatic animal, and to develop a long-term plan of action for its conversation in the country.
The main activities of the project are:
One of the most important components of this project, and perhaps the most entertaining, is monitoring the river otter populations and documenting their habits. Our team of biologists and field assistants update this data in bi-annual censuses within the Manu National Park, the Tambopata National Reserve and their buffer zones.
Network of Strategic Partners
The purpose of this research is to communicate the importance of this species for the tourism sector through better understanding of its interaction with visitors, being without question one of the principal tourism attractions in the region. What is more, this information is used in coordination with the local governments to establish necessary conditions for the development of eco-tourism businesses to work according to the conservation strategy for the Giant otter and at the same time in favor of the sustainable development of the local population that live around the protected areas.