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Lobo del Rio (River Wolf, or, the Giant Otter)

Posted By Lauren Rosati, Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Having just come back from Peru, where I went on a small expedition to spot this mammal, I thought it would be important to post its species here. Giant Otters can grow to larger than human size, sometimes reaching 7 feet long. Unusually for a mustelid (a member of the weasel family), the Giant Otter is a social species, with family groups typically supporting three to eight members. The Giant Otter is exclusively active during daylight hours. It is the noisiest otter species and distinct vocalizations have been documented that indicate alarm, aggressiveness, and reassurance. The Giant Otter ranges across north-central South America, although its distribution has been greatly reduced and is now discontinuous. The species was listed as endangered in 1999 and population estimates are typically between 2,000 and 4,000 in the wild. The animal faces a variety of critical threats. Poaching has long been a problem. Statistics show that between 1959 and 1969 Amazonian Brazil alone accounted for 1,000 to 3,000 pelts annually. The species was so thoroughly decimated that the number dropped to just 12 in 1971. They are extremely easy to hunt, being active through the day and highly inquisitive. The animal's relatively late sexual maturity and complex social life makes hunting especially disastrous. More recently, habitat destruction and degradation has become the principal danger and a further reduction of 50% is expected in Giant Otter numbers within the next 20 years.

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Xavier Cortada
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