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Giant Otter



The surface of the Tres Chimbadas oxbow lake typically looks like the top of a mirrored glass table. Calm, serene, and darkened by tannins, this and other oxbow lakes in the Tambopata Region are aquatic treasures. They provide important habitat for a wide variety of fish species, several types of waterbirds, Anacondas, big Black Caimans, and many other Amazonian animals. Odd-looking Hoatzins hang out in the bushes at the edge of oxbow lakes while toucans and the occasional Plum-throated Cotinga perch in the surrounding treetops.

One of the rarest creatures that live in oxbow lakes also makes its home at Tres Chimbadas. This animal is the Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis). Those who get the opportunity to observe this endangered aquatic Mustelid are very fortunate indeed as Tambopata is among the few accessible places on Earth where this fantastic, rare mammal can be seen with ease. A high percentage of excursions to oxbow lakes near the lodges run by Rainforest Expeditions are successful in viewing Giant Otters. One of the reasons why so many guests see them is due to the efforts made by guides to avoid disturbing these shy, beautiful animals.

Some interesting facts about Giant Otters:
  • The largest of the Mustelidae family: This family of mammals includes the weasels, river otters, martins, and ferrets. While most species of Mustelid are small in size, the Giant Otter typically reaches a length of five feet (more than one and a half meters)!

  • Only 5,000 left in the wild: This may sound like a lot to some people but when you take into account that this number of animals is distributed across an area similar in size to the lower 48 states in the USA, you get an idea of how rare they truly are. There used to be many more Giant Otters in the world but they have declined due to hunting for their pelts, deforestation, and disturbance.

  • Expert fishers: Giant Otters feast on several species of Amazonian catfish and Characins and eat around 3 kilograms of their body weight every single day.

  • Social animals: Giant Otters live in extended family groups that can number from 3 to even 20 individuals and spend most of their time together.

  • Throat patch identifies them: Each Giant Otter is born with uniquely shaped and patterned patches of cream colored fur on the throat. This can be used to identify each individual animal.

  • Vocal animals: Giant Otters make a variety of curious sounds that have different meanings. A short bark or snorting sound can be used to indicate alarm whereas a low growl is a warning.
How to see Giant Otters on an Amazon adventure:
  • Take a tour to a remote, protected area: Giant Otters have unfortunately disappeared from large areas of their range. They mostly occur in wild, heavily forested, protected areas such as the Tambopata region.

  • Visit an oxbow lake in Tambopata: Several of the oxbow lakes near the Tambopata river harbor healthy populations of this endangered mammal. Trips are frequently made to see them from the Rainforest Expeditions eco-lodges.
See rare, Giant Otters in action by taking an Amazon adventure tour to the Tambopata region with Rainforest Expeditions.

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