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Los Llanos, Casanare, Colombia

(Pteronura brasiliensis)

IUCN status : Endangered

Giant otter belongs to a family of carnivorous mammals called mustelid. Giant otters are endemic to South America, and they can be found in the Orinoco, Amazon and La Plata River systems. They prefer slow-moving rivers, lakes, swamps and flooded forests during the rainy season. Number of giant otters dropped drastically in the last couple of years due to extensive hunting (their fur is highly valuable in the fashion industry) and because of river pollution (heavy metals such as mercury are highly poisonous for otters). They sport a dense, velvety and thick brown fur which is water repellent. They are the only carnivores with a fur-covered nose. Giant Otters are the largest Otter species in the world. They can grow up to 6 feet and weigh up to 31 Kg. Giant otters are excellent swimmers and divers thanks to their short, webbed feet and flattened tail. They swim 9 miles per hour and pass distance of 330 feet in 30 seconds. Giant otters have well developed sense of sight, used primarily for hunting. Besides eyes, they use the whiskers to detect the prey in the water by identifying changes in the water pressure and current. They are apex predators of South America. Their strength is their group (called Bevy). Even small Anacondas are in their menu. They are also known as the "river wolf". They are usually hunted by Jaguars and Large Anacondas. The babies are vulnerable to Caimans. After two or three weeks after they are born, mother puts babies in the water where they learn to swim. In month or two, they become proficient swimmers and can hunt with the rest of their family. They stay within the family group usually until they reach sexual maturity, at age of 2.5 years. Giant otters are very loud animals. They produce around 9 different types of sounds, such as quick barks, explosive snorts, wavering screams or low growls, to inform other otters about potential danger (alarm sound) or to send aggressive warning.

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