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15 fascinating facts about otters

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on Jan. 21, 2020, 2:18 p.m.
Giant river otter in the Amazon jungle.

Photo: ostill/Shutterstock

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The giants of river otters

The giant otter is a species found in South America, living primarily along the Amazon river and the Pantanal. This species is the longest of the otter species, though the sea otter beats it for heaviest otter species. The giant otter can grow to as long as 6 feet and weigh as much as 75 pounds (sea otters can weigh nearly 100 pounds). They have a serious appetite to match their size and activity — they can eat between six and nine pounds of food every day!

Poaching for their velvet-like fur caused a significant population decline and is one of the main reasons why this species is highly endangered. Threats also include habitat degradation, pesticides, pollution from mining, and even conflicts with fishermen who consider the species a competitor. Experts estimate that only between 1,000-5,000 giant otters still exist, though pinning down a more exact number is hard. Otters are one of the most difficult mammals to census. Only extended conservation efforts protecting the species and, importantly, large stretches of riparian habitat, can keep the giant otter from disappearing.