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The aptly named giant otter is exceptionally well adapted to life in rivers, lakes and wetlands in tropical South America. Known in Spanish as lobo del rio or 'river wolf', it can be as long as a human is tall, and is the most social of the world's thirteen otter species. Each individual is identi¡able from birth by its pale throat pattern, as unique as your fingerprint. Giant otters are top carnivores of the Amazon rainforest and have little to fear… except man.
There are many reasons why scientists and tourists alike are fascinated by this charismatic species. Spend a day in the life of a close-knit giant otter family and you'll realise why. Learn about their diet and hunting techniques, marking and denning behaviour, and breeding and cub-rearing strategies, including shared care of the youngest members. Become familiar with the complex life histories of individual otters over their 15-year lifespans. And accompany a young disperser during the trials and tribulations of a year spent looking for a mate and a home of its own.
Although giant otters have few natural enemies, they became the target of the international pelt trade in the 1940s, and by the early 1970s had been hunted to the brink of extinction. Today, illegal hunting is a minor hazard. So why is the giant otter still endangered? Find out about current threats to the species and discover how a variety of conservation actions are bene¡ting the otters over the last decades. Then be a part of the solution by acting on the steps we can all take to help further giant otter conservation.
Jessica Groenendijk is a Dutch biologist and conservationist with a passion for connecting people with nature. Her work has been published in BBC Wildlife Magazine, Africa Geographic, Earth Island Journal, The Island Review, and Zoomorphic, amongst others. Her blog was Highly Commended in the International Category of the 2015 BBC Wildlife Blogger Awards and she is a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers. She was probably an otter in a previous life.