There might not be a huge anatomical difference between North American river otters and giant river otters, but you can definitely distinguish one from the other. Usually, when we picture otters, we think of those cute semi-aquatic weasels adorably smacking their chops as they chow down on a small fish.
Sure, they’re carnivores, but who could find that fuzzy face intimidating? Their gargantuan counterparts have just shattered that illusion.
Primarily found in South America, giant river otters are no small and defenseless rodents. In fact, these creatures can grow up to six feet long. They can also weigh up to 75 pounds and can eat six to nine pounds of food per day. With agile tails and webbed feet, they’re extremely fast in the water, too. Any scaly prey in its path doesn’t have much chance of escaping its sharp teeth. If that’s not tough enough, these huge otters often hunt in groups, coordinating their movements to catch the most amount of meat. These otters tend to stay in groups of three to eight, and they do just about everything together. So, if you see one, there are likely others sleeping or hunting nearby.
Recently, a documentary worker caught one of these magnificent and slightly terrifying creatures on camera. Two giant river otters chowed down on a giant eel. Check out the clip below to see just how powerful their jaws are.
Giant River Otters Slowly Returning From the Brink of Extinction
The recent video from the documentarian brings a spotlight to these “forgotten” creatures as the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) describes them.
Despite their intimidating appearance, giant river otters are still in need of protection. Back in the 1960s, according to the EOCA, these otters nearly faced extinction because of the demand for their fur. Their population in Amazonian Brazil reduced from 3,000 to 12 by 1971.
Thankfully, two years later, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITE) implemented hunting restrictions to help regenerate the species’ population. Since then, numbers have reached somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 in the same area. Although giant river otter numbers are on the mend, the species now faces new threats, including habitat destruction and degradation.
While they may not be as fluffy as their North American cousins, giant river otters are still a vital part of South American aquatic ecosystems. According to the EOCA, “powerful images and visual media” are the key to spreading awareness for these unique creatures and the obstacles they face. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing plenty more videos of giant river otters snacking on equally huge meals to help solidify their place in the wilder parts of the world.