Giant Otter Facts
The giant otter feasts mainly on fish, including catfish and piranhas. Although they mainly eat fish, giant otters are known to eat snakes, crabs, caimans, and even anacondas.
Giant otters have very few predators, but jaguars are known to hunt them on land. When in the water, caimans and large anacondas will rarely try to hunt giant otters.
Giant otters have water repellent fur that is very thick and dense. Their fur is usually dark brown but appears black when wet. Giant otters are the largest otters on the planet and can swim at speeds up to 9 miles per hour. They also have very sensitive whiskers, or vibrissae, that can detect changes in water pressure and help when discovering prey in the area. The giant otter has a great sense of smell, keen eyesight, and small ears.
Giant otters live in family groups, consisting of a mother, father, and young otters, or pups. A group of otters usually consists of around eight family members but can reach sizes up to 20 otters. A family of otters, called a raft, hunt, play, sleep, and socialize together. Giant otters are very vocal and will make loud barks to warn the raft of otters about incoming predators or other threats. Giant otters are territorial and mark off their land with latrines or ditches. Giant otters do not store their food and, when they make a kill, they will find a peaceful place, or picnic spot, to eat it.
Poaching is one of the major threats to giant otters, as their pelts are very rare and highly prized. The number of giant otters reached as low as 12 otters in 1971. In recent times, habitat loss due to the logging industry in the Amazon rainforest has significantly decreased the population of giant otters. Gold mining in the area has also been shown to affect giant otters as mercury was found in many of their bloodstreams (mercury is a byproduct of gold mining). Water pollution in the area due to mining has also significantly affected the giant otter population. As of now, 5000 giant otters are left in the world.