If you are a wildlife enthusiast you might have spent some time looking for otters. However to see something really amazing nothing less than the giant otter will do.
Giant otters are the largest otters in the world and they live only in South America, mostly concentrated in the Amazon basin. They grow up to 6 feet long, though early reports of male otters up to 7.9ft exist, making them larger than most people. Despite their length, however, they tend to weigh relatively little, up to 32kg, due to their slender, streamlined body shape. This is important because they have to be very fast and agile in the water to be able to catch the fish which they eat. Including the fearsome piranha.
Underwater videos of giant otters hunting, like those on the recent BBC 2 documentary ‘Giant Otters of the Amazon‘, show just how impressive they are, darting after fish with rapid twists and turns that you can hardly follow at normal speed. They are pretty much the Michael Phelps of mammals.
They live in family groups and are very social animals, so if you are lucky enough to see one the chances are you will see more. These family groups are very protective of the young pups, older brothers and sisters will help the parents to look after them, give them swimming and hunting lessons, and even fight black caiman (a type of alligator which grows to 14ft in length) to protect the pups. The otters usually win.
Each individual has unique throat markings, making it easy to tell them apart, along with this they are very playful creatures so if you do get a chance to watch them you will feel like you are getting to know a group of unique personalities. Unfortunately they are listed as endangered on the IUCN red list and, despite conservation efforts, their population is decreasing making them an increasingly rare sight. Luckily Manu is home to a fairly large population of giant otters who live in the many oxbow lakes in the park. This makes Manu an ideal place to spot, photograph and film giant otters in the wild.