Giant Otter

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Latin name - Pteroneura brasiliensis

Class - Mammalia

Order - Carnivora

Family - Mustelidae

IUCN Status - Endangered

Habitat - Rainforests and wetlands of South America

Distribution - Endemic to South America mainly the Brazilian Amazon and bordering areas

Giant New Forest Wildlife Park 2023 78

General information

Found in South America, Giant River Otters are the largest of the 13 species of otter reaching up to 6ft in length. Although mostly covered with dark chocolate coloured short fur, they do have a distinctive cream coloured throat patch. This throat patch can work as an identifier, as no two will be the same. Their fur is dense and extremely luxurious with two layers and the outer layer is made up of their guard hairs which protect the second layer and skin from the water. The inner layer is short and dense for warmth. 

Extremely well adapted for swimming in the rivers, Giant Otters have the ability to close their nose and ears while diving under the water, use their whiskers to feel vibrations, have extremely webbed feet for paddling and a muscular flat long tail to use as a rudder. So, as incredibly agile swimmers, the Giant Otter can swim 330ft in less than 30 seconds.

They eat up to 5 kg of fish per day but will also eat crabs, small caiman and small anaconda.They live in family groups of 15 to 20 otters and are the most vocal of all the otters as they keep in contact with their group by constant chatter. They are an extremely territorial species that mark out and patrol their territory, where they will have created a den by digging into the riverbank or under fallen logs.


10 years in the wild. 15 - 20 years in captivity

Habitat destruction and hunting for their fur are the major causes of their decline.


Habitat loss, overharvesting of fish, river contamination and being hunted for their fur.

Fun Fact

They love to eat piranha fish in the Amazon but are always very careful to eat the head first!!! Good idea!

Our Residents

Panambi, born in 2007 at Tierpark Germany, along with her daughter, Meamu, born at Chestnut Centre, our sister park, in April 2011, joined us in 2017 and can be found at the very front of the Park at the entrance to the Main Building!

Panambi’s firstborn son, Simuni was the first ever Giant Otter to be born in the UK at The Chestnut Centre, in June 2010. In 2021 through the EEP, Simuni was joined by a young female from Sweden, named Ibera. After immediately taking to each other, Simuni and Ibera became the proud first-time parents in January 2023 of their female cub, Karanambu. They have also had their second litter of two cubs on 25th December 2023, a male named Guapo and a female named Acari. The family can be seen in their brand new enclosure in the deer encounter.

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