Rainforest Neotropical Otter

The Neotropical Otter (Lontra longicaudis) is a small, rare otter. It measures between 90 cm and 150 cm in length and is a sleek, dark, glossy brown colour.  The upper lip, lower cheek and throat are silvery in colour and the head is small with small eyes and short rounded ears. Its legs are short and stout and the tail is sinuous and round in shape (the Giant River Otter has a flat, paddle shaped tail in comparison).

The Neotropical Otter ranges from Central and South America and is a terrestrial, freshwater animal. It is quite shy; it usually can be found solitary or in pairs and is much smaller than the Giant River Otter. Not much is known about this graceful swimmer except that it feeds mainly on fish and crustaceans and is always found in or near freshwater. It seems to prefer clear, fast flowing rivers and streams and has been spotted in the creeks and rivers of the Iwokrama Rain Forest and in the Rewa River.

Neotropical Otter (Photo by A Holland)

It is thought that although both the Neotropical and Giant River Otters are found in the same rivers and waterways they coexist, because they use different habitats for denning and because of difference in prey size (presumably the smaller, Neotropical Otter would target smaller fish than the Giant River Otters), and behaviour; the Neotropical Otter is crepuscular, meaning that it is active most at dawn and dusk.

Between 1950 and 1970, this otter was hunted for its pelt; this combined with habitat destruction through mining and ranching and other sources of water pollution have probably contributed to the overall rare status of this animal.   As it is often found in sluggish or silty water, its presence can indicate a healthy fresh water ecosystem, not contaminated by mining or land erosion from human development.

The Neotropical Otter is listed as endangered by the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). Habitat destruction (deforestation, pollution of waterways, mining and damming) seems to be the major threat to these animals now that trade in their pelts is banned, and overall the population of Neotropical Otters is decreasing.

Rain forests are rich in biodiversity and are home to many different plants and animals as well as indigenous communities. Humans, even those who don’t live in the rain forest, rely on it for resources such as building materials (wood and lianas), medicine and fruits. Rain forests also provide essential environmental services for life on earth; they create soil as well as prevent soil erosion, produce oxygen though photosynthesis, maintain clean water systems, and are a key defence against climate change.  The Iwokrama Rain Forest is 371,000 hectares, located in the heart of Guyana. Our mission is to develop strategies for conservation and sustainable development for local people in Guyana and the world at large. We are involved in timber, tourism and training. Come and visit us in the rain forest or at http://www .iwokrama.org.

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