Giant otters, kings of Tambopata

A friendly animal, giant otters are isolated in small groups, in the Tambopata rainforest. Entering to the Tambopata jungle, tourists find a different universe in which they are recieved by immense trees and the sound of the jungle, surrounded by an environment of magic; every step a new animal species comes closer and the question to the guides become endless. After a long walk, a dark green water mirror welcomes visitors: Lake Sandoval, one of the most beautiful in Tambopata. Blue sky and white clouds act as the roof that covers the perfect scene to observe these mammals of brown and voluminous body which, in joyful fluttering and between games, dive into the lake to appear with a silver fish. Soon after, the playful game turns ravenous and the fish is torn with by animal’s strong jaws and completely devoured. Otters are very outgoing and like to play with their family members and go fishing in groups. They are likely to be found in groups near fallen trees along the shore of the lake. Giant otter families are territorial and defend one another; although they don’t fight between their members, they will avoid each other. They prefer the backwaters, lakes and swampy lands. An adult otter needs to consume at least 4 kilograms of fish per day for survival. It is important not to destroy the areas where they live, and to protect the type of food that they consume. When they hunt in group, the otters’ attack strategy is very similar to the wolves, which is why they are called “Giant Otters”. They have been seen attacking in groups, dismembering and eating an alligator of almost 2 meters of length. In the early twentieth century, this species was found from Venezuela to Argentina, but the human predation reduced the number of giant otters until a small group was isolated in the lowlands. The fur trade of giant otter became intensive and was a major cause of predation. Nowadays the international fur trade of giant otters is prohibited, however this does not assure its total protection, and we must continue working to ensure their survival. Ecotourism is a plus for conservation, as it provides economic research of this species and protective efforts are made in favor of it. We interviewed Alejandro Hayes, an Environmental Engineer (Specialist in Natural Resources) and resident of Tambopata, for advice of what we can do to help the survival of giant otters. Which is the situation of the giant otters in the country? We have encouraging conservation rates, we even have well identified sites for observation and research, which is admirable. Unfortunately, danger does exist that threatens the survival of these animals, since the problem of illegal hunting has been replaced with the disturbance and constant intervention of its habitat by human activities such as fishing and logging. From your experience in Tambopata, do you think it is important to work for the conservation of these animals? Many people do not notice that every day we lose vast areas of rainforest, this development appears to be irremediable. It is not only important to fix it but urgent. What would you say to a tourist that wants to come to Tambopata and see these animals? To take advantage of this opportunity. The experience of being in the middle of the forest surrounded by life and mysticism of nature is incomparable. By Jennifer Hernandez