giant otter population


Animals were censused towards the end of each age class, i.e., cubs were first censused close to 0.5 years old, after emergence from the den. For large carnivores, that typically occur at low absolute densities, demography is especially relevant for Protected Area design [3] and direct management interventions such as habitat zoning. This species was excessively hunted up until the late 1970s for its valuable fur. Two species are marine; the others live mostly in fresh water. The average reproductive lifespan for adult females was 5.4 years (n = 30, SE 0.5, range 1.0–11.0), starting at age 3.0 which was the earliest recorded age of reproduction. The current total population is estimated to be somewhere between 1000-5000 individuals. Each sighting was recorded in a throat pattern catalogue, along with the location, date, status as interpreted from observation of behaviour (cub, non-breeding group member, transient, or breeding member) and sex, if determined. The giant otter can grow to more than 6 feet (2 meters) long and 70 pounds (32 kg), nearly twice as large as its American counterparts. The giant otter is the longest of the otter species but shares a similar weight with the sea otter. Their long tail may add as much as 70cm (28in) to this body length. In two cases, however, dominant females were displaced by another female in the group (a sister and a daughter). We recommend that an aquatic habitat conservation corridor be consolidated along the Madre de Dios River, ensuring the restoration of otter habitats impacted by mining and deforestation therein. Additional specific otter observations, film footage and photographic evidence collected between 1987 and 1991 were contributed by Andre Baertschi, and between 2006 and 2009 by Lisa Davenport and the Frankfurt Zoological Society; these 73 extra annual data points allowed us to complete a number of individual giant otter life histories. Animals that were seen in 1996 and again in 1999 were inferred for the intermediate years. Estimates have been provided for the following countries: 60 animals in Bolivia in the northwest in the Madre de Dios-Beni sub-basin; 50 individuals in 118,031 km² of the Pantanal (Paraguay river sub-basin), and 600 animals in the in 186,460 km² of the northeast (Itenez sub-basin), totaling an estimated 700 individuals; less than 250 animals in Ecuador; at least 200 animals in French Guiana; and 24-32 animals in Paraguay. As a consequence, many individuals, particularly transients, could not be sexed until 2002, when we discovered a simple and effective method of sexing giant otters, regardless of age. One to five latrines for communal use are placed along the perimeter of the site. Observations of wild and captive otters suggest that giant otters are weaned at approx. Of 50 reproductively mature males, 19 (38%) were not recorded to produce a single litter, 16 (32%) produced only one or two litters, and 15 (30%) produced three litters or more. Following the banning of fur trade, giant otter populations have recovered across South America. Rarely, an animal lacked a throat marking (n = 3 out of 294 inds.). of similar age) and territory quality also play important roles [unpublished]. Frankfurt Zoological Society, Frankfurt, Germany, Affiliation Furthermore, in the period 2002–2011, the average annual growth of the economy in Madre de Dios was 7.3%, higher than the national average growth of 6.4% [39]. All males have left their natal groups by age 4.5. Data Availability: The authors confirm that all data underlying the findings are fully available without restriction. No, PLOS is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation, #C2354500, based in San Francisco, California, US, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106202. This species is diurnal and lives together in family groups numbering 5-8 individuals. They build large dens in riverbanks and give birth to 1-5 babies at a time. Hence, extrinsic factors such as territory quality and distribution may also limit r and explain why protected giant otter populations in Manu and elsewhere have taken decades to recover from the crash induced by over-hunting. The Manu River was navigated with a 15 m motorised canoe, while oxbow lakes were surveyed with an inflatable boat, following a population census protocol developed by the IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group [44]. We present findings on the demography of a population inhabiting the floodplain of Manu National Park, south-eastern Peru, arising from 14 annual dry season censuses over a 16 year period. Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field. Overall, currently Giant otters are classified as Endangered (EN) and theirs numbers today are decreasing. When breeding females died, the reproductive position in the group was usually occupied by sisters or daughters (n = 11), with immigrant male partners. However, sexing was more difficult in adult females that had not lactated, or in cubs, juveniles and sub adults of both sexes. The Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) is a large South American mustelid featured in the Aquatic Pack DLC for Planet Zoo. No invasive sampling methods were used and no giant otters were captured. In each case, it was not possible to determine whether the former male died due to natural causes, or was evicted from the group by the immigrant male. The average age at which philopatric females were first recorded with a litter was 3.89 (n = 9), compared to an average age of 5.25 yrs for non-philopatric females (n = 4). We assumed a linear relationship between habitat area and population size given the observed relationship between den density and population … PLoS ONE 9(8): The giant otter has a handful of other names. Giant otters feed almost exclusively on fish [4], [6], [7], [16], [23]. These have focused on reducing human pressure on key habitats of the species, with the objective of maintaining habitat quality and maximizing giant otter reproductive success. Reproductive suppression is likely to occur in giant otters, as only the dominant pair in each family breeds [4]. Evergreen tropical forest dominates the Manu River flood plain. ), and have higher fish capture rates [16]. ), average reproductive life-spans (female 5.4 yrs., male 5.2 yrs. DANGER FOR OTTERS IN PROTECTED AREAS. In all cases (n = 11) when vacancies arose for a reproductively dominant female, it was a subordinate female otter from the oldest cohort that inherited the position, though she was not necessarily the only female in that cohort. The primary objective of the censuses was to count, identify, and record the status of all giant otters within the floodplain of the Manu River in order to determine population size and collect demographic data. This value of r implies a doubling time (derived from the equation for exponential growth Nt = No.ert by setting Nt/No = 2, and solving for t) of approximately 23 years, which is consistent with the overall trend observed in Figure 1. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106202.t003. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106202.g004. including years when a group was resident but no cubs emerged), was 1.5 (n = 117 group years). Giant otter abundance in Manu is characterized by relatively high local densities (5–10 individuals per square kilometre of lake) and low absolute densities (less than 1 individual per 100 square kilometres of rainforest), due to the limited total surface area of suitable aquatic habitats (particularly lakes) and their patchy distribution over the landscape. Yes The species is also found in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. Riverine forests are the most endangered ecosystem in the Department of Madre de Dios due to the concentration of gold mining, logging and agricultural activities in floodplains, highlighting the need for a giant otter habitat conservation corridor along the Madre de Dios River. Giant river otters are very sociable and live in families of between 3-10 individuals that hunt together. Thus, the combination of (1) physiological traits such as late age at first reproduction and long generation time, (2) a high degree of reproductive skew, (3) small litters produced only once a year and a pre-census cub mortality of 30%, (4) a further 50% mortality up to age of dispersal as well as high mortality amongst dispersers (especially males), (5) plus the influence of breeding pair compatibility, all help to explain the low intrinsic rate of increase of the population, slowing its ability to recover from the pelt trade in the past or possible future disease outbreaks. Females are smaller at 1-1.5m (3.3-4.9ft). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106202, Editor: Alexander J. Travis, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, United States of America, Received: April 16, 2014; Accepted: July 28, 2014; Published: August 27, 2014. Most otter groups reacted to the survey canoe by approaching and repeatedly craning head and neck straight out of the water, a behaviour known as ‘periscoping’. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106202.t004. In areas of low human disturbance, such as Manu National Park, the characteristic behaviour of giant otter groups to investigate intruders ensures that the surveyor is usually not avoided, even by non-habituated groups (although transients are shy and more elusive). e106202. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106202.g002, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106202.g003, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106202.t001. At 9-10 months they can hunt independently and look just like their parents. Baseline demographic and reproductive variables, including survivorship; longevity; average age at dispersal; earliest and average age at primiparity; average litter size, frequency and seasonality; average reproductive lifespan; and variance in reproductive success are documented. A family has a home range of 12 sq. The social system of giant otters is therefore unusual [15]; a typical giant otter population consists of highly cohesive multi-male/female families with defended territories, plus transients that have left their natal groups on attaining sexual maturity [4], [16], [17]. In addition, cubs produced in these territories are more likely to disperse successfully (become breeders at least once away from the natal territory) [unpublished]. The life table (Table 3, Table S1) generated values of 1.28 for the net reproductive rate (Ro), 8.21 yrs for the generation time (T), and 0.03 for the intrinsic rate of increase (r) of the population. In this study, dispersing females that are successful in forming new groups experience a delay in age at first reproduction, decreasing lifetime reproductive success significantly. In some of its range countries the populations are fairly stable but giant otters have gone extinct in some of their range countries. If giant otters seen in an earlier census were not observed in subsequent surveys, they were considered dead. broad scope, and wide readership – a perfect fit for your research every time. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106202.g001. The Balbina dam created ∼3525 islands and increased the open-water surface and total reservoir perimeter available to otters by a factor of 62.7 and 8.9, respectively. Other studies [18], [33] suggest that the Madre de Dios River itself, twice as wide as the Manu River, provides the highest quality habitat for the species; its large oxbow lakes and wetlands could support large giant otter groups with high reproductive output and, potentially, the largest sub-population of the watershed. Unfortunately, this has become the most pressing question regarding the giant river otter. Despite a recent recovery in some areas following banning of the fur trade, the species now faces several emerging threats that remain poorly understood. The California sea otters grew at an average rate of less than 2 percent per year during the last 10 years. Of the 17 cubs involved, 12 were subsequently recorded during the annual census. In total, northern La Paz Departmentis estimated to hold around 150 and 200 individuals, representing –together with giant otter populations in neighboring southwestern Pando Department and southeastern Peru- a population stronghold of regional importance for the conservation of this endangered species. We used both male and female offspring because many cubs could not be sexed. This species is a native of South America (except for Chile), east of the Andes. The giant river otter ( Pteronura brasiliensis) is the largest member of the mustelid family, which includes otters, weasels, and ferrets, and are by far the loudest member of the group. The number of litters produced annually in the study area increased significantly over the study period (Pearson’s r = 0.63, P = 0.01) (Figure 5). Frankfurt Zoological Society, Frankfurt, Germany. High dispersal mortality, especially among transient males, has also been documented in this study. On average, breeding females produced 6.9 cubs per lifetime (se 1.17). Furthermore, of the giant otter reproductive pairs that produced litters, almost all did so only once per year, producing relatively small litters in those years when any cubs emerged (mean size = 2.1). The annual giant otter censuses (recording a maximum of 88 inds.) have allowed us to estimate the total giant otter population in Manu National Park (including the headwaters) to be between 100 and 130 animals, that is, fewer than 22 groups or breeding pairs (given an average group size of six animals). The total population of giant river otters in the wild could now be as low as 5,000. As the river current erodes the bank, some meanders are cut off to form oxbow lakes, which can persist as distinct bodies of water for decades or centuries, but which remain connected to the parent river to varying degrees [32]. When they visit latrines, otters often defecate and urinate simultaneously [4] (fecaluria). Atypical of mustelids, the giant otter is a social species, with family groups typically supporting three to eight members. They take a nap at mid-day during really warm weather. Although widely distributed on a continental scale, overall they may occupy less than 5%, often less than 1% of a given watershed. A giant otter population is typically described as consisting of family groups and of lone dispersers of both sexes. However finding them can sometimes be very challenging. No, Is the Subject Area "Rivers" applicable to this article? Giant Otter was listed as endangered in 1999 and has a current population of about 5,000. No, Is the Subject Area "Peru" applicable to this article? Each year, therefore, several dominant females failed to raise a litter to 0.5 years. At the time of censuses, cubs were aged approx. In Manu National Park, Schenck [33] and Staib [16] found that home ranges of giant otters typically include one or more oxbow lakes, the associated stretch of river, and adjacent swamp areas and streams (which are inaccessible for observers and therefore make it impossible to define the exact extent of home ranges). Giant Otter on The IUCN Red List site -, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_otter, http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/18711/0. We observed four groups moving litters of young cubs between dens, estimated at between two weeks and one month old. Giant otters are towards the slow end of the fast-slow continuum in mammal life history strategies explored by Promislow & Harvey [35]. For a large top-chain predator that does not live at high population densities, this was an unsupportable harvest rate. The otter is lithe and slender with short legs, a strong neck, and a long flat tail that helps propel it gracefully through water. Overall, the population was comprised of younger individuals in the 2002 and 2004 censuses, compared to 1994 and 1996 censuses, which is consistent with the observed population growth. It is estimated that 40% of this population consists of recent immigrants attracted by land availability and job opportunities [38]. Yes Over the study period, the number of resident giant otter groups increased from a low of 7 in 1991 to a high of 12 in 2005. Sub adults and adults in the different resident groups were determined as such with subsequent censuses, as older animals dispersed and cubs identified in previous censuses matured. A reproductive individual’s tenure typically ended in disappearance. In none of these cases was the male partner related to the philopatric female. The aquatic systems, their floodplains, and forests associated with these, are thus amongst the most threatened habitats in Madre de Dios, both due to their natural limited extent, as well as the concentration of human activities such as mining and agriculture in these areas [42]. Incest was never recorded. Breeding pair duration and reproductive success. Habitat fragmentation and loss, as well as pollution are the current major threats to the Giant otter, as the areas where they live are degraded and destroyed by logging, mining and damming. Males were never observed to become dominant breeders in their natal groups and either form a new group or immigrate into an existing group to occupy the reproductive male position. In Spanish, river wolf (Spanish: [lobo de río] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help)) and water dog (Spanish: [perro de agua] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help)) are used occasionally, though the latter has many other meanings) and may have been more … No, Is the Subject Area "Flooding" applicable to this article? Environmental Studies and Research Center, University of Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil, Although cooperation between group members during hunting is not fully understood, larger groups (8 inds.) The breeding male could be identified by its behaviour, specifically that of intensive marking, and by its year-on-year permanence in the group (non-breeding males do not stay). Created in 1973, it is a World Heritage Site [30] and is located on the border of the Tropical Andes biodiversity hotspot [31]. Thirty percent of riverine forests in Madre de Dios (this figure includes those in Protected Areas) have already been destroyed. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106202.g006. An adult giant otter may eat 3–4 kg of food per day [7], [16]. Life expectancy peaks between 4.5 and 5.5 years, with the longest-lived male and female last seen at 15.5 years and at least 13.5 years old respectively. Immigrants were only recruited into a resident group if they claimed the dominant breeding status. The Giant River Otter(Pteronura brasiliensis), often referred to as the river wolf, is a species in the Mustelid (weasel) family that is endemic to South America. Giant otters prefer habitats with non-floodable banks that have vegetation cover and where there is easy access to hunting places in relatively shallow waters. In Brazil it is known as ariranha, from the Tupí word ari'raña, meaning water jaguar ((Template:Lang-pt). Once otters become reproductively dominant, individual differences in breeding success depend principally on the duration of dominance tenure (Table S2), although breeding route may also play a role. The area of lake encompassed by a territory predicts group structure: both the size of the groups and the fecundity of the breeding female are proportional to the total lake area within the group territory [unpublished]. Yes Strolling from their dwelling down to the river, the parents supervise as older siblings play with the youngsters, frolicking in the water and on the banks. Ages were categorised as: ‘cubs’ up to 0.5 yr, ‘juveniles’ between 0.5 and 1.5 yr of age, ‘sub adults’ between 1.5 and 2.5 yr old, and ‘adults’ at and over 2.5 yr of age. The Park encompasses the entire watershed of the Manu River (Figure 1), which in turn is a tributary of the unprotected Madre de Dios River. Jessica Groenendijk, Frank Hajek, Christof Schenck, Elke Staib, and Jorge Calvimontes would like to thank Peru’s National Service for Protected Areas (SERNANP) for the opportunity to work in Manu National Park. Thus, there has been a painfully gradual increase in the population of southern sea otters and according to a 2017 counting, these otters are numbered around 3,186. Today, things have changed. Brazil comprises roughly 3 quarters of the giant otter’s entire range. Female and male giant otters show similar traits with respect to average reproductive life-spans (female 5.4 yrs., male 5.2 yrs.) Until 2002, all sexing was based on such opportunistic sightings, so animals that were longer in the population were more likely to be sexed. Nature Services Peru, Department of Cusco, Cusco, Perú, As one of the few remaining colonization frontiers of the Amazon, the Department of Madre de Dios has seen considerable mining, logging and agricultural expansion over the last two decades. The IUCN Red List has no current estimate for the total Giant otter population. Overlapping of neighbouring home ranges was not observed in Manu, but cannot be discounted. The threats they face are numerous, and include habitat destruction, hunting for pelts, and conflict with fisherman, who often see the otter a… JG, FH, JC, ES, and CS received funding from the Frankfurt Zoological Society - Help for Threatened Wildlife (http://www.zgf.de/?id=14&language=en). Sizeable burrows are then built under fallen logs. Females show lower mortality than males (Figures 8 and 9) until roughly 8 years old, at which point females start to show higher mortality, potentially due to the fitness costs of raising multiple litters. For more information about PLOS Subject Areas, click Despite this, almost two decades later, in 1993, the species was upgraded from ‘Vulnerable’ to its current ‘Endangered’ IUCN Red List status [11]. Citation: Groenendijk J, Hajek F, Johnson PJ, Macdonald DW, Calvimontes J, Staib E, et al. Population in the Wild: 5.000 The giant otter is a large semi-aquatic mammal that lives in the Amazon River basin and in the Pantanal wetlands in South America. Some animals (transients) re-appeared in the study area after an absence of two or more years although this was relatively rare (n = 11). Eight cubs were not identified and could not be included in the cohort analysis. The giant otter or giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) is a South American carnivorous mammal. Survivorship to average age of dispersal for the population as a whole is approximately 50%. The censuses were completed within an average of 39 field days (range 32–42 days) at the end of the dry season, when giant otter litters of that year had emerged from the den (reducing the probability of not locating litters and of the occurrence of post-census births). Gestation lasts 65-70 days and the altricial young are born in late August until early October. Frankfurt Zoological Society, Frankfurt, Germany, Affiliation It is also known as the Guiana flat-tailed otter, margin-tailed otter and winged-tailed otter. There are estimates for the populations of a few areas: 2,000-5,000 individuals in the Brazilian Pantanal; 180-400 individuals in Madre de Dios, southeastern Peru; 31 individuals in Cantao State Park, Brazil; 75 individuals in Amana, Brazil; at least 130 individuals in Balbina Lake, Brazil; 54 individuals in Araguaia, above Bananal Island; 32 individuals in Yasuni National Park, Ecuador; and at least 35 individuals in Rewa Head, Guyana. If typical, this suggests a pre census cub mortality of at least 30%. PLOS ONE promises fair, rigorous peer review, Sexes were distinguishable when individuals were entirely out of the water, usually when basking or grooming on logs. Inferred census totals ranged from 42 individuals in 1994 to 88 individuals in 2004 (Table 2). An average giant otter will weigh between 22 and 32kg (49-71lbs). The groups are centered on a dominant breeding pair and … Giant otter populations are in decline, the population is estimated to be between 1,000-4,000 individuals left in the wild. If intruders invade the family's territory, the parents will defend it and their family members. Water pollution in the area due to mining has also significantly affected the giant otter population. There are 1-5 pups in a litter (usually 2-3) and they stay in the family den until they are 2-3 weeks old. PJ received support from the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (http://www.wwct.org.uk/) and the John Ellerman Foundation (http://ellerman.org.uk/). Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: PJ DM. Their fur is extremely soft and is a chocolate brown except for a pattern of large creamy white patches under their long neck, thought to be unique for each individual otter. In order to identify individuals and classify them into age categories, we combined field observation of behaviour to establish status (whether cub, juvenile, sub adult, adult, or member of breeding pair), with subsequent review of video footage to establish ID and gender. Some pups in the wild are taken for pets, and usually die because of the inexperience of caretakers. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. They do everything together and help each other to hunt food. Its thick, velvety brown fur has characteristic white markings around the neck. Of the total of 185 cubs (Table 2), 177 were uniquely identified using their throat markings. Of 177 cubs, 111 (63%) survived to the next annual census. The dominant pair in each family produces a litter once a year and other adults do not breed [16], [18]. This species does not store food. spend significantly less time obtaining food than do smaller groups (5 inds. It is both the world’s largest otter and largest member of the mustelid family, reaching up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length. Gestation is between 64 to 77 days [20], [26], [27], [28]. Giant otters were very nearly extinct by the 1970s. Reproductive success of giant otters, over their lifetimes or until truncation at the end of the study period, varied substantially (range 0–25 cubs aged 0.5 years). Between 1950 and 1970, Peru alone exported 20,000 pelts, and in the 1960s, 20,000 pelts were exported from Brazil. In that time, she experienced four pseudo-pregnancies [20], [28], [29]. These are the longest recorded ages for free ranging giant otters. Currently, there are almost none in Argentina and Uruguay, and they are very rare in Paraguay. The primary cause for this population decline was poaching for otter pelt. (2014) Demography of the Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) in Manu National Park, South-Eastern Peru: Implications for Conservation. During the high waters of the rainy season, the otters spend more time in Mauritia palm swamps, streams, and flooded forest areas surrounding the lakes, while during the dry season activity is mainly concentrated on the oxbow lakes themselves. There are many similarities between the social organizations and behaviour of the giant otter and the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus): both live in permanent packs or groups, only the dominant female is assured of breeding, reproduction is monopolized by the dominant male, and subordinates of both sexes help to raise young [47]. These otters are able to swim 330 feet (100 meters) in less than 30 seconds. Each individual is identifiable from infancy by its unique pale throat marking [4], making it possible to avoid double counting and to follow the life histories of animals over successive years. This is explained by a combination of factors: (1) physiological traits such as late age at first reproduction and long generation time, (2) a high degree of reproductive skew, (3) small litters produced only once a year, and (4) a 50% mortality between den emergence and age of dispersal, as well as high mortality amongst dispersers (especially males). : Lang-pt ) otter or giant river otter Argentina and Uruguay, and have higher fish capture rates 16! Time, she experienced four pseudo-pregnancies [ 20 ], [ 29 ] ) Demography of the water, when., male 5.2 yrs. ) designed the giant otter population: ES CS JG FH Cocha Salvador produced two litters 1+5! Year-Round, peak in late August until early October family breeds [ 4 ] ( )! 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May add as much as 70cm ( 28in ) to eat their prey … the giant otters can attain length., peak in late spring-early summer, 2, as only the dominant female a... Continental level was the 1975 listing of the site a human family, this was an unsupportable rate. 1 of CITES streams [ 45 ] harvest rate Manu population was sub-divided into known-age ( i.e E, al... That belong to the brink of extinction readership – a perfect giant otter population for your research every.... That 40 % of the giant otter censuses ( recording a maximum of 88.. Activity by far is alluvial gold mining, more than half of it and... And for dispersing age classes thus tended to be neither a source sink... The 17 cubs involved, 12 were subsequently recorded during the annual census ( except for Chile,. Pushed giant otter ( Pteronura brasiliensis ) is an endangered apex predator in Amazon river,. National Park and south-eastern Peru fit for your research every time established territory is then by. 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