Neotropical river otter
Lontra longicaudis (Olfers, 1818).
In Peru, the species is represented by two distinct subspecies:
Lontra longicaudis annectens (Major, 1897), in rivers along the northern Peruvian coast, on the western side of the Andes
Lontra longicaudis enudris (Cuvier, 1823), in the Amazon rainforest up to 3,000 meters of altitude.
Common names in Peru:
Nutria, lobito de río, pisua, parari, mayupuma.
From Mexico (30° N) to the northern province of Buenos Aires in Argentina (34° S), with the exemption of Chile.
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Page author: Stefan Austermühle
Reviewed by: Sean Minns
Last updated: 2010.06.19.
The neotropical otter has been hunted extensively in the past. Between 1946 and 1972, Peru exported 143,980 otter skins. In 1970 alone 14,544 skins were exported (Source: Otter fur exportation of Lontra longicaudis enudris in Peru according to official statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture).
In 1973, the exportation of otter skins was prohibited by Supreme Decree N° 934-73-AG. Nowadays, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has listed the otters in Annex I, as species threatened by extinction, prohibiting all international trade of products made from this species. Under national law the species is also considered as threatened by extinction, although national law does not distinguish between the two subspecies.
Lontra longicaudis annectens, lives in the rivers of the northern Peruvian desert. Reports are known from the Zarumilla, Tumbes, Piura and Chira rivers, as well as from the temporal Laguna La Niña. Nowadays, it is at the edge of extinction in Peru and recently there are only reports from the Tumbes river.
The species distribution area has been drastically transformed during the last three decades by deforestation of river vegetation, dam construction along the Chira, Piura and Jequetepeque rivers, as well as by the implementation of big irrigation projects in these areas. Additionally, a big part of the Peruvian mangroves have been destroyed in order to establish shrimp farms. In the Ecuadorian part of the Tumbes river one can find a high level of artisan gold mining, which contaminates the river with a great amount of mercury.
In Mexico, reports have confirmed that otters have disappeared from the rivers which have been affected by industrial development, sewage and mining effluents as well as dam and irrigation projects (Gallo, 1997). The same conditions can also be found in northern Peru.
The second subspecies, Lontra longicaudis enudris, lives in the Amazon river system and in certain rivers in high altitude (up to 3,000 meters), for example the Ollantaytambo river . This subspecies still seems to be well distributed in the east of the country. It is also present in the following protected areas: National Parks of Bahuaja Sonene, Manu, Cutervo, Tingo María, Río Abiseo, Yanachaga Chemillén, Cordillera Azul and Otishi, as well as the national reserves of Pacaya Samiria and Tambopata; in the National Sanctuary of Machupicchu; in the Forest Protection Areas of San Matias San Carlos and Alto Mayo; in the Community Reserves Yanesha and El Sira, and finally in the Reserved Zones of Santiago Comaina, Alto Purús, Gueppí and Amarakaeri
The fur of the neotropical otter is dense and shorthaired. On the back, the species is of a brown color. A patch of cream coloring is present on the throat and chin, the pattern of which is unique to each individual. The head is small and flattened, eyes and ears are small. The tail is long and broadened but of cylindrical form. The species maximum length is 1.2 meters and its maximum weight is 12 kg.
In general, in rivers with stronger currents and clearer waters with abundant shoreline vegetation, from ocean level to 3,000 meters in altitude, but more commonly lower than 1,500 meters. It seems to be rare in lowland Amazon rivers and turbid water. It has been reported from lakes in Florianópolis, Brazil and is capable of living in the ocean.
Unlike the other non-coastal otter species the Giant river otter, the neotropical otter is a solitary animal. The biggest groups that can be seen do not have more than two or three animals and are usually composed of a mother and cubs. As in other otter species feces are used to mark their territories. In areas where the otters are not hunted they are usually active during daytime.
Their diet is composed of a variety of species and no research has been done on this topic in Peru. Studies from Mexico and Costa Rica on L. l. annectens, show a clear preference for crustaceans, found in 50 percent of the otters feces. Generally, they are feeding on shrimps of the genus Atya spp. and Macrobrachium spp. Fish also form an important part of their diet. Fish species preyed on are usually “slow species”, belonging to the families Cichlidae, Gobiesoxidae and Pimelodidae (Spinola et al, 1995; Gallo, 1997).
Page author: Stefan Austermühle