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South America is rich in biodiversity and has four species of otter listed below. The two most widespread species are the Neotropical Otter, which ranges through Central to South America, and the Giant Otter which inhabits the Amazon rainforest from the north of Uruguay to Colombia. The Southern River Otter and Marine Otter are much more restricted in their range.

Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) Conservation status - Endangered
Neotropical Otter (Lontra longicaudis) Conservation status - Data deficient
Southern River Otter (Lontra provocax) Conservation status - Critically endangered
Marine Otter or Sea cat (Lontra felina) Conservation status - Endangered

Two other species have been recorded in Mexico - the American River Otter and the Sea Otter although the Sea Otter has recently become extinct in South America.

Argentina

Species: Neotropical, Southern River, Marine and Giant Otter.

The Neotropical otter is the only species which is widespread especially in the central and northern parts of the country. The Southern River Otter is much more rare and the Marine Otter is on the verge of extinction with 3 isolated population the most important of which is found in the Naheul Huapi National Park (Aued, M.B et al 2003). A recent report (2002) of one seen in a river on the Patagonian steppe.

Legal protection: All species protected.

Threats: habitat destruction, water pollution, illegal hunting.

IOSF'S funded Projects
2000 - Monitoring of the Southern River Otter

Belize

Species: Neotropical Otter

The Neotropical Otter is thought to occur but no information is available.

Legal protection: No information.

Threats: Not known

Bolivia

Species: Neotropical Otter and the Giant Otter.

The Neotropical Otter occurs throughout the country. The Giant Otter is more restricted to isolated populations - in 2002 it was estimated that the country had a population of about 350 individuals occurring mostly in the National Parks (Damme, P.V et al 2002).

Legal protection: Both protected.

Threats: Illegal poaching.

Brazil

Species: Neotropical and Giant Otter.

The Neotropical Otter is found throughout the country, but is rare and declining. It is now included in the Brazilian Red Data Book of Mammals as "threatened with extinction" as populations are decreasing due to habitat loss and water pollution. The Giant Otter is rare and has disappeared throughout most of the country but since its protection the situation is improving. In 2004 87,871 ha of the Pantanal in Mato Grosso State has been designated a Ramsar site because in contains the rare Giant otter. (Tapir conservation)

Legal protection: Both species protected. The Neotropical otter is considered near threatened on the Brazilian list of threatened species. (Alarcon 2004)

Threats: habitat destruction, water pollution, hunting for furs, killing by fishermen at fish farms.

IOSF'S funded Projects
1994 - Campaign in Belem, Brazil about the threat to Neotropical and Giant Otters from Mercury poisoning

Chile

Species: Southern River and Marine Otter

The Southern River Otter is endangered in Chile and has disappeared from its northern range through hunting and loss of suitable habitat (Medina-Vogel et al 2003). It is know population in freshwater habitats are confined to seven isolated areas between Cautin and Futaleufu. The Marine Otter is declining with important populations on Isla Catchagua in central Chile and Chiloe island to the south. The Valdivian Coastal Range has a healthy population on the Marine otter, as does the Bernardo O'Higgins National Park (Wildlife Conservation Society). In conclusion it is an endangered mustelid and is suffering through habitat destruction and illegal hunting. (IUCN 2007).

Legal protection: Both species protected.

Threats: Poaching of both species, freshwater pollution, deforestation, otters drowning in fishing nets and habitat destruction caused by draining of waterways.

IOSF'S funded Projects 
1994 - Status of the Marine Otter on the central coast of Chile, Isla Catchagua
2002 - Feeding ecology of the Marine Otter in southern Chile
2006 - Sea Cat Project II Activities Report.pdf (Appendix I.pdf and Appendix II.pdf)
2006 - Population assessment of the marine otter (Partly funded by IOSF)

Colombia

Species: Neotropical and Giant Otter

The Neotropical Otter has a healthy population with the species occurring in the lowlands in large numbers. The Giant Otter still has a healthy population especially in Cahuinari National Park, Amazonas and the Low Bita river, Vichada (Javier Diaz, H et al 2002).

Legal protection: Both species protected.

Threats: Increased farming and colonisation leading to habitat loss, otters taken as pets.

IOSF'S funded Projects 
1997 - Study of the Giant Otter in Bita river, Vichada, Columbia.

Costa Rica

Species: Neotropical Otter

Found in suitable habitat throughout the country especially in the Alajuela and San Carlos rivers close to the boarder with Nicaragua.

Legal protection: Protected.

Threats: Deforestation and hunting

Diet and Relative Abundance of the Neotropical river otter (Lontra longicaudis) in the Biological Reserve The Tirimbina.

Ecuador

Species: Neotropical and Giant Otter

The Neotropical Otter is common with the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve having the largest population in western Ecuador. The Giant Otter is found in the lowland tropical forests in eastern Ecuador.

Legal protection: Both species protected.

Threats: Habitat destruction and illegal trade in otter skins

El Salvador

Species: Neotropical ?

No more information

French Guiana

Species: Neotropical and Giant Otter

Neotropical Otter is common throughout the country but little information is available on the Giant Otter.

Legal protection: No information.

Threats: Not known

Guatemala

Species: Neotropical Otter

No more information

Guyana

Species: Neotropical and Giant Otter

Both species are common throughout the country. It is thought that the Giant Otter population is of major importance.

Legal protection: Giant Otter protected.

Threats: No information is available

IOSF'S funded Projects 
1998 - Study of the Giant Otter on the Potaro Plateau, Guyana

Honduras

Species: Neotropical Otter

Neotropical Otter occurs in all major rivers along the east of the country and patchy areas along the northern coast.

Legal protection: No formal protection

Threats: Destruction of habitat

Mexico

Species: Neotropical, North American River Otter and Sea Otter?

All otters are declining due to habitat loss. The Neotropical Otter is found on the high Sierras and low mountain slopes. Recently (2003) sightings have been recorded in the state of Guerrero (Maldonado, J. R.E et al 2003). In the northern and southern states states populations are declining due to habitat destruction (Carrillo-Rubio et al 2004) . The American River Otter is rare with only four records in 1989. The Sea Otter became extinct in 1912, although one was seen off the Baja Californian peninsula in 1989 but no more sightings occurred again.

Dr Reynoso reports that the sea otter (Enhydra lutris) has recently been recorded more in México – His paper can be found online here.

Legal protection: Full protection

Threats: Habitat destruction, oil extraction, pollution of water, illegal killing for fur

IOSF'S funded Projects 
A summary of a study of the Neotropical otter in the three rivers of Temascaltepec, Mexico, can be found on Page 7 of Otter News 47 - CLICK HERE Temascaltepec

Mexico

Nicaragua

Species: Neotropical Otter

This species occurs in small numbers in rivers flowing into the Atlantic. Legal protection: Full protection Threats: Deforestation Panama Species: Neotropical Otter Common throughout the country

Legal protection: Full protection

Threats: Deforestation

Nicaragua

Panama

Species: Neotropical

Very little is known about otters in Panama.

Paraguay

Species: Neotropical and Giant Otter

The Neotropical Otter occurs in small streams to the east of the country and the marshy areas on the Pilcomayo and Paraguay rivers. Giant Otters are found on the Pilcomayo and Paraguay rivers.

Legal protection: Full protection

Threats: Illegal trade in otter skins.

Peru

Species: Neotropical , Marine and Giant Otter

The Neotropical Otter has a wide distribution including up to 3,000m in the Andean area. Its densest population occurs in the Amazon area. The Marine Otter lives at its northern limit and has sporadic populations along the coast.The marine otter is protected in Peru only within the Reserva Nacional de Paracas, on the central coast. In addition, some coastal land owned of the Company Proabonos S.A. serves as haven for marine otters in Peru. In the remaining areas, marine otters are threatened by accidental capture by local fishery activity. In southern Peru marine otters are caught in demersal gillnets. Marine otters are also killed intentionally because of conflicts with fish and prawn fishermen. (Neyra, J.P 2009) The Giant Otter can be found east of the Andes, confined mainly to the lowland rain forests, a good place to see them is the Los Amigos Research Centre of Excellence

Legal protection: Full protection for all three species

Threats: Habitat destruction, pollution of water, illegal killing for fur, conflicts with fishermen

Suriname

Species: Neotropical and Giant Otter

The Neotropical Otter is common throughout the country. The Giant Otter is restricted to Corantijn, Nickerie, Wayombo, Commewijne and Coppename rivers.

Legal protection: Full protection for both species

Threats: Not known

Trinidad and Tobago

Species: Neotropical otter The Neotropical Otter is restricted to a few rivers

Legal protection: Full protection

Threats: Declining population due to habitat loss and illegal hunting

Uruguay

Species: Neotropical and Giant Otter

The status of the Giant Otter is uncertain - they were observed in the late seventies and two were seen in 1996. The Neotropical Otter is still numerous throughout the country with the main populations at Banados del Este, Estero de Farrapos and Tacuarembo areas. It is thought that because of the lack of hunting the animal is more numerous than it was 10 years ago.

Legal protection: Full protection for both species

Threats: Drainage of wetlands, illegal hunting for furs - many skins are sold in Montevideo.

Venezuela

Species: Neotropical and Giant Otter

The Neotropical Otter inhabits streams in the tropical and tropical humid forests as well as the forests of Amazonas, Delta Orinoco and Bolivar state, Ilanos of Monagas and Tachira state. The Giant Otter is rare with small populations in the southern forest region and in the Apure and Portuguesta states.

Legal protection: Full protection for both species

Threats: Deforestation, water pollution IOSF'S funded Projects 1999 - Population studies of the Neotropical Otter in the Andean foothills Web Sites Giant otter conservation The Marine otter

Websites

The Marine otter