Habitat of the Giant Otter

Giant Otters live in slow-moving freshwater rivers, lakes and streams with gently sloping banks and overhanging vegetation. Duplaix (1980) found that they did not favour either mangrove swamps or coastal areas in Suriname. They prefer areas with abundant prey in relatively shallow water, with easy access to forest creeks or swamps. Clear water makes hunting easier, so if available, they choose darkwaters, where the water is clear, but stained dark with decomposition products of forest vegetation, even though these environments support less prey than whitewater areas as the humic acid does not favour the microorganisms that prey species feed on. In Peru, where whitewater, i.e. water with a high sediment load, is more common, the otters choose oxbow lakes, where the sediment tends to settle to the bottom. They are also found in swamps and marshes, and have occasionally been recorded in reservoirs and agricultural canals.

In the wet season, when the rivers flood the forests, they will follow the water as it extends into the trees, keeping close to wherever the current bank is. During the dry season, the family tends to keep to one deeper river channel.

Giant Otters occupy 'camp sites' on the river bank. They trample the vegetation into the ground, and even bring in vegetation to use for this from nearby. The area is usually 30 to 30 feet long and 20 feet wide (8-12 x 6m), and has five or six communal latrines around the edge. Duplaix (1980) also found that they sprainted and trampled on the actual campsite to mark it. Every den has an associated campsite, but not every campsite has a den (Frankfurt Zoological Society Giant Otter Project).

The otters dig, or adopt and enlarge, holes in banks, making a latrine behind it. The hole is extended about ten feet (3m) into the ground and presumably widened out as the whole family pile in there to sleep. They particularly favour holes under fallen logs.

The otters use two main dens - a low water one (where the cubs are born as fish is concentrated in the nearby river channel) and a high water one, used when the floods come, and beyond the usual reach of the flooding.

Fountain (1902) remarked that the giant otters were fond of crawling onto the Victoria regia giant water lily pads to sleep, bask, eat and play.

Giant Otter