Conservationists have been left delighted after a giant otter believed to have gone extinct was spotted in Argentina.
The wild giant river otter was observed at the Bermejo River in El Impenetrable National Park, located in the north-east Argentinian province of Chaco.
A giant otter in the wild hasn’t been seen in Argentina since the 1980s, and this is the first one to be spotted in the Bermejo River for more than a century. It had previously been believed that habitat loss and hunting had driven this rare creature to extinction in Argentina.
Sebastián Di Martino, director of conservation at Fundación Rewilding Argentina, told The Guardian he had spotted the otter while out kayaking: ‘It was a huge surprise. I was incredulous. An incredible feeling of so much happiness. I didn’t know if I should try to follow it or rush back to our station to tell the others.’
Considering the two possible reasons for the animal’s unexpected return, Di Martino said:
The closest known populations of giant otter, which is endangered globally, are in the Paraguayan Pantanal, which could connect with this river from a distance of over 1,000km. That’s the simplest explanation.
The other possibility is that there’s a remnant population of the species in Argentina that’s gone undetected. These animals live in family groups, and this was a solitary individual, which we think came from a group.
Giant river otters, said to be ‘trusting and curious’ creatures, can grow up to 1.8 metres long, with fully grown adults weighing more than 30kg.
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