Giant Otters Rehomed In New Forest

Two rare young giant otters - among the first to be bred in captivity in the UK - have a new home in the New Forest and are on call to be whisked away anytime, anywhere in the world, to breed.

The giant otters Simuni and Akuri  are young males aged one year and ten months. They've been brought to the New Forest Wildlife Park from the Chestnut Centre in Derbyshire, where they were born.

Conservationists Roger and Carol Heap, who own both parks, are the first people to breed the giant otter successfully in the UK. They moved the two young males to the New Forest when their parents Manoki and Panambi gave birth to another litter.

The largest of the world's 13 otter species, giant otter males attain an overall length of 1.5 to 1.8m and weigh between 26 and 32 kg (up to five stones!), while females generally measure 1.5 to 1.7m in length and may weigh between 22 and 26 kg.

The giant otter frequents rivers, streams, lakes, and swamps of tropical lowland rainforests and the species is particularly vulnerable to human disturbance.

Giant otters are listed on the IUCN Red List for endangered species, with only an estimated 1,000 to 5,000 remaining in the wild in their native South America. Simuni and Akuri could therefore be called upon to do their duty at any time - as part of the strict regulations for international captive breeding programmes, the stud book keeper for giant otters decides if, when and where they should be allowed to mate.

giant otters

According to Carol, they are good and ready.

"They are two very strong characters; they are confident and come out a lot to play during the day.

"Both of them are also very vocal and they make a lot of noise when they're playing and communicating with each other.

"The boys are at the stage where they are bursting to mate, so we have to keep our fingers crossed and hope they will be chosen soon.

"We're already in discussions with a zoo in Trinidad, so it's possible Akuri may be on his way there soon.

"We know that when Siminu and Akuri are called upon to breed they will make really good dads.

"Giant otters are highly social and in the family groupings the previous litter helps to bring up the new one.

"Siminu and Akuri were very responsible in helping their parents to look after the new cubs and so they've had good training in parenting.

"There wasn't enough space for them all in Derbyshire but they have settled in very well in the New Forest and we've built them a big new enclosure all to themselves."

Giant otters are endangered because there are so few of them in the wild and because it's estimated that their population will decline in the wild by 50% over the next 20 years.

They are almost as rare as giant pandas, of which there fewer than 2,500 living in the wild. Giant otter populations have declined due to illegal hunting for their fur and because of loss or degradation of their natural habitats due to mining, deforestation and pollution.

Roger and Carol have been involved in otter conservation for over 30 years and were the first people in the UK to look after giant otters in captivity.

They have been working closely with giant otter expert Diane McTurk of the Karanambu Trust in Guyana for many years and have visited Guyana several times. The Trust works with neighboring Amerindian communities to protect giant otters and their habitats.

Further information is available at:

The IUCN Red List - giant otters:

www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/18711/0

Karanambu Trust:

http://www.karanambutrust.org/Karanambu_Trust_Home.html

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