An unusual encounter

One of the surveys at the Manu Learning Centre Biological Field Station is TILT (Terrestrial In Line Transect) which is focused on mammals and game birds. On May 17th, we prepared for TILT as always. We brought our head torches, batteries, binoculars, cameras and water to walk for four hours. During our walk on the  Lucumayo creek, we recorded footprints of deers, peccaries and tapirs, and observations of wonderful birds like the blue headed macaw, jacamars, hawks and kingfishers. 

The unusual encounter happened whilst trying to identify some of the footprints, until suddenly, a figure (like a stone) was coming towards us with undulating movements. Seconds later we realised that it was a Neotropical otter! Its scientific name is Lontra longicaudis and is classified as Near Threatened according to the IUCN Red List. 

The otter had its head submerged in the water, most likely looking for food. As its diet is based upon many different fish species, crustaceans, mollusks, amphibians, reptiles, insects, birds and even small mammals. It’s a fearful animal, when it noticed our presence, it raised its head, looked at us and ran away into the forest to escape from us. 

The status of Neotropical otters is important to the conservation of river ecosystems because of its role as a secondary consumer. This is because it is a known prey item for larger species such as the Jaguar, Caimans, Anaconda and more, whilst also being a mid-level predator within those ecosystems. Therefore the presence of the otter can help maintain local biodiversity within its habitat range. In addition, the species requires large territory extensions to establish a viable population, as each individual requires dozens of kilometres of riparian habitats and also depends on water physicochemical conditions and habitat structures to persist. Modifications of those characteristics can considerably affect otter populations, reducing local diversity.

BSc Emma Achahuanco Sallo – Scholar

BSc Tadashi Caceres Jahana – Scholar