Story at a glance
- Giant river otters are an endangered species native to South America.
- One of these otters was discovered in Argentina by conservationists working to reintroduce the population into the wild.
- There are currently three other giant river otters in the state, all living in captivity.
There were only three giant river otters remaining in Argentina — or so scientists thought, until they discovered a fourth member of the endangered species on the Bermejo River in El Impenetrable National Park.
"It made us remember the sounds that Coco and Alondra emit, the two specimens brought from Europe to Iberá to try to return this species to Argentina," said Sebastián Di Martino, director of conservation of the Fundación Rewilding Argentina, in a release. “We took out the cell phone and started filming it, when he poked his body out of the water and showed the unmistakable white bib, we had no doubts, it was a giant otter.”
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Unable to discern the otter’s gender, researchers named the animal Teuco, for the main stem of the Bermejo River. Teuco remains the only one of their kind living in the Argentinian wild. Coco and Alondra, a mating pair from Denmark and Hungary, are currently in a pre-release pen in Corrientes, where another male otter, Nanay, is currently being quarantined.
The discovery is encouraging for conservationists seeking to preserve South America’s wildlife. The otters’ population was decimated by illegal hunting, habitat loss and pollution, among other environmental threats, but the foundation is determined to reintroduce the large predators to their native home.
“For us, the importance of this sighting is that we’re reminded that we have to protect more of this gem of biodiversity that is Impenetrable national park,” Di Martino told The Guardian. “The Bermejo River, where this otter was found, is full of illegal hunting and fishing activity. There needs to be more supervision, but also the river has to open up to activities such as tourism, which can provide income to a region that’s very much in need of it. The importance of seeing this otter here again is that it tells us that nature is resilient. If we can help it, there’s hope.”
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