The Pantanal is famous for its Jaguar sightings, and rightfully so, but another great animal is also easy to photograph there, and offer (much) better opportunities than anywhere else in its range: the Giant Otter.
In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s the Giant Otter was highly endangered due to poaching for the pelt market. It was, in fact, extinguished from most of its range. It persists in many areas of the Amazon and elsewhere, with strongholds in reserves and now, specially, in the Pantanal. Here they have grown used to people and boats, and will usually allow a very close approach.
It is aptly named, as it is the largest member of the Mustelidae family, comprising all of the otters and weasels. They reach 1.7m (5.6ft) in lenght and feed almost exclusively on fish, with the occasional crab here and there, or even baby caimans! Atypical of mustelids, the Giant Otter is a social species, and we often see them in family groups of 6 or more. It’s very fun to photograph them when they are hunting and feeding or playing in the water in front of their dens.