Otter seen hunting an iguana in Colombia


Researchers on an expedition in Colombia have been treated to a world first when they recorded a giant otter hunting an iguana.

The team had been investigating biodiversity in the Tillava River that flows through the central Colombian municipality of Puerto Gaitan at the time.

Researchers filmed the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) hunting and killing an iguana (Iguana iguana) in the water – an unexpected meal for the fish-eating mammal listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

Carlos Aya, a researcher at the South American Omacha foundation was a member of the expedition. He said: ‘This is the first time we have recorded this mammal hunting and feeding on iguana in Colombia, as it is a species that feeds mostly from fish.’

Carlos Lasso, a researcher of the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute, said that this behaviour has never been seen before in South America.

Lasso added: ‘Seeing a giant otter hunting an iguana is important data for science. The iguana might have been feeding or sunbathing when it was hunted by the otter.’

The giant otter is a subgroup of otter that is only found in South America and is considered a threat by fishing communities unwilling to share fish stocks with the animal, but both researchers agree locals should view this evidence as proof its feeding habits are diverse and try to coexist with it.

According to the Omacha foundation: ‘In some regions, fishermen consider them serious competition to the fish sector, and in other parts of Colombia they are being affected by illegal wild animal trafficking.’

The giant otter grows up to 1.7 metres (5.5 feet) long with up to a further 70 centimetres (2.3 feet) in its tail, and is considered the longest of the otter family.

The Omacha foundation says it is one of the biggest carnivores of South America and sits at the top of the food chain along with other predators, like jaguars and caimans.

Its coat is soft and velvety which makes it highly sought after by fur traders, and the otters were intensively hunted up to 1970.

The Tillava river research is working with local villagers to study the Amazon river dolphin and giant otter as well as other animals that rely on the river.