Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) distribution, relative abundance and conservation in northwestern Bolivia

Guido Ayala, Robert Benedict Wallace, Maria Viscarra, Cynthya Jurado

Abstract


At the end of the last century northwestern Bolivia was prioritized for further study in a national evaluation of the endangered giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis). In this paper we present a decade of efforts to investigate and systematize data regarding the distribution and relative abundance of giant otters in this wilderness region including 435 distribution points generated from direct observations, confirmed giant otter signs, and interviews with park guards and local people from indigenous communities. We also sampled 1318.6km of river and stream along the Tuichi, Hondo, Arana, Machariapo, Upper Madidi, Enatahua and Heath rivers and their adjacent oxbow lakes in the Madidi National Park, as well as the Undumo and Tequeje rivers in the Tacana Indigenous Territory, and the lower and mid Madidi River and 42.14km of immediately adjacent oxbow lakes. Relative abundance was variable across the region ranging between 0.02 and 0.18 individual/km sampled in streams and rivers, and our data reveals a particularly important giant otter population along the Madidi River much of which remains unprotected. Our data and local reports point towards a possible population recovery within the Madidi and Pilon Lajas protected areas of the region over the last decade. In total we counted 271 animals, identifying 109 individuals through video and photographic throat pattern evidence. We argue that this previously undocumented population is of particular conservation importance due to its connectivity with the well-documented but currently threatened populations of neighboring southeastern Peru. Together northwestern Bolivia and southeastern Peru represent one of the most important conservation strongholds for this species.


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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5597/lajam00201

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