Conservation Status of the Neotropical Otter

Before 1975

Until the mid seventies, these otters were considered a plentiful resource, and as a result, hunted to extinction in parts of their former range. According to Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture statistics (quoted on the Mundo Azul website) from 1950 to 1973, between one and fifteen THOUSAND pelts were exported every year, and as Larivire (1999) says, this probably represents only 50% of animals killed.

1975 - CITES Listing

In 1975, this species was placed on CITES Appendix I, forbidding all international trade except in extraordinary circumstances. The IUCN rated it as 'Vulnerable' - facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Present Day

Since 1999, the IUCN has rated the species as Data Deficient because of the lack of systematic studies to evaluate the size and
composition of populations, and lack of standardised information about changes in the extent of occurrence or area of occupancy, and this was again the rating for the 2004 Red List  (Waldemarin, 2004). The US Endangered Species Act regulations class it as Endangered. EC Regulation 338/97 has it on Annex A, the most protected rating.

In all countries in its range, the Neotropical Otter is highly protected, but enforcement of the law is very variable. In many areas, the laws might as well not exist.

The Future

Habitat destruction, water pollution and illegal hunting are likely to continue and increase in much of the otter's range. There are hopeful signs in some places, where local people are starting to see the otters as part of an environment that attracts tourists. Many parts of the Neotropical Otter's geographic range are too remote or poorly policed for international, national or regional laws to be upheld, but enlisting grass-roots opinion has proved very successful with other species.

More systematic scientific works needs to be done to discover how many otters there are, and where, and to elucidate their ecology, in order to devise means of managing otter populations, predict the likely effects of development, and devise means of convincing local people that a healthy otter population is a good thing and worth working for.

Neotropical River Otter