Lontra longicaudis


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Lontra longicaudis
Species Authority: (Olfers, 1818)
Common Name(s):
English Neotropical Otter, La Plata Otter, Neotropical River Otter, South American River Otter, Long-tailed Otter
French Loutre d'AmériquedDu Sud, Loutre à longue queue
Spanish Gato de Agua, Lobito del Plata, Lobito de Río, Nutria De Agua, Perro De Agua, Taira
Lutra longicaudis subspecies longicaudis Olfers, 1818
Taxonomic Notes:

The taxonomy of the genus has been debated, but recent work supports the use of the name Lontra rather than Lutra for New World river otters (Van Zyll de Jong 1972, 1987; Wozencraft 1993;  Koepfli and Wayne 1998; Lariviere and Walton 1998). The following subspecies have been identified L. longicaudis annectens, L. l. enudris, and L. l. longicaudis. (Larivière 1999) , however, the subspecies classification is uncertain as no comprehensive revision of this species’ morphological variation has so far been performed.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-06-01
Assessor(s): Rheingantz, M.L. & Trinca, C.S.
Reviewer(s): Hussain, S.A. & Duplaix, N.
Contributor(s): Alvarez, R. & Waldemarin, H.F.
The recent increase in available information on the Neotropical Otter reveals this species to be Near Threatened in large portions of its range. Although critical data on aspects of its biology, demography and behaviour are still lacking for many areas, the effects of a large variety of anthropogenic threats such as pollution, gold mining, habitat loss on its population dynamics, while not rigorously estimated, are likely to be increasing. These threats will probably affect the population status and range of this species and it is suspected that it will undergo a decline of 25% in the next 27 years (three generations) (Pacifici et al. 2013). While the Neotropical Otter has a wide distribution range in Latin America, this does not mean that this species is free from local extinction risks. In contrast, we now have more recent data to support a change in the Red List status of this species. In several countries (Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Belize, Ecuador) this species has been identified as threatened in their regional and local Red Lists indicating its declining trend. In view of this we conclude that the Neotropical Otter should be listed as Near Threatened as it almost almost qualifies for a threatened category under criterion A3cd.
2004 Data Deficient
2000 Data Deficient

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Lontra longicaudis occurs from northwestern Mexico to Uruguay (Gallo 1991), Paraguay (mammal book), and across the northern part of Argentina to Buenos Aires province (Chehebar 1990, Cockrum 1964, Redford and Eisenberg 1992). It is widespread in the northern and central parts of Argentina (Bertonatti and Parera 1994). The species occurs from sea level up to 4,000 m. (Muanis and Oliveira 2011). It is absent from a large portion of arid northeastern Brazil (Larivière 1999).
Argentina; Belize; Bolivia, Plurinational States of; Brazil; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; El Salvador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Suriname; Uruguay; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


This shy and elusive species is widely distributed, but rarely seen even in remote areas. However, in the Brazilian Pantanal it can be observed during the day. Recently, additional points of occurrence were registered, including the littoral zone of the Atlantic Forest of northeastern Brazil (Astúa et al. 2010), tropical and subtropical zones around Andes in the occidental portion of Ecuador, and the surrounding zones of the Colombian Andean mountains (Trujillo and Arcila 2006). Although the absence of detailed data on population size and densities for the whole distribution area is patchy, but in areas where surveys have been made, Lontra longicaudis is reported as decreasing (Trujillo and Arcila 2006). 

Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The Neotropical Otter occurs in a large variety of habitats from rocky shorelines to deciduous and evergreen forests, warm and cool climate rainforests, and coastal savanna swamps (Emmons 1990). Habitat requirements include good-quality riparian cover (Bertonatti and Parera 1994, Redford and Eisenberg 1992) and abundant potential den sites (Soldateli and Blacher 1996). It uses both fresh and saline environments.It occurs mostly from sea level to 1,500 m of altitude but has also been found up to 4,000 m in the Andean region (Eisenberg 1989, Emmons 1990, Melendres 1978, Redford and Eisenberg 1992, Trujillo and Arcila 2006). In coastal portions of the species distribution, it has been registered as occurring below 300 m (Spinola and Vaughan 1995, Soutullo et al. 1999, Alarcon and Simões-Lopes 2003, Rheingantz et al. 2011).

While sensitive to chemical and organic pollution, the species is found areas with high level of human influence such as agricultural and livestock activities (Bertonatti and Parera 1994, Macdonald and Mason 1992, Pardini and Trajano 1999, Rheingantz et al. 2011).

This otter is considered an opportunistic predator that mostly concentrates feeding efforts on selecting prey with slow escape ability (Pardini 1998, Quadros and Monteiro-Filho 2001, Rheingantz 2006). It feeds mainly on fish, with crustaceans, insects, amphibians and molluscs also contributing to its diet, although these additional items may be seasonal variations (Gallo 1986, Bardier 1992, Bertonatti and Parera 1994, Passamani and Camargo 1995, Soldateli and Blacher 1996, Helder-Jose and de Andrade 1997, Pardini 1998, Quadros and Monteiro-Filho 2001, Kasper et al. 2004, Casariego-Madorell et al. 2008, Carvalho-Junior et al. 2010, Rheingantz et al. 2011). Fish consumed are mostly species of the Cichlidae, Anostomidae, Characidae, Loricariidae and Pimelodidae families (Passamani and Camargo 1995, Spinola and Vaughan 1995, Kasper et al. 2004, Rheingantz et al. 2011), while crustacean are mainly crayfish and crabs (Casariego-Madorell et al. 2008, Rheingantz et al. 2012). Small mammals, birds and reptiles may be consumed opportunistically (Parera 1993, Bertonatti and Parera 1994, Passamani and Camargo 1995, Gallo-Reynoso 1996).

The Neotropical Otter appears not to compete with the larger sympatric species Pteronura brasiliensis (Carter and Rosas 1997, Duplaix 1980). L. longicaudis tends to be more generalist in habitat requirements than P. brasiliensis (Muanis and Oliveira 2011). Anacondas (Eunectes sp.), Jaguars (Panthera onca) (Duplaix 1980, Parera 1996a), Black Caimans, domestic dogs, and larger birds of prey may also prey on this otter or its cubs (Dunstone and Strachan 1988, Parera 1996b).

Breeding occurs mostly during the dry or low water season, but it may occur throughout the year in certain localities (Parera 1996a). Gestation is estimated to be 56 days (Bertonatti and Parera 1994), and litter size varies from one to five cubs (Bertonatti and Parera 1994), with two or three on average (Parera 1996a).
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The species was severely hunted for the international fur trade until the 70s, when it was protected in a large portion of its range. It is included on Appendix I of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES; Emmons, 1990). Cubs may be taken as pets locally but appear not to enter the commercial trade (Duplaix 2002).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): It was extensively hunted for its pelt during 1950-1970, which resulted in its local extinction over parts of its former range (Brack-Egg 1978, Donadio 1978). Although current hunting pressures are virtually unknown, continued illegal hunting persists usually associated with local conflicts with fishermen (Chehebar 1991, González and Utrera, 2001, IBAMA 2001), which have been suggested to represent one of the most serious threats to this species. Additionally, the high level of habitat destruction by deforestation, mining, and water pollution are likely to contribute to the species rareness (Melendres 1978, Gallo 1986, Chehebar 1990, Alho and Blacher 1991, Alho et al. 1998, González and Utrera 2001) and may be responsible for population decline and isolation.

In Mexico and maybe in other regions, industrial waste spills into rivers have increased the amount of heavy metals, with a consequent increase in deaths of Neotropical Otters (Gallo-Reynoso 1997). Finally, otters killed on roads have been  reported in the Guianas (Duplaix 2004), south and southeastern Brazil (and likely in other localities (C.S. Trinca, pers. obs.)), which may represent an additional threat to the species survival and can be associated to increasing levels of habitat fragmentation. It is a leading cause of death in Europe for Lutra lutra, for instance (e.g. in the Netherlands).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Lontra longicaudis is listed in the Appendix I of CITES. It is also listed as Endangered by the United States Department of Interior. The Neotropical Otter is listed as a priority species by the Fundacion Vida Silvestre Argentina (Bertonetti and Parera 1994). This species is currently protected in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, French Guiana, Trinidad, Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela (Brack-Egg 1978, Mondolfi and Trebbau 1978, Chehebar 1990, Aranda 1991). Neotropical Otters are not legally protected in Guyana and Honduras, and no information is available on the distribution or legal status of Neotropical Otters in Belize, El Salvador, and Guatemala (Chehebar 1990). Although it is not included in the last Brazilian Red List Assessment, L. longicaudis is considered as Vulnerable in the Atlantic Forest biome (Rodrigues et al. 2013). It is considered as Near Threatened in São Paulo (Bressan et al. 2009) and Paraná (Paraná 2010), and Vulnerable in the states of Minas Gerais (Biodiversitas 2005) and Rio Grande do Sul (Indrusiak and Eikirik 2003), and is included as almost threatened in the national assessment (Rodrigues et al. 2013).

Conservation priorities include the standardization of field survey techniques to map the current species’ range, the identification of key habitats, the protection of areas where large populations remain, and stricter regulations to prevent release of toxic waste in riverine systems (Mason and Macdonald 1990). The impact of road deaths should be evaluated in other parts of the species distribution.

The development of direct strategies for avoiding otter predation on fish farms is needed to decrease the conflict with humans by the supposed competition for fish.

Finally, local and regional scale studies need to be conducted in order to obtain a more comprehensive understanding on demographic parameters such as population size, density, mating systems and dispersal patterns. Population genetic studies need also be performed across the species’ range in order to evaluate the level of genetic diversity and levels of populations connectivity, which will allow the definition of task areas and populations for management and conservation actions.

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Citation: Rheingantz, M.L. & Trinca, C.S. 2015. Lontra longicaudis. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 02 September 2015.
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