Guyana – Last Refuge of the Giant River Otter
British writer John Gimlette, author of The Wild Coast, shares some thoughts about the rapidly-vanishing giant river otter than once graced South Americas many sinuous rivers.These days Guyana is one of their last refuges.
Half-puppy, half-torpedo. These are the giant otters of Karanambu,Guyana. Although only young, one day they’d be as long as a man. When they swam everything would fold flat – claws, ears and spatula-tail – and they’d slink off, like some fish-seeking missile. On the sandbank, however, they’d look like a series of arches, slightly comical and ungainly. Although strictly speaking, they were super-sized weasels, giant otters were originally referred to as ‘water dogs’, and it wasn’t hard to see why. They had huge knobbly paws and thick whiskers, and a bark like a foxhound.
Curiosity has always been their downfall. The otters are easy to hunt, and their velvety pelts once made popular collars. It’s said that, even now, they’re still hunted in Brazil. These days, Guyana is one of the few places in South America where these remarkable beasts still thrive