Brevard Zoo Membership Newsletter Fall 2019 - Page 9

Giant Otter GIANT OTTER CUVIER’S DWARF CAIMAN There’s no question in our minds that this species is sure to become one of your favorites, right up there with the giraffe and jaguars. Giant otters prefer to live in family groups, spending much of their day playing in the water or napping ashore in a “cuddle pile.” As its appearance suggests, this reptile is closely related to alligators and crocodiles. But if you’re expecting a massive beast that could go toe-to-toe with Gollum or Toothless, prepare to be disappointed; they’re the smallest living crocodilians, typically maxing out at 55 inches in length. Each giant otter has a unique set of spots on its neck, and we can use these markings to keep track of individuals like we do with the jaguars and cheetahs. Research shows the giant otters may employ this technique to identify each other, too! The giant otters that will end up in our care were born as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan, and we hope they will eventually produce pups of their own and bolster their species’ numbers. Giant otters are endangered and they need all the help they can get; on top of the pollution and habitat loss that impacts everything in the Amazon, they are often poached for their pelts or hunted by fishermen who see these “river wolves” as competitors to their livelihood. Dwarf caimans are not picky eaters, thanks largely to an exceptionally acidic stomach. Their favorite prey items are small fish, frogs, invertebrates and sometimes smaller caimans—typically swallowed whole. Widespread in wetlands throughout northern South America, dwarf caimans depend on clean water to survive. Here in Brevard County, you can do your part for the health of our waterways by picking up after your dog, washing your car on your lawn instead of in the driveway, skipping fertilizer during the summer months and properly maintaining your septic system (or replacing it with sewage). See all these incredible animals and many more when Rainforest Revealed opens in November! Brevard Zoo News | Fall 2019 | 9