The Neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis) should not be considered threatened by the IUCN Red List, according to a new paper in mongabay.com’s open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science. Currently the species is listed as Data Deficient, but was considered Vulnerable until 2000.
Using a new computational modeling technique—known as a species distribution model (SDM)—to map out the the otter’s range, the authors discovered that the otter likely had a significantly larger range than believed. In fact, this new range is 34 percent greater than the range currently defined by the IUCN and covers nearly half of the Americas.
“New regions to be added include northeastern Brazil, the Andes (in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia), northern Mexico, western Colombia, and Bolivia. These new areas may provide valuable information about the species as well as insight on what really limits the species’ occurrence,” the authors write.
Neotropical otter in river margins of Brazilian Pantanal. Photo by: Caroline
Leuchtenberger/Instituto Federal Farroupilha.
SDM works by comparing common variables—such as temperature or rainfall—from sites where the species is known across the whole potential habitat. For the Neotropical otter, researchers found the best predictors were high average temperatures and low human population density. Moreover, the scientists found that prime habitat for the otters often occurred in already-established parks.
“In our study we showed that protected areas are significantly more suitable and can help in Neotropical otter conservation, even though they have not been created specifically to protect otters,” the authors write. “The higher suitability values inside the protected areas are not surprising, as many of them were designed based on river basins or river courses.”
The neotropical otter is one of 13 species of otter worldwide with six of these found in the Americas. The Neotropical otter’s habitat converges with the giant river otter’s in much of the Amazon basin. The giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) is considered Endangered by the IUCN Red List.
- Defining Neotropical otter Lontra longicaudis distribution, conservation priorities and ecological frontiers
Marcelo Lopes Rheingantz, Jorge Fernando Saraiva de Menezes and Benoit de Thoisy. Tropical Conservation Science Vol.7 (2): 214-229.
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