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Page last updated at 14:17 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:17 UK
Rare giant otters find love match


All going swimmingly between the UK's only pair of giant otters

Britain's only pair of giant otters are getting on swimmingly. But it could all have ended very differently...

When Manoki, a giant otter, was introduced to his new girlfriend Panambi, staff at the Chestnut Centre in the High Peak were taking no chances.

Edward Heap
We had the vet here waiting with a tranquiliser rifle in case they really did start falling out.
Edward Heap, Chestnut Centre

The giant otter is already severely endangered in the wild and, with the animal's reputation for aggressively defending its territory, there were real fears the pair could injure or maim each other.

Edward Heap, whose family founded the park in Chapel-en-le-Frith in 1984, admitted it was a tense first date.

"We had the vet here waiting with a tranquiliser rifle in case they really did start falling out," he said. "But within 14 minutes they'd started mating which was fantastic news!"

The otters' first whisker-to-whisker encounter was captured on camera by Merseyside photographer Ken Lewis.

I call it a kiss," he said. "But people say it's nuzzling. But I actually got the picture as they approached each other and as they made contact."


Giant otter eating a fish
longest and most powerful of the otter family
lives in large rivers in the tropical rainforest of South America
preys mainly on fish but also caiman (crocodiles), crustaceans and snakes including anacondas
is also known locally as the 'river wolf' or 'lobo de rio'
thought to be around 3,000 left in the world

The giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) comes from the Amazon region of South America and can grow to about six feet long - twice the length of the European otter.

But their reputation for aggression should not be underestimated: giant otters, also known as 'river wolves', will sometimes prey on piranha and small crocodiles.

The UK pair are being looked after at the Chestnut Centre Wildlife Park which has an ongoing breeding programme for many endangered indigenous species including Scottish wildcat, owls, polecats, pine marten and the smaller, and better known, Eurasian otter.

The hope now is that Manoki and Panambi will now produce a litter of cubs of their own and help to conserve one of the world's most endangered creatures.

Otter days ahead for Manchester
05 Jun 09 |  Nature & Outdoors


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