Marine Otter Conservation Programme

To promote the survival of marine otters in Peru by means of research and environmental education


The distribution of the marine otter, Lontra felina,  is limited to the west coast of South America where they are endemic to Peru and Chile. Formerly hunted for its pelt, the greatest threats to the marine otter are now accelerating habitat destruction and degradation, competition for prey and terrestrial refuges with local people, accidental killing in crab pots, and poaching throughout the species' range. These threats are expected to lead to a future reduction in population size of around 50% over the next 10 years.

Numbers prior to and after the harvest of marine otters for their fur and skin, which took place mainly in the 1960s, are largely unknown. Moreover, in Peru, otters were killed for their alleged damage to prawn fisheries. The current remaining population is estimated to be less than 1000 individuals throughout their limited distribution (Peru and Chile). Marine otters are classified as endangered in the IUCN Red List and listed by CITES in Appendix I. National legislation also protects this species, but law enforcement is very poor.

Very little is known about the general biology of marine otters and even less information is available about marine otter ecology in Peru. In Chile, their habitat was described as “largely or exclusively along exposed seashore”. However, for the past several years, groups of marine otters have lived in close proximity to many fishing communities along the southern Peru coast, inhabiting e.g. the fishing villages of Morro Sama and Vila Vila. These groups represent some of the highest concentrations of marine otters along the Peruvian coast, and the local people are unaware of the threatened status of the species.


PRO DELPHINUS set up in 2003 a programme aiming at minimizing the threats and impacts of fishing communities on marine otters and increasing understanding in these communities of their marine environment.


The programme has two main components:


  1. Conducting research on marine otter feeding ecology, behaviour, and interactions with fishing communities in southern Peru.
  2. Implementing an education programme using the marine otter as a flagship species to address marine and coastal conservation issues. Through this research and education it is intended to minimize the threats and impacts of fishing communities on marine otters, and to promote in these communities a better understanding of their marine environment.

WAZA Conservation Project 08003
is implemented by PRO DELPHINUS with the support of the Columbus Zoo, SECAS Zoo, Fulbright Commission, and Idea Wild, and in partnership with the Fishermen Association at Ilo, Morro Sama and Vila Vila. 


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