Marine otters (Lontra felina), locally known as "chungungos", are elusive creatures that reside along the rocky shoreline of Peru and Chile. Habitat degradation, pollution and illegal hunting have reduced their population by an estimated 50% in the last several decades. They are listed as endangered by the US Endangered Species Act and the IUCN Red List.
Since October 2003 Pro Delphinus has been conducting research into marine otter behavior and population size. This WAZA branded project is based in Ilo and Tacna, Peru, about a 2 hour drive from the border with Chile.
In 2010, Pro Delphinus also began a project to estimate chungungo population size, distribution and density along Peruvian coast. We are also visiting many fishing ports along the coast to evaluate which ones have resident otters, the perceptions of these communities toward the otters, and the types of interactions they have with them. This information will be a great addition to the many years of data we have recorded on otter behavior, prey species, reproductive patterns, and the threats otters may face by living so closely to people. Taken together, this research will allow us to better understand how the species is distributed in Peru, the threats it faces, and things we can do to make sure Peru’s chungungos survive and prosper. For updates on this project, visit Yaqupacha.