Dozing polar bear, Indianapolis Zoo

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More giant otter information from Carolina Vargas - Updated 2009

Update, 2009: If you're looking for information about Raising Sancho or Carolina, there's been a lot of digital ink spilled on this blog about that very subject! Click here for a collection of posts, including one I wrote on 2/1/09 about what Carolina's doing now.

Here is some interesting information that Carolina Vargas has kindly shared with me. (See below for the other Sancho-inspired posts.) I hope she will let me know if I get anything wrong here!

Giant otters are quite endangered, and the main obstacle to studying them and conserving their populations is, of course, money. Dr. Vargas says that gathering biological information takes a great deal of time, and therefore, a large amount of money. Fortunately, there are some good researchers working on giant otter studies. The Frankfurt Zoological Society (which I linked in a previous post), is the oldest and best established, and is working in Peru. There is a support page, but it's in Euros, since the Society is located in Germany. There does not appear to be a means to pay by credit card on the site. When I have a moment later on, I will e-mail the Society and ask advice on how Americans might donate. (Does anyone reading this speak German?)

The first long term study on giant otters was conducted in Suriname by Nicole Duplaix. I found links to several of her papers in English here. (There is additional information on that website as well.)

Brazil has 3/4 of the giant otters' distribution, mostly in the Pantanal and the Amazon. Since watching the show and doing these posts, I've been reading a lot about the Pantanal. For Americans, think of it as an inland Everglades, except much, much bigger and even more biodiverse. In fact, the Pantanal is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.

I'm actually thinking about traveling there during the next dry season (right now is the last part of the dry season. The wet season begins in November). My family may have some time to travel in the coming year, and we have been trying to decide where to go. This morning, Dr. Vargas kindly e-mailed a link to the eco-lodge where her studies and her work with Sancho occurred. You will recognize it if you browse the website. Fishing is not permitted there, so the giant otters are doing very well, and its common to see them during the dry season. (Remember the large family of ten from the show?) I hope to be able to go, but the events of the next several months are a bit uncertain for me. We'll see!

Carolina, if you are still checking in, I just thought of a question: You mentioned that you were involved with wildlife rehabilitation before you worked with Sancho. What animals did you work with while you were doing that? What circumstances led you to begin working with giant otters? (Okay, so that's two questions.)

Update: Oops! I need to read more carefully. I unintentionally failed to include the Wildlife Conservation Society, which has been a source of funding for giant otter studies in the past, as well as Dr. Vargas's work. Donation page here. (There is also a link for "specific donation opportunities" on that page.)

And updated again: Carolina adds three Brazilian organizations doing important otter research. (These pages are in Portuguese, but you can use google translator to translate the page into English.) The first two are governmental organizations, and the last one is nongovernmental:

Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (Amazon Research Institute), EMBRAPA Pantanal, and the Ecolontras Project. (I have been having trouble with that last link. I don't know whether their server is down or if perhaps my computer is the problem.)


Kristy said...

You should SO go! I can picture you there. You've clearly developed a passion, so you should follow it if you can.

kris said...

This was interesting - nice of Vargas to answer your email. I'm sure the Pantanal would be an incredible trip.

On my list of blogs, there is one called Abenteur Gardens (or something close to that...) - the author is a woman named Barbara who lives in Switzerland and speaks German. If you contact her, I would guess she would help you with a translation.

Anonymous said...

Hello Trailhead, I’m back!
Well... during the college I worked as a intern in a wild animal vet centre and I was used to deal with many kinds of animals (specially mammals and birds) with all kinds of injuries (traumas and diseases). My final training was in a rehabilitation centre placed in Amazon, and I was used to treat animals caught from illegal trade. I saw some very sad situations and it made me change my mind about what I could do to help the animals. I found out that I should work with environmental education and research in order to help decrease the number of animals in that kind of vet centres (Does it make any sense?).
Just after my graduation I was indicated by a vet to a trainee vacancy in the Giant Otter Project in Pantanal, I was supposed to stay only three months…
Part of the history you can see in the film!
I´d like to thank you Trailhead for your interest and say that you are really helping the giant otters (we call them “ariranhas”).
Kind regards, Carolina. ;)

Trailhead said...

Carolina, your work is fascinating. I think you should write a book someday about your experiences working in the Amazon and the Pantanal.

When you get your paper about Sancho published, I hope you'll let me know where I can read it.

Thanks so much for answering questions here about "ariranhas"! There are several people checking in here every day to read what you've written.

die Tigerente said...

Hi Trailhead.

In case you still need help, I am from Austria so i am a native German speaker.
If I can be of any help, let me know.

Best wishes,

Trailhead said...

I'm so sorry I missed your comment for so long, die Tigerente!

If you are still checking this post, and you have time, could you send an email to the Frankfurt Zoological Society asking if there is a way to donate by credit card? I would certainly do it myself, but it seems like it would be more straightforward for a German-speaking person to compose the email. Thanks!

sarez said...

Raising Sancho just aired in the UK so expect even more Sanchomania-related visits! Thanks for contacting Carolina and thanks also to Carolina for telling us more about her work with Sancho. I'd like to think the little feller is still happily swimming around somewhere...

If you do go, I hope you have a great time in the Pantanal. We holidayed in Brazil a couple of years ago and had a great time.

Anonymous said...

Hello! I watched this show last night in England and it is such a sad programme. I feel so sad...
I think Carolina did a great job bringing Sancho up.
I really hope he is well and happy and that Carolina will find him someday. I will always remember Sancho.javascript:void(0)
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carl said...

hi I find you inspiring and your work an inspiration

David said...

Hi there! When ever Carolina get some spare time I hope she gets these messages: We just saw "Raising Sancho" in the UK and I just want to say thank you for sharing this with us such an absolutly inspiring story.

Bravo for the hard work & the dedication for which, having worked with animals, I am sure we only catch a glimpse in that documentary.

And the courage! These astonishing shots of Carolina with Sancho and Cayman crocs nearby! Wow!

Rachel said...

Just watched Raising Sancho, im in absolute floods of tears what an amazing story, Carolina did an incredible job of being mum i just wanted Sancho to stay with her forever!!but the question is where is he? what happened? i really hoped that he would have taken up with the two otters that came to visit him but that was not to be, nothing has touched me so much in ages, Carolina is amazing and im praying that one day she will find Sancho and hopefully with his own family.

Trailhead said...

Rachel, did you see Carolina's comment on this post? There are several different posts with different comments that are kind of hard to navigate. :)

Trailhead said...

Oh, and she commented here too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Trailhead for the information regarding other posts will Dr Vargas have her own website one day? i wonder? maybe she should have just let him stay with her, swimming, and exploring together, until one day he might have just gone his own way but being older he would have been more prepared i don't know!! its just i can't help wanting to know what happened is he out there? i think if he was he would have come back to let Carolina know he was ok but maybe im wrong im still praying for him

Anonymous said...

Trailhead i am Rachel but my email is ienco8 so we are the same person sorry for confusion

Tim said...


Saw the programme yesterday in the UK and it has been on my mind for the past 24 hours. I have read through a few of your posts and do think that the programme was powerful and emotive for a number of reasons.
The giant otters are a very engaging animal and their family bond was a joy to watch. For this reason I think that watching Carolina and Sancho each providing each other so much obvious joy in their time together made the ending a lot sadder.
At one point during the programme it was mentioned only 1 in 3 cubs will survive to adulthood. For this reason my head tells me that Sancho probably became prey to a predator. However my heart has hope that he survives and one day Carolina and Sancho will be re-united. I am sure that this is the main reason the programme touched so many people, after all hope is a great human trait.
Thanks to Carolina and the programme makers for such an inspring story. I have not been this touched by anything on television since i was a child and will make sure one day i see Giant Otters in the wild, who knows maybe i could even see Sancho!

die Tigerente said...

Hi Trailback.

I have just emailed the Frankfurt Zoological Society and asked them about ways to donate when living in America and the possibility of donating by credit card.
The moment I´ve received a reply I will let you know.

Trailhead said...

die tigerente, thank you so much. Meanwhile, anyone on the Euro should be able to donate to that organization.

Tim, it's funny. At first, my gut told me the same thing. But I've changed my mind over time. I'm thinking about writing a post about why.

The great thing is that Sancho's story has made a lot of people aware of the plight of the giant otter. I hope this will translate into more help for the otters.

Trailhead said...

I wrote another post about Sancho, mainly explaining why I think Sancho left of his own accord rather than some darker scenario, and also why I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree with Carolina's decision not to keep him in captivity.

It's here, if anyone's interested. I've added this comment to the other threads as well, because it seems that everyone is checking different threads. :)

die Tigerente said...

Hi again!

I have just received a reply from Mrs. Sabina Potthoff who works for the Frankfurt Zoological Society.
Unfortunately its currently impossible to donate via credit card. For US residents the only way to donate is by bank transfer or the sending of a check.
If you are interested in further information Mrs. Potthoff would be pleased to send info material about the Frankfurt Zoological Society.
Here is her contact data:

Sabina Potthoff

Zoologische Gesellschaft Frankfurt
Management Assistant
Office: +49-(0)69-94 34 46 -44
Fax: +49-(0)69-43 93 48

Trailhead said...

Thanks so much for that, die Tigerente!

jim-irie said...

Did you ever book to go to the pantanal? My wife and i are thinking of going next year in the dry season, the link to the eco-lodge was very usefull it is a very beautiful setting i also found another that looked pretty cool - Barranco Alto. I have also been learning some basic portuguese. I would br interested to hear if you have booked to go and what it was like if you have already been.

Trailhead said...

Jim-Irie -- I've not been yet, but I am hoping to go this July.

By the way, I've stopped posting to this blog, so you might want to shoot me an email if you need to get in touch. I don't check in here very much. Sorry for the delay.

Anonymous said...

Cara Carolina
Espero que leia este post.
Vi o seu documentário sobre o Sancho. Devo dizer-lhe que o achei extraordinário e um dos melhores que já vi até hoje sobre animais. Excelente trabalho, com muita qualidade e interesse. Partilhei o sentimento misto de tristeza e alegria pela partida do Sancho. Tristeza por não saber nada dele, alegria porque fico esperançado de que ele esteja vivo e tenha encontrado um território, constituindo família. Soube alguma coisa dele no entretanto?
Muito obrigado e continue o bom trabalho que tem feito.
Mário - Portugal